No More Modern: Intuitions and Habitas

Another good post at the Immanent Frame, this one is by Penny Edgell, tries to overcome seeing religion as a combination of Modernity and Orthodoxy, where the two are separate ideas that clash or need to be rationalized. For example, it wants to overcome seeing Modern and Orthodoxy as two conflicting ideas because then all discussions become mired in issues of authority and maintaining boundaries of Orthodoxy.

Edgell uses the model of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. We act intuitively and then post-hoc create rationalizations and systems. For her, religious decisions are pre-conscious. The actual pre-conscious categories are things like “respect for authority, the importance of in-group loyalty, and a drive to maintain purity/sanctity.” Those who want to keep things exactly as they are and those who like variety are playing out the same psychological positions they had in kindergarten but now they post-hoc explain it by the religious tradition. Some kids put all their toys in perfect rows and others liked them all around. Some kids felt spoiled and privileged while others liked sharing and saw play time as a collective.

In this approach, it is not a question of how much modern change the religious system can take or how one needs to listen to authority. If it were, then it would be a constant clash. Rather, one has pre-conscious vision of the world and the religious debates are post-hoc- useful for ideologues to frame as a tension of modernity and religion.

Or to use the habitas model, Gladwell mentions how professionals know in a blink how to act in their chosen field. Lawyers, doctors, firefighters, and storekeepers have different ranges of intuitions. A law partner has one intuition that this religious act fits in with his life, a social worker has a different intuition, and an IT person who is home by 5:30 has another intuition about life. They then after the fact justify their original intuitions with discussions of religious authority. Intuitions about maintaining a Life in Midwood, Brooklyn are not the same as intuitions about living in Berkeley, CA.

I once did a study of how people use the word Chumra for a talk I gave and I found that it matched this model. People don’t mind strictness that makes immediate sense with their habitas, they mind it when they intuitively feel the strictness does not fit their habitas. Most of the use of the word, occurs when different intuitions or habitas clash or even meet.

In the original 1950’s sorting hat of denominations, differences in class, caste, education, and location led to separating out into different denominations. Now that we have a wide range of habitats within a single denomination, the clashing intuitions are bound to occur.

The people who are performance-foodie-kabbalah of tu beshevat are not those of obedience-newspapers-eating the same thing. One does not have to mention authority or modernity to explain their differences. See prior discussion here.

Or the loss of modernity as temporality in modern orthodoxy and the subsequent inability for those modern to articulate any aspiration may need to be replaced with an understanding of different intuitions or that they live in different habitas. See discussion here- this older post is definitely worth returning to in order to integrate it into this post.

Read the excerpt below- then consider if we should still rarefy religion out of the full habitas of our lives.

The originating and continuing impetus behind sociological inquiry into religion has been a sense that religion is “at odds” with modernity, continually undermined by ongoing rationalization.
From this perspective, the religion that thrives in the modern world, to borrow (and perhaps misuse) a metaphor from Mary Douglas, is a pig that has learned to chew its cud, an ill-fitting social form transformed into something that fits, albeit precariously, in the modern order. The pervasive unease about whether religion can maintain its role in highly modernized societies drives the substance of sociological inquiry—can the pig keep chewing its cud, can religion continue to fit in the modern world, or is the transformation ultimately doomed to failure?
Central debates have revolved around issues of religious authority, understood as the authority of religious elites and officials to compel respect, and the authority of orthodox doctrinal statements to compel assent and to shape behaviors.
The first is suggested by research in cognitive and social psychology that views consciousness as a two-level phenomenon, with most motivations for behavior originating in an underlying, pre-rational level (the gut, or “blink,” reaction made famous by Malcolm Gladwell). Rationalized beliefs and belief systems, including religious ones, are in this view largely just that—post-hoc rationalizations of the real underlying motives for action.
These underlying motivations are pre-conscious moral, aesthetic, and practical impulses and habits—if that sounds like the habitus, that is in fact an adequate way to translate these concepts for sociologists. If religion is understood as a cultural phenomenon that expresses underlying pre-conscious moral and aesthetic impulses, that takes much of the wind from the sails of the strong program.
For example, Jon Haidt, an influential cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia, calls for an approach that investigates … these include respect for authority, the importance of in-group loyalty, and a drive to maintain purity/sanctity.

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