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Rationality, Religion and Intentional Systems Theory: From Objective Ethnography to the Critical Study of Religious Beliefs

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

Rationality pervades the study of religion. This essay argues that rationality has three roles in this context. First, it functions as a presupposition in the ethnographic descriptions of religious behaviour; second, it functions as the explanatory principle in ethnography of religion; third, rationality functions as a normative tool in the critical assessments of religion. It is argued that all three roles are rooted in the Dennettian intentional system theory and are thus intricately linked with each other. It is further argued that any ethnographic study of religion that uses the best available scientific methods in the description and explanation of human behaviour, commits itself to the relative optimality of scientific outlook and to the critique of religion in principle.

Affiliations: 1: Comparative Religion, University of Turku;, Email:


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