The Theories Of Edward Burnett Tylor And Emile Durkheim

1496 WordsNov 18, 20146 Pages
In this essay I will be looking at the theories of Edward Burnett Tylor and Émile Durkheim, and comparing them to see which theory I think gives a better explanation about what religion is, or whether religion is actually definable. On the one hand we have Tylor’s theory that tells us that religion is belief in spiritual beings and that religion is just a step on the way to reaching full evolutionary potential. Durkheim’s theory, however, says that religion is very much a social aspect of life, and something can only be religious or “sacred” if it is something public (Durkheim 1965:52). Ultimately these theories do not give us an outright explanation about what ‘religion’ is, but there are aspects of the theory that can be used to gain an understanding or idea. Firstly, Tylor’s theory of religion emerges from the concept of Animism (Tylor 1 1871:384). Tylor himself states that he did not want to use the term Animism, however his preferred term of “Spiritualism” was already being used by what he called a “modern sect” (Tylor 1 1871:384-385). He believed that the very first people would have made connections between dreams and the difference between life and death, and so they would have formulated the idea that all things have a soul. Tylor states that religion can’t be defined as “the belief in a supreme deity or judgment after death” (Tylor 1 1871:383). This shows that Tylor felt that a religion is not just something that has a creator God handing out judgment,

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