Methodological comments

Perhaps the best way to identify the concept of the project is to differentiate it sufficiently from allied concepts. There are three such concepts: Objectivism, Orientalism, and Pluralism.

Objectivism, in its extreme form, believes that a wholly rational (i.e. objective) description and evaluation of other religions and cultures is possible. If, however, a religion or culture consists of the response of the entire human being to the whole of the truth, then a rational understanding, however necessary, may never be sufficient.

Orientalism, in its extreme form, believes that power is knowledge. It is naive to think of knowledge as totally divorced from power, but it is also cynical to think of knowledge as always contaminated by it.

Pluralism, in its extreme form, believes in the principle of power to all, for all, by all, as well as knowledge to, by and for all. However, such liberty, after a celebratory phase, is bound to give rise to asymmetries.

This project does not privilege any of these approaches. It is Objectivist in the sense that it believes that correct statements can be distinguished from incorrect ones. It is Orientalist in the sense that it acknowledges that the presentation of facts can be affected by conscious or unconscious bias. It is Pluralist in the sense of acknowledging that nobody may be excluded from the dialogical banquet, where good manners demand that statements made about a religion be correct. However, it is not Objectivist in the sense that observers may claim they can entirely escape situatedness. Likewise, it is not Orientalist in the sense that cultures and religions can never sincerely try to know one another and occasionally even succeed in acquiring such knowledge, and it is not Pluralist in the sense that anything goes.

It considers itself Humanist in the sense that it believes it is human to err and equally human to draw someone's attention to where one might have erred. It believes that it might be possible to establish whether errors are random or systemic, and if systemic, to systematically take them into account in studying a religion or culture.