Functionalist views on religion essay

Max Gerber] I am often asked whether I agree with the new group selectionists, and the questioners are always surprised when I say I do not.

Functionalist views on religion essay

Critical Remarks Durkheim's Two Problems Durkheim's primary purpose in The Elementary Forms was to describe and explain the most primitive 1 religion known to man. But if his interests thus bore some external similarity to those of the ethnographer or historian, his ultimate purpose went well beyond the reconstruction of an archaic culture for its own sake; on the contrary, as in The Division of Labor and Suicide, Durkheim's concern was ultimately both present and practical: How can the crude cults of the Australian aborigines Functionalist views on religion essay us anything about religions far more advanced in value, dignity, and truth?

And if he insisted that they can, wasn't he suggesting that Christianity, for example, proceeds from the same primitive mentality as the Australian cults? These questions were important, for Durkheim recognized that scholars frequently focused on primitive religions in order to discredit their modern counterparts, and he rejected this "Voltairean" hostility to religion for two reasons.

First, alluding to the second chapter of The Rules, Durkheim insisted that such hostility was unscientific; it prejudges the results of the investigation, and renders its outcome suspect. Second, and more important, he considered it unsociological; for it is an essential postulate of sociology that no human institution can rest on an error or a lie.

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If an institution is not based on "the nature of things," Durkheim insisted, it encounters a resistance in nature which destroys it; the very existence of primitive religions, therefore, assures us that they "hold to reality and express it. The reasons with which the faithful justify them may be, and generally are, erroneous; but the true reasons," Durkheim concluded, "do not cease to exist" and it is the duty of science to discover them.

Briefly, he did so for three "methodological" reasons. First, Durkheim argued that we cannot understand more advanced religions except by analyzing the way they have been progressively constituted throughout history; for only by placing each of the constituent elements of modern religions in the context within which it emerged can we hope to discover the cause which gave rise to it.

Just as biological evolution has been differently conceived since the empirical discovery of monocellular beings, therefore, religious evolution is differently conceived depending upon what concrete system of belief and action is placed at its origin.

The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life ()

Second, Durkheim suggested that the scientific study of religion itself presupposed that the various religions we compare are all species of the same class, and thus possess certain elements in common: These are the permanent elements which constitute that which is permanent and human in religion; they form all the objective contents of the idea which is expressed when one speaks of religion in general.

That which is accessory or secondary All is reduced to that which is indispensable to that without which there could be no religion. But that which is indispensable is also that which is essential, that is to say, that which we must know before all else.

But if this simplicity of primitive religions helps us to understand its nature, it also helps us to understand its causes.

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In fact, as religious thought evolved through history, its initial causes became overlaid with a vast scheme of methodological and theological interpretation which made those origins virtually imperceptible. The study of primitive religion, Durkheim thus suggested, is a new way of taking up the old problem of the "origin of religion" itself -- not in the sense of some specific point in time and space when religion began to exist no such point existsbut in the sense of discovering "the ever-present causes upon which the most essential forms of religious thought and practice depend.

At the base of all our judgments, Durkheim began, there are a certain number of ideas which philosophers since Aristotle have called "the categories of the understanding" -- time, space, class, number, cause, substance, personality, and so on.

They are like the solid frame which encloses all thought; this does not seem to be able to liberate itself from them without destroying itself, for it seems that we cannot think of objects that are not in time and space, which have no number, etc.

When primitive religious beliefs are analyzed, Durkheim observed, these "categories" are found, suggesting that they are the product of religious thought; but religious thought itself is composed of collective representations, the products of real social groups. These observations suggested to Durkheim that the "problem of knowledge" might be posed in new, sociological terms.

Previous efforts to solve this problem, he began, represent one of two philosophical doctrines: The difficulty for the empirical thesis, Durkheim then observed, is that it deprives the categories of their most distinctive properties -- universality they are the most general concepts we have, are applicable to all that is real, and are independent of every particular object and necessity we literally cannot think without them ; for it is in the very nature of empirical data that they be both particular and contingent.

The a priorist thesis, by contrast, has more respect for these properties of universality and necessity; but by asserting that the categories simply "inhere" in the nature of the intellect, it begs what is surely the most interesting and important question of all: Having planted these allegedly formidable obstacles in the paths of his philosophical adversaries, Durkheim then offered his frustrated reader an attractive via media: First, the basic proposition of the a priorist thesis is that knowledge is composed of two elements -- perceptions mediated by our senses, and the categories of the understanding -- neither of which can be reduced to the other.

Role of Conflict & Change in American Sociology | Hunger For Culture This paper was written in and asks the two questions: In the light of this trend, what should be the role of American sociology in the conflict and change process?

By viewing the first as individual representations and the second as their collective counterparts, Durkheim insisted, this proposition is left intact: In so far as we belong to society, therefore, we transcend our individual nature both when we act and when we think.

Finally, this distinction explains both the universality and the necessity of the categories -- they are universal because man has always and everywhere lived in society, which is their origin; and they are necessary because, without them, all contact between individual minds would be impossible, and social life would be destroyed altogether: If it is to live," Durkheim concluded, "there is not merely need of a satisfactory moral conformity, but also there is a minimum of logical conformity beyond which it cannot safely go.

The fundamental relations between things -- just that which it is the function of the categories to express cannot be essentially dissimilar in the different realms. First, he insisted, we must free the mind of all preconceived ideas of religion, a liberation achieved in The Elementary Forms through a characteristic "argument by elimination": First, while he admitted that the sense of mystery has played a considerable role in the history of some religions, and especially Christianity, he added that, even in Christianity, there have been periods -- e.

Second, while Durkheim agreed that the forces put in operation by some primitive rite designed to assure the fertility of the soil or the fecundity of an animal species appear "different" from those of modern science, he denied that this distinction between religious and physical forces is perceived by those performing the rite; the abyss which separates the rational from the irrational, Durkheim emphasized, belongs to a much later period in history.

Third, and more specifically, the very idea of the "supernatural" logically presupposes its contrary -- the idea of a "natural order of things" or "natural law" -- to which the supernatural event or entity is presumably a dramatic exception; but the idea of natural law, Durkheim again suggested, is a still more recent conception than that of the distinction between religious and physical forces.

It is far from being true," Durkheim concluded, "that the notion of the religious coincides with that of the extraordinary or the unforeseen. The difficulty for this definition, Durkheim insisted, is that it fails to acknowledge two categories of undeniably religious facts.

First, there are great religions e.Many students find essay writing to be an especially daunting task. Depending on the essay topic, research can take anywhere from a few hours to several days and .

This assignment, will be outlining and evaluating the functionalist perspective of the way society is organised. This essay will be exploring about the social institutions, norms and values. Functionalist analysis has a long history in sociology. Defining Religion. In order to describe and explain the most primitive religion known to man, Durkheim observed, we must first define the term "religion" itself: otherwise we risk drawing inferences from beliefs and practices which have nothing "religious" about them, or (and this was the greater danger to Durkheim) of leaving many religious facts to one .

Functionalist views on religion essay

Published: Fri, 05 May The term “deviance” is used by sociologists to refer to behaviour which changes, in some way, from a social norm. In this respect, it is clear that the idea of deviance refers to a violation of social norms and refers to rule breaking behaviour.

Contemporary Metaphilosophy. What is philosophy?

Metaphilosophy, Contemporary | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

What is philosophy for? How should philosophy be done? These are metaphilosophical questions, metaphilosophy being the study of the nature of philosophy. This paper was written in and asks the two questions: “What has been the trend of development of American Sociology?

In the light of this trend, what should be the role of American sociology in the conflict and change process?”.

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