Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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 A mode of inquiry common in Continental philosophy and North American sociology.

Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) conceived of phenomenology as a description of ways objects are present to consciousness and conscious acts make objects of ideas and sensations. What is available to an inquirer, according to Husserl, what is empirical in a strict sense, is the act of being conscious of something ("intentionalitšt") , not some external object. Husserl observed that there are different modes of intentionality and that describing the physical world in mathematical terms is only one such mode within science. A mode that is particularly relevant to the social sciences is the creation or "constitution" of shared life-worlds with distinct provinces of meaning.

Alfred Schutz (1899-1959) approached sociology as an effort to correlate such life-worlds or "multiple realities" with typical activities. In the study of religion, phenomenology has been used to describe the religious mentality (Otto 1923), to develop a philosophical anthropology upon which theoretical statements have been predicated (Luckmann 1967, Berger 1967), and to conceptualize meditative states (Damrell 1977) and ritual (Blasi 1985, Flanagan 1991, Spickard 1991). Phenomenologists have criticized a natural science-like approach to human conduct, wherein scientists' theories neglect finding any grounding in social actors' consciousnesses; such critiques (Garrett 1974, Blasi 1985) have addressed the study of religion.

Anthony J. Blasi


P. L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1967)

A. J. Blasi, A Phenomenological Transformation of the Social Scientific Study of Religion (New York: Peter Lang, 1985)

J. Damrell, Seeking Spiritual Meaning (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1977)

K. Flanagan, Sociology and Liturgy (New York: St. Martin's, 1991)

W. R. Garrett, "Troublesome Transcendence," Sociological Analysis 35 (1974): 167-180

T. Luckmann, The Invisible Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1967)

R. Otto, The Idea of the Holy (London: Oxford University Press, 1923)

J. V. Spickard, "Experiencing Religious Rituals," Sociological Analysis 52(1991):191-204.

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