Review symposium on “The Problem of Disenchantment”

The Journal of Religion in Europe has just published a review symposium on my book, The Problem of Disenchantment (2014). I’m excited to say that it contains critical reflections from three world-class scholars of religion, along with my own response. Hans Kippenberg, a well-known expert on Weberian approaches to the history of religion, evaluates some of the book’s claims in light of a broader reading of Weber’s oeuvre. Willem Drees, one of the leading figures in the “religion and science” field, takes a closer look at some of the points I made about the new natural theologies that emerged in the early twentieth century – specifically their relation to esotericism and “heterodoxy”. Finally, Ann Taves, a leading American scholar of religion working with (among other things) the cognitive science of religion and the notion of experience, continues a discussion that she and I have been having over the past few years regarding the perception, explanation and interpretation of “events” (for more on this, check out our forthcomming co-authored target article in Religion, Brain, & Behavior) . If you’ve got access, go ahead and read them!

While you are at it, you may also be interested in checking out my response, which I called  “The Disenchantment of Problems: Musings on a Cognitive Turn in Intellectual History” (non-final version uploaded here, and added to my Academia page for easy access).

In addition to answering some of the points raised by Kippenberg and Drees, I explore Taves’ suggestion that my recasting of disenchantment as a “problem” (that is, in terms of Problemgeschichte), encountered by individuals, begs for a closer analysis in terms of the cognitive underpinnings of perceiving and experiencing “problems” – as well as the biases that dispose people to “solve” them in certain ways. These were issues that I only hinted at in the book, but now explore a bit further in the response. It’s still pretty impressionistic, but at the very least I hope to have indicated some promising ways in which the style of intellectual history that I developed in the book – which was grounded in methodological individualism, and balanced with some insights from actor-network theory – can be furnished with a deeper cognitive underlayer that helps explain how individual agency is constituted and fixed.

I wish to thank Kippenberg, Drees, and Taves for their insightful comments, and editor-in-chief Kocku von Stuckrad for arranging this exciting opportunity to discuss the book in Journal of Religion in Europe.



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