Epistemology and Practice: Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

Epistemology and Practice: Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

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Anne Warfield Rawls
Cambridge University Press, 3/3/2005
EAN 9780521651455, ISBN10: 052165145X

Hardcover, 372 pages, 22.9 x 15.2 x 2.5 cm
Language: English

In this original and controversial book Professor Rawls argues that Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religious Life is the crowning achievement of his sociological endeavour and that since its publication in English in 1915 it has been consistently misunderstood. Rather than a work on primitive religion or the sociology of knowledge, Rawls asserts that it is an attempt by Durkheim to establish a unique epistemological basis for the study of sociology and moral relations. By privileging social practice over beliefs and ideas, it avoids the dilemmas inherent in philosophical approaches to knowledge and morality that are based on individualism and the tendency to privilege beliefs and ideas over practices, both tendencies that dominate western thought. Based on detailed textual analysis of the primary text, this book will be an important and original contribution to contemporary debates on social theory and philosophy.

1. Durkheim's outline of the argument in the introductory chapter
2. Durkheim's dualism
an anti-Kantian, anti-rationalist position
3. Sacred and Profane
the first classification
4. Totemism and the problem of individualism
5. The origin of moral force
6. The primacy of rites in the origin of causality
7. Imitative rites and the category of causality
8. The category of causality
9. Logic, language and science
10. Durkheim's conclusion
logical argument for the categories