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Theory: Émile Durkheim

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1 Theory: Émile Durkheim
“Man is double. There are two beings in him.” (Sociology 156)

2 The Erotic Sphere “The extraordinary quality of eroticism has consisted precisely in a gradual turning away from the naive naturalism of sex. The reason and significance of this evolution, however, involve the rationalization and intellectualization of culture.” “Eroticism was raised into the sphere of conscious enjoyment (in the most sublime sense of the term). Nevertheless, and indeed because of this elevation, eroticism appeared to be like a gate into the most irrational and thereby real kernel of life, as compared with the mechanisms of rationalization.” ( ) The more rationalization has progressed, the greater tension between the erotic and religious spheres

3 The Erotic Sphere “A tremendous value emphasis on the specific sensation of an inner-worldly salvation from rationalization thus resulted. A joyous triumph over rationality corresponded in its radicalism with the unavoidable and equal rejection by an ethics of any kind of other- or supra-worldly salvation.” ( ) But it is exactly this rejection that makes the sexual sphere “systematically prepared for a highly valued erotic sensation.” “Under these conditions, the erotic relation seems to offer the unsurpassable peak of the fulfillment of the request for love in the direct fusion of the souls of one to the other.” This “rests upon the possibility of a communion which is felt as a direct unification, as a fading of the ‘thou.’ [...] The lover realizes himself to be rooted in the kernel of the truly living, which is eternally inaccessible to any rational endeavor.” (347)

4 The Erotic Sphere From the religious perspective, “eroticism is the counter-pole of all religiously oriented brotherliness, in these aspects: it must be exclusive in its inner core; it must be subjective in the highest imaginable sense; and it must be absolutely incommunicable.” (349) Thus, ceremonies of marriage to transform the erotic: “only the linkage of marriage with the thought of ethical responsibility for one another—hence a category heterogeneous to the purely erotic sphere—can carry the sentiment that something unique and supreme might be embodied in marriage [...] a mutual granting of oneself to another. [...] Rarely does life grant such value in pure form. He to whom it is given may speak of fate’s fortune and grace—not to his own ‘merit.’ (350)

5 The Intellectual Sphere
“The tension between religion and intellectual knowledge definitely comes to the fore wherever rational, empirical knowledge has consistently worked through the disenchantment of the world and its transformation into a causal mechanism.” (350) “Every increase of rationalism in empirical science increasingly pushes religion from the rational into the irrational realm; but only today does religion become the irrational or anti-rational supra-human power.” (351) Yet, “the less magic or merely contemplative mysticism and the more ‘doctrine’ a religion contains, the greater its need of rational apologetics.” (351)

6 The Intellectual Sphere
“There is absolutely no ‘unbroken’ religion working as a vital force which is not compelled at some point to demand the credo non quod, sed quia absurdum—the ‘sacrifice of the intellect.’” “Redemptory religion defends itself against the attack of the self-sufficient intellect. It does so, of course, in the most principles fashion, by raising the claim that religious knowledge moves in a different sphere and that the nature and meaning of religious knowledge is entirely different from the accomplishments of the intellect.” It claims to unlock the meaning of the world not by means of the intellect but by virtue of a charisma of illumination.” (352)

7 The Intellectual Sphere
“The absolute imperfection of this world had been firmly established as an ethical postulate. And the futility of worldly things has seemed to be meaningful and justified only in terms of this imperfection.” “For it was not only, or even primarily, the worthless which proved to be transitory. The fact that death and ruin, with their leveling effects, overtake good men and good works, as well as evil ones, could appear to be a depreciation of precisely the supreme values of this world—once the idea of a perpetual duration of time, of an eternal God and an eternal order had been conceived.” (354)

