Religion beyond Myth and Enlightenment

Project description:

The project "Religion beyond Myth and Enlightenment" aimed at a comprehensive philosophical analysis of various phenomena that are dealt with today controversially under the header of "the return of the religious" and the related question of "post-secularism." As to its basic task, its overall intention consisted in the development of a phenomenological reconsideration of religion in the context of late modernity and its inner antinomies (e.g., the "dialectics of secularization," "globalization and its discontents"). Since any reflection on the varieties of religion today must not avoid the question of "religious violence," our analyses have been calibrated alongside various phenomena that epitomize the ambivalent positioning of religion between its affinity to violence and its potentials to resolve conflict; in this context, the topics of sacrifice and gift have been singled out as most central to our undertaking and accordingly have been used as the major guiding threads for our project. In the course of the project, these topical constellations have been unfolded concretely by recourse to a variety of different theoretical positions, including phenomenology, continental philosophy of religion, and postmodernism. In order to provide a sustainable basis for the overall task to be achieved, we have firstly elaborated a comprehensive assessment of both classical and recent phenomenological accounts and have plumbed their yet under-explored potentials for promoting the philosophy of religion. Our focus has been situated respectively according to 1) developing an integrative phenomenology of religion, 2) applying this approach to the vast topic of the "return of the religious" and major related issues, and 3) providing detailed analyses concerning specific "religious phenomena" that are of paramount importance in this regard more generally. In order to fulfill these tasks, we have deepened traditional research on classical positions (Husserl, Scheler, Stein, Schütz), have reassessed its scope and potentials; furthermore, we have attempted to reconcile the most recent "radical phenomenologies" (Levinas, Henry, Marion, Chrétien), which emphasize a specific and extraordinary givenness of religious experience, with hermeneutic accounts, which underscore the mediation of religious experiences in mundane meaning structures (Heidegger, Patocka, Ricoeur). Finally and complementarily, we have included related research in continental philosophy of religion (Kearney, Westphal) and "Postmodernism" (Derrida, Nancy, Badiou). This expansion of the field has, finally, proven to be of utmost importance since its has helped us enormously to cover the whole phenomenon of "religious experience": on the one hand, it made it possible to concretize the phenomenological account of the religious under the post-structuralist sign of its irreducible materiality, textuality, and historicity; on the other hand, it has enabled us also to give an account of the practical and poetic dimensions of "lived religion" (including the quandary of "religious violence"). In combining the host of aforementioned positions and perspectives, the project has, generally regarded, developed a framework for an integrated phenomenological account of religion; this theory revolves around the key idea of the intertwining of transcendence and self-transcendence. In providing evidence for an essential correlation that exists between experiences of transcendence and experiencing self-transcendence, the project has, in the last analysis, opened up continuative pathways for the analysis of religion in a post-metaphysical age.


Involved researches:


MMag. Dr. Christian STERNAD


Jason ALVIS, PhD 


Full final report.

Conferences (with international participation)

Format Title Organization Place Date
Workshop Religion beyond Myth and Enlightenment Trinity College Dublin, Ireland 24-25 April 2012
Workshop Religion beyond Myth and Enlightenment University of Oslo Oslo, Norway 8 June 2012
Conference Religion beyond Myth and Enlightenment: Phenomenological Reconsiderations Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) Vienna, Austria 11-14 September 2012
Workshop Ende des Säkularismus? Phänomenologie und Begriff der Religion heute IWM Vienna, Austria 3 October 2014
Workshop Moral Emotions and Contemporary Social Imaginaries Vienna University Vienna, Austria 15-16 April 2015
Conference Human Existence as Movement IWM Vienna, Austria 3-5 June 2015
Workshop Desire and Embodied Selfhood Vienna University Vienna, Austria 29-30 October 2015
Workshop Responsibility and freedom: The idea of Europe in the Philosophy of Jan Patocka Center for Theoretical Studies, Charles University Prague, Czech Republic 31 March - 1 April 2016
Workshop Pro patria mori: Solidarity and sacrifice in the First World War IWM Vienna, Austria 14-15 April 2016
Conference Zum Gewaltpotenzial unbedingter Ansprüche im Horizont politischer Theorie Department of Philosophy, Vienna University Vienna, Austria 10-12 October 2013
Conference Pathways in the Phenomenology of Religion Department of Philosophy & Phenomenology Research Center, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, USA 18-19 November 2013
Conference Violence and the Gift: Challenging Continental Philosophy of Religion IWM Vienna, Austria 23-24 April 2014