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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K090-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Ritual, present throughout human affairs and central to many religious and cultural traditions, presents perplexities. One important question concerns the worth of such repetition and fixety – for example, in prayer, in human interaction, sometimes even in eating and drinking. To consider prayer, why not encourage the direct expression of religious thought and affect – from the heart, as it were, rather than in prescribed ways? It is sometimes suggested, and tempting to suppose, that to regularize such expression is to constrict it, ultimately to demean it. It is difficult to locate value in such apparently unnecessary regulation of human affairs.

In the context of philosophy the question becomes striking. None of the prevailing approaches to ethics makes it easy to see how ritual might possess ethical value or figure crucially in the ethical life. Yet this is precisely how ritualized ways are often seen within communities of practitioners.

Citing this article:
Wettstein, Howard. Ritual, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K090-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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