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Friedrich Max Müller and the Sacred Books of the East$
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Arie L. Molendijk

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198784234

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198784234.001.0001

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(p.122) 4 Methods
Friedrich Max Müller and the Sacred Books of the East

Arie L. Molendijk

Oxford University Press

Chapter 4, ‘Methods’, concerns methodological issues. Key to the paradigm shift in the study of culture in the nineteenth century is the idea of comparison. The chapter demonstrates that Max Müller’s view of comparison is intimately related to a broadly conceived historical approach, which he contrasts to a theoretical approach that allegedly neglects ‘historical facts’. At first sight it may seem that Müller merely defended an empirically grounded method, but it turns out that ‘Mr Müller’s Science’ is embedded in deep moral convictions about a shared human history, which even has a providential character. This shared human history makes comparison meaningful. Just like other branches of cultural study at the time, Max Müller’s work has a clear moral edge.

Keywords:   methodology, comparison, impartiality, historical method, E. A. Freeman, (comparative study of) language and mythology, classification, Max Müller’s Introduction to the Science of Religion (1873)

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