Joel S. Kahn is Emeritus Professor, Sociology & Anthropology Program, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia. In 2010, at the time of writing, he was a Visiting Professor in the Department of Sociology and William Lim Siew Wai Fellow in Cultural Studies, National University of Singapore, 11 Arts Link, AS1 #03-06 Singapore 11750.
Understanding: Between belief and unbelief
Version of Record online: 21 FEB 2011
© 2011 Australian Anthropological Society
The Australian Journal of Anthropology
Volume 22, Issue 1, pages 76–88, April 2011
How to Cite
Kahn, J. S. (2011), Understanding: Between belief and unbelief. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 22: 76–88. doi: 10.1111/j.1757-6547.2011.00108.x
- Issue online: 1 APR 2011
- Version of Record online: 21 FEB 2011
This paper addresses issues raised in Taylor’s work concerning how communities may come to work in normatively secular ways. For Taylor, it seems to be sufficient for believers (and nonbelievers) to acknowledge that their own ‘construals’ are not shared by everyone. However, this leaves open the question of how the acknowledgement of difference may be turned into respect. A common strategy is to require that faith-based truth claims are ‘bracketed out’, treating secular and religious discourse as ‘nonoverlapping magisteria’. This secularising strategy is, however, problematic on a number of counts. The article makes a case for a less confrontational, more cosmopolitan conversation between secular and religious reason in a postsecular age, examining in particular the possibilities for conversation between science and mysticism. It concludes that it is possible to retain a commitment to naturalism and yet also accept some of the most mystical of propositions, thereby establishing a bridge between ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ forms of reasoning.