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The Two Great Heterodoxies in Ancient India: An Example of Max Weber’s Anti-Hegelian Approach

DOI https://doi.org/10.15543/MWS/2018/1/6

Wolfgang Schluchter


Max Weber’s studies on the economic ethic of the world religions are considered very often as being Eurocentric. However, it is not always specified in which regard this is the case. In this essay, I distinguish between normative, heuristic and conceptual Eurocentrism. Weber’s Eurocentrism is heuristic and conceptual, but not normative. He adhered to a one-sided analysis of the history of religion from a European viewpoint and with European concepts, but never claimed that the West is superior to the East, contrary to those authors who subscribe to a truly evolutionary model. One case in point here is Hegel’s philosophy of religion, from which Weber’s approach deviated not only in the theory of concept formation, but also in the interpretation of what could be termed with Hegel a consummate religion. Weber’s decisive term here is salvation religion, and for him religions of this type appeared in the West as well as in the East. For the East, early Buddhism and Jainism are cases in point. Weber considered all salvation religions normatively speaking on equal footing, but with different consequences for life conduct, originating from different worldviews and tied to different developmental histories. To demonstrate this is the purpose of his multiple comparisons between the West and the East as well as within the West and the East.

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