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date: 27 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Semantics is the study of meaning in the linguistic sense, broadly understood, rather than in the sense of existential significance. The study of religion seeks to understand exactly what religious adherents believe, do, desire, contemplate, exhort, command, require, represent, or communicate to themselves and others. Scholars of religion also typically seek to explain why religious persons and groups do what they do, believe what they believe, etc. Thus both main tasks of the discipline presuppose that its data are things that carry semantic significance—that they mean something rather than something else, and that there are better and worse ways of capturing those meanings. This chapter describes some of the main positions in philosophical semantics, explains that they should not be ignored by the serious scholar of religion, and points to a few examples of how paying attention to them have clear practical utility for the study of religion.

Keywords: context, holism, interpretation, meaning, philosophy of language, religion, semantics

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