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The Sacred in the Modern WorldA Cultural Sociological Approach$
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Gordon Lynch

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199557011

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199557011.001.0001

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Ontological and Durkheimian Theories of the Sacred

Ontological and Durkheimian Theories of the Sacred

(p.9) 1 Ontological and Durkheimian Theories of the Sacred
The Sacred in the Modern World

Gordon Lynch

Oxford University Press

This chapter introduces the distinction between ontological and cultural sociological theories of the sacred, which respectively understand the sacred to be grounded in the essence of the cosmos or human person or to be culturally constructed. The limitations of ontological approaches are discussed, and an initial outline of a cultural sociological understanding of the sacred is developed through a critical re-reading of the work of Emile Durkheim. Rejecting Durkheim’s social ontology and his relatively undifferentiated concept of the profane, the chapter concludes by offering an initial definition of the sacred as that which people take to be a non-contingent reality which exerts an unquestionable moral claim over social life, and of sacred forms as specific instantiations of the sacred.

Keywords:   Emile Durkheim, sacred, profane, social ontology, social life, ontology, cultural sociology

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