Bulletin for the Study of Religion, Vol 43, No 1 (2014)

Weber, Geertz, and Ricoeur on Explanation and Interpretation

Robert A. Segal
Issued Date: 14 Feb 2014


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.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/bsor.v43i1.25


Collingwood, R. G. 1946. The Idea of History, ed. T. M. Knox. New York: Oxford
University Press.
Davidson, Donald. 1963. “Actions, Reasons, and Causes.” Journal of Philosophy 40:
Geertz, Clifford. 1972. “Afterword: The Politics of Meaning,” in Culture and Politics in Indonesia, ed. Claire Holt (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press), 319-35.
Geertz, Clifford. 1973. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.
Grünbaum, Adolf. 1984. The Foundations of Psychoanalysis. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hempel, Carl. 1962. “Explanation in Science and in History.” In Frontiers of Science and Philosophy, ed. Robert G. Colodny (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press), ch. 1.
Hempel, Carl. 1965. Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science. New York: Free Press.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1958 [1955]. “The Structural Study of Myth.” Journal of American Folklore 68 (1955): 428-44. Reprinted in Myth: A Symposium, ed. Thomas A. Sebeok (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1958), 81-106.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1967. “The Myth of Asdiwal.” Tr. Nicholas Mann. In The
Structural Study of Myth and Totemism, ed. Edmund Leach (London:
Tavistock), 1-47.
Parsons, Talcott. 1968 [1949]. The Structure of Social Action. 2nd ed. New York: Free Press; London, Collier Macmillan [1949, 1st ed. 1937].
Ricoeur, Paul. 1970. Freud and Philosophy. Tr. Denis Savage. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Ricoeur, Paul. 1981. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. Ed. and tr. John B. Thompson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Paris: Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme.
Ryle, Gilbert. 1971. Collected Papers. 2 vols. London: Hutchinson; New York: Barnes & Noble.
Segal, Robert A., 1992. Explaining and Interpreting Religion. New York, Lang.
Weber, Max. 1963. The Sociology of Religion. Tr. Ephraim Fischoff. Boston: Beacon Press. Reprinted in Weber 1968, II, pp. 399-634.
Weber, Max. 1968. Economy and Society. 3 vols, Eds. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. Tr. Ephraim Fischoff. New York: Bedminster Press.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email: info@equinoxpub.com

Privacy Policy