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5.3 Scholarly definitions of religion

Scholars offer us many different definitions of religion, but these definitions tend to be of two types. The first type is known as a substantive definition: that is, a definition that tells us what kind of thing religion is by pointing to its distinguishing characteristic – usually its beliefs and/or practices. We can find an example of a substantive definition of religion in my summary of the definitions found in the Concise Oxford Dictionary. Think again about d. Acc
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5.2 The ‘answer’ in your dictionary

Exercise 9

Please now look at the definition of ‘religion’ given in your dictionary.

  1. Do you think that the definition is going to help you when deciding what is or is not religion? Please give
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5.1 ‘Religion’ and ‘the religions’: two new notions

I want to begin our closer discussion of the question ‘what is religion?’ by looking briefly at the history of the use and meaning of the term. You may be surprised to find how recently the word ‘religion’ has taken on the meanings attached to it today.

Contemporary scholars of religion emphasise not merely the cultural breadth but also the antiquity of religious activity. Yet, the term ‘religion’ as we understand it today is very much a Western concept.

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4.4 Religion and social policy

Understanding religious beliefs and practices and what we mean by ‘religion’ is not merely of academic interest. It is often bound up with social policy and so relates to the rights and privileges of individuals. In Britain, for example, the Church of Scientology has not been allowed to register i
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4.2 Reasons for studying religion

Exercise 7

Identify and jot down reasons that you think might prompt someone to make a study of religion.

Discussion

Here are some reasons in no special or
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1 Themes and issues in the history of art

This unit introduces you to a number of themes and issues in the history of art, taking as its pretext a visit to the Louvre in Paris. It asks three kinds of question:

  1. How did the Grand Louvre (as the modernised Louvre is called) – its buildings, paintings and sculptures – come to be as it is?

  2. How should we respond to the claim that the collections in the Louvre constitute a significant part of the canon of Western European art?
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5.2 The aftermath of the Holocaust

In interwar Europe ethnic Germans had been in an overwhelming majority in the populations of both Germany and Austria. In addition, the two largest minorities spread across the states of interwar Europe, and particularly the states of the centre and east, had been Germans and Jews. The war and the Holocaust produced ‘solutions’ to the questions of both minorities. The Jews of central and eastern Europe who survived were often unwilling to return to their former homes; indeed, many of thos
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3.4 The mass production of death

Mass shootings by soldiers and Einsatzgruppen and the use of the mobile gas vans took time and energy. There was concern about the effects on the morale of the men involved. Towards the end of 1941, even before the Wannsee Conference, the Nazis had begun building camps in Poland that incorporated large gas chambers for the mass production of death. Belzec was the first to come into operation in February 1942, killing people with carbon monoxide first released from bottles and subsequen
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2.1 Anti-Semitism and Hitler

Anti-Semitism was central to Hitler's world view and to that of most Nazi activists. Hitler considered Jews to have been foremost among profiteers and racketeers during World War I; they engineered the ‘stab in the back’ of November 1918; they were hand-in-glove with Bolshevism. In August 1919 Hitler was an instructor at a military camp at Lechfeld, near Augsburg. His task was to inject nationalist and anti-Bolshevik ideas into the men in the camp, many of whom were recently released pris
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Glossary

Alliteration repetition of sounds, usually the first letters of successive words, or words that are close together. Alliteration usually applies only to consonants.
Anapest see under foot.
Assonance repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds.
<
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Introduction

For many centuries, ancient Egypt was seen as the source of wisdom and knowledge, about mathematics as well as other things. There was a long classical Greek tradition to this effect, and in later centuries the indecipherability of the hieroglyphs did nothing to dispel this belief. But since the early nineteenth century, when the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone by Young and Champollion enabled rapid progress to be made in translating extant Egyptian texts, the picture has changed to reveal a
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4.3 Physical grounds for thinking we are immortal

In section III Hume discusses what he calls physical reasons for thinking there is an afterlife. A sensible guess as to what he means by a physical reason is that it is one based on observation and experience of the physical world. He begins by asserting that physical reasons are the ones he has most respect for. (This assertion is unsurprising: his objections to moral reasons, and the metaphysical reasons we skipped, turn on the allegation that they depend on claims that go beyond wha
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1.2 Napier's bones

Before pursuing who logarithms were for (and what they are), we first look briefly at another of Napier's computational aids. For in the years following his death, it was in fact his numerating rods, the so-called Napier's bones, that were more widely known and used. These consisted of the columns of a multiplication table inscribed on rods, which could make the multiplying of two numbers easier by setting down the partial products more swiftly. This simple contrivance was derived from
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Introduction

This unit provides an overview of John Napier and his work on logarithms. It discusses his approach to this lasting invention and looks at the key players who worked with him, including Briggs, Wright and Kepler.

This unit is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Topics in the history of mathematics (MA290) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in
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4 Conclusion

The biographical monograph is probably one of the best ways of writing appealing and accessible art history. Helen Langdon's Caravaggio is an attractive and well-written narrative of the life and work of an important and allegedly infamous artist. We learn about a set of artworks in a particular context and at the same time get to know a ‘new friend’ whose personality and environment seem to speak through the illustrations. The biographical structure is also a convenient way of con
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2.7 Art, life and the interpretation of pictures

David Carrier's book, Principles of Art History Writing (1991) considers the way that Caravaggio has been constructed as an artistic personality (the relevant chapter is below). The objective of Carrier's book as a whole is to demonstrate that the ‘appeal to the artist's intention adds nothing’ to the interpretation of his artworks (recall the discussion of Wimsatt and Beardsley in Author(s): The Open University

2 The varieties of imaginative experience

What would life be like without imagination? Perhaps, in this very first question, we have found something that is impossible to imagine. Imagination infuses so much of what we do, and so deeply, that to imagine its absence is to imagine not being human. Some people, I am told, think about sex every five minutes. For them, I presume, a sudden loss of imaginative powers would be devastating. Some people (not necessarily the same ones), at certain points in their lives, think about getting marr
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1 Learning Latin

The aim of this unit is to enable you to get started in Latin in a fairly leisurely but well-focused way. The material has been developed in response to requests from students who had had no contact with Latin before and who felt they would like to spend a little time preparing for the kind of learning which takes place on a language course – and, in particular, on a classical language course.

If you have taken Classical Studies courses in the Open University or elsewhere, you will be
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8.1 The forces of change: towards Romanticism

The relationship between the Enlightenment and the movement known as Romanticism, which dominated early nineteenth-century culture, is the subject of intense debate among scholars. There is no single correct way of defining this relationship, and one of the main challenges you will face in this course is in forming your own conclusions on the subject. It is possible, for example, to see the French Revolution as a cataclysmic event that tumbled the old order and ruptured faith in the Enlighten
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2 Conclusion

We have now looked specifically at two considerable monuments created at about the same time to commemorate the First World War. You have been using your eyes, and looking closely to respond to visual clues. We hope you found that, in doing so, you developed your understanding of them as memorials and also as ‘made objects’; and that in the process of asking questions about them you have reached some kind of explanation as to why they are as they are.

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