Religion as Social Reality. A Take on the Emic–Etic Debate in Light of John Searle’s Philosophy of Society

Rota, Andrea (2016). Religion as Social Reality. A Take on the Emic–Etic Debate in Light of John Searle’s Philosophy of Society. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 28(4-5), pp. 421-444. Brill 10.1163/15700682-12341369

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In this article I argue that the shift from a private to a public–social understanding of religion raises new ontological and epistemological questions for the scientific study of religion\s. These questions are deeply related to three central features of the emic– etic debate, namely the problems of intentionality, objectivity, and comparison. Focusing on these interrelated issues, I discuss the potential of John Searle’s philoso- phy of society for the scientific study of religion\s. Considering the role of intentional- ity at the social level, I present Searle’s concept of “social ontology” and discuss its epistemological implications. To clarify Searle’s position regarding the objectivity of the social sciences, I propose a heuristic model contrasting different stances within the scientific study of religion\s. Finally, I explore some problematic aspects of Searle’s views for a comparative study of religion\s, and sketch a solution within his frame- work. I shall argue that a distinction between the epistemological and ontological dimensions of religious affairs would help clarify the issues at stake in the past and future of the emic–etic debate.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute for the Science of Religion
06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Center for Global Studies (CGS)

UniBE Contributor:

Rota, Andrea


200 Religion
200 Religion > 210 Philosophy & theory of religion








Andrea Rota

Date Deposited:

07 Dec 2015 13:25

Last Modified:

25 Jul 2018 13:20

Publisher DOI:





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