Emile Durkheim 's The Elementary Forms Of The Religious Life

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Émile Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life examines religion through a social viewpoint, while Claude Lévi-Strauss’s The Savage Mind compares modern and “primitive” thought. Although their topics of interest differ, both works similarly rely on science to explain their anthropologic theories. Science serves as a useful reference point, since it embodies modern mode of thinking with high objectivity. Therefore, these writers can expand on their analysis of other ways to perceive the world by comparing and contrasting with science. The relations created between science and organized human thought unravel how these anthropologists view science. Durkheim’s and Levi-Strauss’s allusions to science support their respective arguments about religion and mythical thought, while revealing anthropology’s general perspective of science.
Durkheim argues that religion shares fundamental qualities with science, exposing his beliefs on the purpose of science. First, Durkheim notes, “most of the time debates on the topic of religion turn around and about on the question of whether religion can or cannot be reconciled with science” (Durkheim 419). Religion’s compatibility with the modern world of science comes into question, due to the cosmological aspects being disproved with empirical evidence. In many theorists’ eyes, religion would be an internal system of beliefs expressed externally and material with rites. However, Durkheim would contend to think about the religion
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