Things among the Gods: Revisiting the Problem of Reification

By Christopher Morrison.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Many critics in the field of religious studies often admonish certain terms, themes and thinkers under the umbrella term of “reification.” This term is defined as the idealization of an abstract concept elevated to the point where it is considered a “thing.” Terms like “religion,” “God,” “patriarchy,” the “body” and so on, are often branded as reified terms. However, if we deconstruct the notion of the “thing” it also becomes subject to critiques of reification. In fact, the entire critical concept of reification can be called into question: How does a thing, like a pen differ from a thing like a god? Both are ensnared in idealizations that depend upon specific linguistic constructions (via the sign and its signified). Critiques based on reification demonstrate specific theorizations of things in general; Re-thinking the problem of reification is not only timely in religious studies discourses but can also provide openings toward new discussions not only in religious studies but also in the humanities. Thinking through things is, indeed, one of the many possible new directions in the humanities today. Many critics in the field of religious studies often admonish certain terms, themes and thinkers under the umbrella term of “reification.” This term is defined as the idealization of an abstract concept elevated to the point where it is considered a “thing.” Terms like “religion,” “God,” “patriarchy,” the “body” and so on, are often branded as reified terms. However, if we deconstruct the notion of the “thing” it also becomes subject to critiques of reification. In fact, the entire critical concept of reification can be called into question: How does a thing, like a pen differ from a thing like a god? Both are ensnared in idealizations that depend upon specific linguistic constructions (via the sign and its signified). Critiques based on reification demonstrate specific theorizations of things in general; Re-thinking the problem of reification is not only timely in religious studies discourses but can also provide openings toward new discussions not only in religious studies but also in the humanities. Thinking through things is, indeed, one of the many possible new directions in the humanities today.

Keywords: Reification, Thing Theory, Religious Studies, Critical Thinking, Structuralism, Deconstruction, Things, Gods, Relations

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 6, pp.73-84. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.387MB).

Christopher Morrison

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Religious Studies, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

I received my B.A. in English Lit. & Philosophy (King’s University College), M.A. in Theory & Criticism (University of Western Ontario), and I am currently working toward my Ph.D. in Religious Studies (University of Calgary. My research interests include: Phenomenology, Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis, Daoism, Buddhism (and its permeations within Daoist thought), intersecting Religions and Philosophies, Continental Philosophy, Theosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Emotion, and Cognitive Sciences. I teach “Eastern Religions in the West,” and my specialization is on the topic of empathy and its related discourses.

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