Ritual without Belief? Kierkegaard against Rappaport on personal belief and ritual action, with particular reference to Jonathan Lear's 'A Case for Irony

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Abstract

This paper presents a Kierkegaardian critique of Roy A. Rappaport's classic treatment of religious rituals. It discusses Rappaport's claim that public and outward acceptance of a religious ritual is sufficient for succesfully enacting it - even where such acceptance is devoid of any personal commitment on the partcipants’s part. To interrogate Rappaport, the paper develops Jonathan Lear's reading of Kierkegaard, and build on the Danish theologian’s remarks on the Christian sacraments to argue that, pace Rappaport, personal engagement is necessary to the succesful enactment of religious rituals. In this sense, I will show with Kierkegaard how inner belief is a necessary pre-requisite for the performance of any religious ritual whereas in Rappaport’s view it is ritual action itself which creates a posteriori the possibility for personal religious faith.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Philosophy and Theology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2018

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