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Title: Religie en evolutie
Subtitle: Robert Bellah en Marcel Gauchet over de ontwikkeling van de eerste religie tot en met de periode van de axiale religie
Author(s): LATRÉ, Stijn
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Filosofie
Volume: 75    Issue: 4   Date: 2013   
Pages: 773-792
DOI: 10.2143/TVF.75.4.3007380

Abstract :
This study confronts Gauchet and Bellah on the relation between religion and politics. I argue that Gauchet’s transcendental approach and Bellah’s empirical account yield surprisingly similar results when it comes to the historical phasing of the relation between religion and politics. However, they part ways on the issue of the disentanglement of religion and politics. Bellah situates the emergence of theoretical thinking and of political autonomy in the Axial Age. Gauchet interprets the emergence of the state in the preceding stage of archaic religion as the first structural split between religion and politics. Both views also diverge in their account of so-called ‘primitive’ or ‘tribal’ religion. Bellah develops a dynamic view on tribal religion by emphasizing its capacity for adaptation, whereas Gauchet considers primitive religion to be static and merely conservative. In the last section, I criticize Bellah for his lack of conceptual clarity, e.g. in his discussion of transcendence. Another logical trespass is the petitio principii that becomes clear as the story unfolds. Bellah tries to describe and explain the emergence of theoretical, transcendental thinking, but already seems to presuppose this capacity for theorizing in his account of tribal religion. I conclude this critical study by underlining that both Gauchet’s and Bellah’s accounts of religious evolution are a strong antidote to so-called internal conceptions of religion. By unfolding the historical bonds and ruptures between religion, politics and also science, they demonstrate that religious practices bear no meaning when confined to mere self-reference.

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