RUB » CERES » THERE » Profile » Religion as Object

Religion as Object of Scientific Research compared to Religious Self-Perceptions

Cognitive science emphasizes the elementary meaning of analogies (Hofstadter/Sander 2013), especially the relevance of 'conceptual blending' (Fauconnier/Turner 2002). Since analogies serve to differentiate the unknown from the known („zur Bestimmung des Unbekannten aus dem Bekannten“, Track 1978: 644), they can bridge the limits of cognition. However, not only mental cognition but also social communication, including religion and science, work with analogies. The approach suggested in this project is based on this principle and its object – namely the modes of the formation and operation of religion – is defined by it. Both the research of religion and its object are based on the principle of generating analogies, even if they do not share the same starting and reference points. Religious meaning perpetuates itself by way of other societal facts by generating analogies and transferring relevant information into a religious code. Similarly, the academic observation of religion is carried out qua analogies, which are converted into the academic system’s specific code. The oscillation of analog and digital data processing (Bateson 1987 [1972]: 213; Luhmann 1997: 101) makes it possible to produce correspondences between academic outside descriptions (observations on the second and third level) as well as from religious self-description (observations on the first and second level) without leveling the categorical differences between science and religion.  


  • Bateson, Gregory (1987 [1972]): Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology. Norwood, NJ, London: Aronson.
  • Fauconnier, Gilles / Turner, Mark (2002): The Way We Think. Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities. New York: Basic Books.
  • Hofstadter, Douglas R. / Sander, Emmanuel (2013): Surfaces and Essences. Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking. New York: Basic Books.
  • Luhmann, Niklas (1997): Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp.
  • Track, Joachim (1978): „Analogie“, in: Gerhard Krause, Gerhard Müller (Hrsg.), Theologische Realenzyklopädie. Bd. 2: Agende – Anselm von Canterbury. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 625–650.