Going Cognitive? A science studies perspective on the Aesthetics of Religion: when conflicting visions fuel controversy and epistemic tensions

Smolka, M. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation (speaker at event)Talk or presentationAcademic


Scholars in the Aesthetics of Religion (AoR) have recently joined their colleagues in the humanities who are eager to ‘go cognitive’. Attempts to bridge the gap between cognition and culture have turned into an academic trend. However, those who aim to pursue this trend in AoR have triggered a controversy. This controversy concerns conflicting visions about the future of AoR and, in particular, its relation to the Cognitive Science of Religion. To explore how conflicting visions fuel controversy and perform the future of AoR, I conducted conference ethnography, document analysis and qualitative interviews with a network of scholars who institutionalize the discipline in Germany. Conflicting visions are indicative of a more fundamental debate between different academic paradigms, and they are both symptoms and causes of epistemic tension. The classic tension between understanding cognition as input-output information processing or as embodied and embedded revives. The relevance of researching AoR from a science studies perspective is twofold. First, it demonstrates that epistemic tensions provide a fertile ground for the performance of the cognitive vision. Second, it highlights that the performance of this vision is costly. It requires sustained debate on the possibility and feasibility of this very vision.
Period4 Sep 2019
Event titleDVRW 2019 IAHR special - Konzeptualisierung von Religion
Event typeConference
LocationHannover, Germany