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Journal Article

Seeing is believing? The role of aesthetics in assessing religion cross-culturally

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Zschauer, A. (2019). Seeing is believing? The role of aesthetics in assessing religion cross-culturally. Tetsugaku: International Journal of the Philosophical Association of Japan, 3, 207-222.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-D45F-3
The opinion that Japanese religion was rather “spiritual” or “superstitious” has, albeit being reproached for its Eurocentric basis, reached noteworthy spread and tempted scientific explanations. Yet, aside from dogmatic or structural differences to monotheistic religions, a major reason for the aforementioned impression may be that experiencing religion in Japan mismatches the religious experience familiar to the non-Japanese observer. This personal, immediate, aesthetic experience has been excluded from argumentation for its subjective inclination. It is argued, though, that our judgment always settles between discursive knowledge and aesthetic experience, both influencing each other.This paper will trace the inversion of the discourse on Japanese religion from Ōnishi Hajime’s diagnosis that Japanese religious tradition was insufficient for the establishment of national art, up to Richard B. Pilgrim’s claim of a ‘religio-aesthetic tradition of Japan’. It is then argued that this gradual acknowledgement of the aesthetic dimension in religious experience can be beneficial for cross-cultural understanding since it provides access for religious outsiders and since aesthetic subjectivity can itself become a basis for objective statements if it is recognized as inevitable basis for descriptive categories.