Intellectualist and symbolist accounts of religious belief and practice

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 27 (4):526-544 (1997)
Abstract
An account of the relation between belief and practice is inseparable from a general theory of religion and religious discourse. Rejection of the one time popular, but now more or less defunct, nonrealist position of people such as D. Z. Phillips, Don Cupitt, and indeed Wittgenstein leaves contemporary theo rists in anthropology and the "history of religions" with basically the vastly different "literalist" and "symbolist" analyses of religion (i.e., its ritual and discourse, belief and practice) from which to choose. This article critically appraises John Skorupksi's influential defense of intellectualism. I argue that his dismissal of symbolist approaches is more theoretically radical than he recog nizes. It rejects outright some of the very foundations and staples of contempo rary anthropology in, for example, Durkheim. His argument for the rejection of the symbolist approach is examined. Skorupski's defense of intellectualism is set in the context of a problematically naive understanding of the nature and function of religion.
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