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Chapter (in Edited Book) ()

Response: The History of Ideas and the Study of Religion

Bebbington DW (2009) Response: The History of Ideas and the Study of Religion. In: Chapman A, Coffey J, Gregory BS (ed.). Seeing things Their Way: Intellectual History and the Return of Religion, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, pp. 240-257.

The character of this paper is largely determined by its role as a response to the others contained in this volume. Responding is a dangerous business. It requires trespassing on alien territory, and so of misrepresenting subjects where specialist expertise is properly needed. Perhaps all that can be done is to beg for understanding, offering the standard excuse of the historian that most topics are "not my area." Responding also entails being derivative, and so of submitting material that is second-hand and unoriginal. The defence on this score probably has to be that repetition of a telling point can be a worthwhile exercise. And any response, since it necessarily has to be as much a survey as an argument, risks falling into the trap of making unguarded assertions. The wisest justification here is possibly that some commentary, however inadequately supported by carefully crafted reasoning, is better than none. The reader might like to bear these cautions in mind while exploring in this chapter some of the central issues raised, implicitly as well as explicitly, in the book as a whole. How, contributors to the volume have asked, should we apply the techniques of the history of ideas to the study of religion? It will be useful to divide this synoptic discussion of that question into three sections. First there is a catalogue of general issues surrounding the examination of religious ideas in the past. Next there is engagement, from the standpoint of students of religion, with the thought of Quentin Skinner about the application of the method he recommends for the history of ideas to their subject matter. Finally there is an 2 attempt to consider how the history of religious ideas can fruitfully move beyond the Skinnerian model.

EditorChapman A, Coffey J, Gregory BS
AuthorsBebbington David William
Publication date2009
PublisherUniversity of Notre Dame Press
Place of publicationNotre Dame, IN
ISBN 978-0-268-02298-3
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