S. Brent Plate takes an “aesthetic” approach to the study of religion. He is interested in the way that the senses shape, inform, and comprise our experience of the human condition. The life of the mind plays a part in this as does the various ecologies in which that life plays out. His work is a rejoinder to a course of study that focuses on the former at the expense of the latter.

To get a sense of where he is coming from, let’s begin by defining the following terms.

Openings (p.69)-

William Paden’s understanding of “worlds” (pp.69-70)

After having read the chapter, I want you to name the five senses and consider religious examples of each, preferably beyond those that Plate has mentioned.






Ray Charles sitting at a piano
Pianist and Singer Ray Charles of the mid 20th century. Blind from childhood, he was considered a musical genius for his blend of blues, gospel, and country music among other genres. He was a pioneer of what is commonly referred to as soul music.

Plate’s argument suggests that we cannot seriously study a human phenomenon like religion without considering aesthetics. That being said, how might an aesthetic approach dovetail or overlap with some of the other approaches we’ve studied? For instance:

(1) What other senses are involved in the use of sacred words, stories, writings and books? (75 words)

(2) What does an origin story say about a community’s aesthetics or approach to beauty?  To what level do our aesthetics or sense-lives (to borrow from Marshall McLuhan) define the shaping of origin stories? (75 words)

(3) How might the aesthetic impact discussions of truth-claims (e.g. in interreligious dialogue)? (75 words)