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Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy

The problem of Eliade's relation to subjectivity is usually dealt with in Religious Studies in one of two ways. Either he is read in the tradition of Wach and Kristensen vis a vis the "insider/outsider" problem, or he is read in the tradition of Popper and Nagel in which he is seen as a "soft subjectivist" in the pejorative sense. This paper suggests another reading: Eliade's emphasis on the relation between subjectivity and hermeneutics can be fruitfully read within the larger context of the "subjective turn" of the modern human sciences and culture. This recontextualization will be used to explain how it is that a transhistorical subjectivity ("humanism" in Eliade's terms) forms the condition for the possibility of the kind of hermeneutic of religion which Eliade both described and practiced. This, it is argued, is Eliade's central legacy in the history of the study of religion.

Once this is established, I will suggest what I think is wrong with this paradigm and what kinds of methodological options exist after the decentering of the subject. As to the first, briefly, Eliade's view of subjectivity lacks a reflexive hermeneutical dimension in that he does not critically differentiate the foreconceptions of interpretive history in which he stands from the objects of interpretation. His concept of a universal subjectivity allows him, in short, to illicitly (so it is argued) overleap historical and cultural difference.

What methodological options are there for Religious Studies after the disappearance of the subject? I argue that the poststructuralist conception of "genealogy," understood as historical change without an underlying subject of change, can fruitfully replace the phenomenological, subject­centered methodologies which have predominated in Religious Studies throughout most of its history.

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Tim [sic] Murphy is a graduate of the History of Consciousness Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He has published a number of articles and reviews in the areas of theory and method and is currently a Lecturer at San Jose State University's Comparative Religious Studies Program. With Russell McCutcheon, he is co­editor of the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion's Bulletin.

Articles and reviews:

"Wesen und Erscheinung in the History of the Study of Religion: A Poststructuralist Perspective." Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 6/2: 119­146, 1994.

"Is a Psychology of Religion Possible? A Critique of the Taxonomy of Religion in William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience." Paradigms, 7/2:1­10, Spring 1992.

"The Concept of Entwicklung in German Religionswissenschaft Before and After Darwin." Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, forthcoming, 1998.

Review of Explaining and Interpreting Religion by Robert Segal. Religious Studies Review, 22/4: 333, 1996.

Review of Religion, Interpretation, and Diversity of Belief: The Framework Model from Kant to Durkheim to Davidson, by Terry Godlove. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 8/1: 84­89, 1996.

Review of The Theology and Philosophy of Mircea Eliade, by Carl Olson.

Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 6/4: 398­405, 1994.

Review of Impasse and Resolution: A Critique of the Study of Religion, by Hans Penner. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 6/3: 298­302, 1994.

Review of Interpreting Religion: The Phenomenological Approaches of Pierre

Daniel Chantepie de la Saussaye, W. Brede Kristensen, Gerardus van der Leeuw by George James. Religion, forthcoming.