Studying Religion: More and Less than Mapping Territories (33 PAGES) – Updated July 2019

Updated July 2019

“Studying Religion: More and Less than Mapping Territories” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Pdf version with footnotes (rather than endnotes) and page numbers:

 “Studying Religion:  More and Less than Mapping Territories”


Rather than portray Religious Studies by J. Z. Smith’s metaphor of mapping territories, here the metaphor is extended to cover Kant’s description of the human condition as consisting of three regions of experience: fields (Felde), territories (Böden), and domains (Gebiete). All three regions involve clarity of conceptualization.  Fields constitute regions of experience where there is conceptualization without rules (e.g., dreams, fantasies, hallucinations), territories regions where rules are possible but not universal (e.g., civic laws), and domains regions where rules are necessary and universal (e.g., nature and creative freedom). Concerned with all three, RS is grounded in the necessary conditions of possibility for experience where there is self-legislation (because imperceptible) of rules for its understanding and action. This paper contrasts this grounding in domains with eleven territories of RS. Neither a mere perspective on life nor limited to a single region of experience, RS focuses on pure religion at the core of all historical religion.

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