Lecture 1: Religion as System (HT19)

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Prof. Gavin Flood, FBA
Date: January 24, 2019
Time: 2.00pm – 3.00pm

After a brief introduction to the series, this lecture will open with the problematic nature of the relation between phenomenology and religion and go on to investigate one important way in which religion has been understood, namely as communication system. The systems approach to the study of religions was developed by the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann. This lecture will examine his ideas and arguments, his desire to replace an account of religion in terms of ‘humanity’ with an account in terms of ‘communication’, and his notion of meaning as the reduction of complexity. The lecture will raise questions about this and offer critique that Luhmann’s systems approach cannot give an adequate account of religious persons because religions as communication events need to be understood in terms of their enactment in narrative and law and the way in which indexicality of person transforms system into experience. This will lead us on to the next lecture.