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date: 21 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article surveys the nature and role of conceptual models in the study of religion. It aims to replace prior ideas of religious ‘phenomena’ as given, self-evident data. The argument presented here deliberately goes against the intuitive, positivist idea that people work with obvious and immediately accessible ‘facts’ presented on the serving trays of history and society. It is important to recognise how cognitive competence and interpretive understanding depend on what people already ‘have in mind’ and the socio-cultural explanatory repertoires at disposal. The discussion focuses on the semantic aspects of models because of the emphasis on the intersubjective and communicative properties of the models employed in the research. It also looks at the philosophy of science.

Keywords: religious study, sociology of religion, philosophy of science, positivist idea

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