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Weber, Geertz, and Ricoeur on Explanation and Interpretation

Issue: Vol 43 No. 1 (2014)

Journal: Bulletin for the Study of Religion

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Buddhist Studies Islamic Studies Biblical Studies

DOI: 10.1558/bsor.v43i1.25


One perennial issue in the study of religion is the relationship between explanation and interpretation. Explanation provides causes. Interpretation provides meanings. The issue is the relationship between causes and meanings, for which rough synonyms are reasons, motives, intentions, and purposes. This article presents three of the most common positions on the relationship: those of Max Weber, Clifford Geertz, and Paul Ricoeur. The aim is not to endorse any of the positions but simply to compare them.

Author: Robert A. Segal

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