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Philosophy of Ritual


Professur für Westeuropäische Literaturen


Philosophy of Ritual - Rituals of Philosophy


PD Dr. Mariele Nientied

Projektart: Lehrstuhlprojekt

Finanzierung: Sonstiges

Projektbeginn: 01.01.2010

Projektbeschreibung in englisch:

Ritual studies attract scholars from many academic fields and have been established as a flourishing interdisciplinary area of research in its own right. However, it is striking that philosophy is not involved, although issues of basic research, e.g. on method or the epistemological profile of a particular field, always introduce a philosophical dimension.

The reasons for this astonishing negligence, though, did not originate in or with ritual studies, but with philosophy itself, both historically and systematically: The dichotomy between thought and action, fundamentally organizing most theoretical discourse on ritual, has been inherited from traditional philosophical dichotomies, like theory-practice or the mind-body dualism. Focussing on the intellectual, philosophy tends to exclude performative aspects from its concerns as they are seen as mere surface manifestations, modes of enactment or the symbolic communication of ideas, belief systems, intentions and statements that can be discussed without considering their embodiment in practices. Repetetive behaviour patterns without plausible structure and argumentative potential seem irrelevant for theory, no matter how crucial they are for anthropology. Additionally, ritual studies require attention to particulars, which only quite recently started to be appreciated in philosophy due to its striving for universal truth.

The mutual exclusion of philosophy and ritual studies turns out to be a strategic move constitutive of the establishment of their respective discourses and efficient throughout the centuries. Thus, it is a performative action that conditions the dichotomy of thought and action in the first place, allowing both, philosophical questions and projects in ritual studies to take shape. Therefore, philosophy can learn something about itself and its procedures by taking into account what it tirelessly, traditionally, and ritually tries to ignore as inessential. Thus, philosophy and/as ritual practice, the blind spot in both fields due to a mutual exclusion masking a co-implication, comes into focus. Considering philosophy itself as ritual practice pays attention to the convergence of these issues in anthropology and operates on both levels: the practices themselves and their reflection in theory.


MonographieNientied, Mariele;  2003
Kierkegaard und Wittgenstein: ‚Hineintäuschen in das Wahre’

MonographieNientied, Mariele;  2010
Reden ohne Wissen. Apophatik bei Dionysius Areopagita, Moses Maimonides und Emmanuel Levinas

Zum Forschungsbericht der Professur