After the Naming Explosion: Joachim Wach’s Unfinished Project

Gregory D. Alles

in Hermeneutics, Politics, and the History of Religions

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780195394337
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199777358 | DOI:
After the Naming Explosion: Joachim Wach’s Unfinished Project

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This chapter discusses Joachim Wach’s efforts in formulating typologies within the study of religions. It argues that these efforts fail not because of their ethnocentric character—although they are ethnocentric—but because they provide a conceptual simplification that does not meet any further intellectual goals and so remains impressionistic. It then considers the conditions under which adequate typologies could be formulated within the study of religions. It argues that, as a non-natural-kind term, “religion” itself is “inference-poor”; unlike natural-kind terms, the inferences that one can reliably draw about something that is classified as “religion” are extremely limited. In other language, it lacks projectable properties or stable features. As a result, typologies of the sort Wach was seeking must be formulated on different grounds.

Keywords: Joachim Wach; language; typology; Pareto optimum; Joseph Kitagawa; methodology; history of religions; Bildungsbürgertum; inference; natural kind

Chapter.  13725 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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