8 The Intellectual Sphere
“The peasant, like Abraham, could die ‘satiated with life.’ The feudal landlord and the warrior hero could do likewise. For both fulfilled the cycle of their existence beyond which they did not reach. Each in his way could attain an inner-worldly perfection as a result of the naive unambiguity of the substance of his life.” “But the ‘cultivated’ man who strives for self-perfection, in the sense of acquiring or creating ‘cultural values,’ cannot do this. He can become weary of life,’ but he cannot become ‘satiated with life’ in the sense of completing a cycle. For the perfectibility of the man of culture in principle progresses infinitely, as do the cultural values.” “Senseless death has seemed only to put the stamp upon the senselessness of life itself.” (356) Life “seems to become a senseless hustle in the service of worthless, moreover self-contradictory, and mutually antagonistic ends.” (357)

9 Émile Durkheim Modified positivism Instrumental in the acceptance of sociology as an academic discipline Structural functionalism The Division of Labor in Society; Suicide; The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

10 Method Maximum objectivity Positivism
Only that exists which can be measured Functionalism: social constructs explained by what they do in society Unconcerned with individual motive & experience Like Weber, concerned with ideas & beliefs, but unlike Weber, is not particularly concerned with the content of those ideas as he is their function in social coherence “Organic” vision of society Society functions as something like an organism

11 Method Religion is “an essential and permanent aspect of humanity.” (2) “There are no religions which are false. All are true in their fashion; all answer, though in different ways, to the given arrangements of human existence.” (3) “Primitive civilizations offer privileged cases, [...} because hey are simple cases.” (6) We do not say primitive anymore! This study is “a way of taking up, but under new conditions, the old problem of the origin of religion.” But NOT the moment that it began: “There was no given moment when religion began to exist. [...] Like every human institution, religion did not commence anywhere.” “What we want to do is to find a means of discerning the ever-present causes upon which the most essential forms of religious forms and practice depend.” (8) Religion and humanity are contemporaneous, therefore there must be a permanent origin of religion

12 The Social Fact Religions have cosmologies explaining the world, but they are more: “Religion has not confined itself to enriching the human intellect, formed beforehand, with a certain number of ideas; it has contributed to the forming of the intellect itself. Men owe to it not only a good part of the substance of their knowledge, but also the form in which this knowledge has been elaborated. “At the roots of all our judgments there are a certain number of essential ideas which dominate our intellectual life; they are what philosophers since Aristotle have called the categories of understanding: Ideas of time, space, class, number, cause, substance, personality, etc.” (9) “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 [...] They are like the framework of intelligence.”

13 The Social Fact Think of time without minutes, hours, days, etc., or space without feet, meters, yards, cubits. It is extremely difficult to have these concepts without them. (10-11) “It is not my time that is thus arranged; it is time in general, such as it is objectively thought of by everybody in a single civilization.” (10) “I’ll be there at 10:30.” Southern California vs. Chicago Where do these ideas come from? From society. They are social facts. Likewise, “religion is something eminently social. Religious representations are collective representations which express collective realities.” “So if the categories are of religious origins, they ought to participate in this nature common to all religious facts; they too should be social affairs and the product of collective thought.” (10)

14 The Social Fact “Society is a reality sui generis; it has its own peculiar characteristics, which are not found elsewhere and which are not met with again in the same form in all the rest of the universe.” “The representations which express it have a wholly different contents from purely individual ones and we may rest assured in advance that the first add something to the second.” “Man is double. There are two beings in him: an individual being which has its foundation in the organism and the circle of whose activities is therefore strictly limited, and a social being which represents the highest reality in the intellectual and moral order that we can know by observation—I mean society.” (16)

15 What is a Religion? Is it defined by the supernatural and mysterious?
But these concepts are not found in all religions, especially not in “primitive” ones. Is it defined by the idea of God, gods, or a spiritual being? Again, these are not found in all religions, for example some forms of Buddhism.

