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Title: Emotion and experience in classical Athenian religion : studies in Athenian ritual and belief
Author: Anderson, R.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2004
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Greek religion is often said to have been a religion of performance, rather than one of belief. This view achieved its canonical formulation in the work of Arthur Darby Nock in the 1930s, where the contrast was drawn via an explicit comparison with Christianity, and it has been much repeated since then. However, such a formulation easily slips into depicting Greek religion as a religion of (merely) ‘going through the motions’ and there is growing doubt about its ability to reflect Greek religious experience accurately or adequately. One response to these concerns would be to look for ‘belief’ in the Greek religious context. The difficulty with this response is that the concept of ‘belief’ is not just an analytical tool, but has also been a key term in Christianity of all periods. Approaches to religion which emphasise ‘belief’ (as in statements such as ‘the x believe such-and-such’) thus proceed from a distinctively Christian or Christian-influenced viewpoint, the universal applicability of which is open to question. To apply the concept of belief to Greek religion risks swapping one problematic approach for another no less beset with difficulties. The opposition between belief and performance emerges from an underlying opposition between mind and body in Western thought. In my thesis, I attempt to circumvent the difficulties inherent in such a position by adopting a perspective which seeks to collapse this duality. This phenomenological ‘paradigm of embodiment’ takes as its starting point the conscious human body in the world, and focuses on the processes of perception by which the objective world comes to be for the perceiving subject. Concentrating on the role of religion in perception uncovers ways in which Greek religion, though rarely producing explicit statements of belief comparable to the Christian credo, nevertheless established and articulated an implicit practical worldview which gave structure and meaning to experience. This approach also opens up a further dimension of the relationship between religion and society. Greek religion not only articulated society and social structure, as has long been recognised, but also constituted a shared, perceptual life-world or lived reality, something which may lie at the foundation of social life in general.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available