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The objective study of the subjective or the subjective study of the objective?: notes on the social scientific study of religious experience and the social construction of reality

Barker, Eileen (2013) The objective study of the subjective or the subjective study of the objective?: notes on the social scientific study of religious experience and the social construction of reality. Journal of Chinese Religions (2). pp. 1-35.

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Abstract

The results of the Religious Experience Survey in Taiwan (REST) can provide a stimulating challenge for Western scholars attempting a scientific study of religion. Too often it has been assumed that religious experiences are little more than the objective phenomena of participants attending a social ritual that involve the worship of a God or some transcendental being(s). With a few notable exceptions, the subjective experiences of individuals have been all but ignored by social scientists until quite recently. This paper begins by considering the limitations of a social science with a discussion of social phenomena as processes of construction that are, intrinsically, both objective and subjective. It is argued that, while we need to take seriously a person’s account of his or her experiences, we can also examine the ways in which (relatively) objective phenomena, including social processes, might encourage or discourage subjective experiences. The paper then turns the argument on its head by examining some of the studies of psychologists and neuroscientists which suggest that much of what we consider to be an objective physical reality is more or less selectively constructed by the visual (and auditory) person who is “doing” the seeing (or hearing). There follows a brief glance at some of the reactions to and consequences of what have been perceived to be “religious experiences”. Taken as a whole, the paper can be summed up as an exploration of some of the paradoxes and tensions to be found around boundaries that attempt to distinguish an objective “out there” phenomenon from a subjective “in here” experience.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://ieas.berkeley.edu/publications/chinese_reli...
Additional Information: © 2013 Society for the Study of Chinese Religions
Divisions: Sociology
LSE Human Rights
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Research centres and groups > Centre for the Study of Human Rights
Research centres and groups > INFORM (Information Network Focus on Religious Movements)
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2014 08:39
Last Modified: 30 Mar 2019 00:10
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/59097

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