16 What is a Religion? “All known religious beliefs, whether simple or complex, present one common characteristic: they presuppose a classification of all things, real and ideal, of which men think, into two classes or opposed groups, generally designated by two distinct terms which are translated well enough by the words profane and sacred.” (37) Sacredness, not holiness Can apply to objects, rites, beliefs: “The circle of sacred objects cannot be determined once and for all. Its extent varies infinitely, according to different religions. That is how Buddhism is a religion: in default of gods, it admits the existence of sacred things, namely, the four noble truths and the practices derived from them.” (37)

17 Sacred and Profane Sacredness is not present in mere superiority
Slaves are inferior to masters, but the master is not sacred (37) Moreover, someone may demand action from the sacred in a way that signifies control of it “To have rain, he throws rocks into the spring or sacred lake where the god of rain is thought to reside; he believes that he forces him to come out and show himself.” (38) What distinguishes the sacred form the profane is only heterogeneity, but with an important qualifier: “it is absolute.” (38) “In all the history of human thought there exists no other example of two categories of things so profoundly differentiated or so radically opposed to one another. The traditional opposition of good and bad is nothing beside this, for the good and the bad are only two opposed species of the same class, namely morals [...] while the sacred and profane have always and everywhere been conceived by the human mind as two distinct classes, as two worlds between which there is nothing in common.” (38)

18 Sacred and Profane “This is not equivalent to saying that a being can never pass from one of these worlds into the other : but the manner in which this passage is effected, when it does take place, puts into relief the essential duality of the two kingdoms. In fact, it implies a veritable metamorphosis.” Rites of passage “Appropriate ceremonies are felt to bring about this death and re-birth, which are not understood in a merely symbolic sense, but are taken literally. Does this not prove that between the profane being which he was and the religious being which he becomes, there is a break of continuity?” (39)

19 Sacred and Profane “This heterogeneity is even so complete that it frequently degenerates into a veritable antagonism. The two worlds are not only conceived of as separate, but as even hostile and jealous rivals of each other. Since men cannot fully belong to one except on condition of leaving the other completely, they are exhorted to withdraw themselves completely from the profane world, in order to lead an exclusively religious life.” (39-40) Monasticism & asceticism “The sacred thing is par excellence that which the profane should not touch, and cannot touch with impunity.” (40)

20 Sacred and Profane “When a certain number of sacred things sustain relations of co-ordination or subordination with each other in such a way as to form a system having a certain unity, but which is not comprised within any other system of the same sort, the totality of these beliefs and their corresponding rites-constitutes a religion.” (41) But the religion need not be monolithic: “it is rather a whole made up of distinct and relatively individualized parts.” “Sometimes they are arranged in a hierarchy, and subordinated to some predominating cult, into which they are finally absorbed; but sometimes, also, they are merely rearranged and united.” If such a cult perseveres while the group it was part of disappears, it becomes folklore

21 Religion vs. Magic “A society whose members are united by the fact that they think in the same way in regard to the sacred world and its relations with the profane world, and by the fact that they translate these common ideas into common practices, is what is called a Church.” “In all history, we do not find a single religion without a Church.” Can be national, international, ethnic, and encompass the whole or a part of a ‘people’ May have a rigid hierarchy, or almost none at all “But wherever we observe the religious life, we find that it has a definite group as its foundation.” A Church is not a fraternity of priests ; it is a moral community formed by all the believers in a single faith, laymen as well as priests. But magic lacks any such community.” (45) “It is quite another thing with magic. [...] It does not result in binding together those who adhere to it, nor in uniting them into a group leading a common life. There is no Church of magic.” The magician has a clientele and not a Church, and it is very possible that his clients have no other relations between each other, or even do not know each other.” (44) Note functionalist approach to defining religion

22 Definition of Religion
“Thus we arrive at the following definition : A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them.” (47)

23 The Totem The totem “is distinguished by the fact that its name is also the name of a determined species of material things with which it believes that it has very particular relations, the nature of which we shall presently describe ; they are especially relations of kinship.” “The species of things which serves to designate the clan collectively is called its totem. The totem of the clan is also that of each of its members.” (102) Thus, coats of arms, flags, logos, religious icons all functionally religious.

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