Cognitive Aspects of Religious Symbolism

Overview

How are religious ideas presented, acquired and transmitted? Confronted with religious practices, anthropologists have typically been content with sociological generalizations, informed by vague, intuitive models of cognitive processes. Yet the modern cognitive theories promise a fresh understanding of how religious ideas are learnt; and if the same cognitive processes can be shown to underlie all religious ideologies, then the comparative study of religions will be placed on a wholly new footing. The present ...

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Overview

How are religious ideas presented, acquired and transmitted? Confronted with religious practices, anthropologists have typically been content with sociological generalizations, informed by vague, intuitive models of cognitive processes. Yet the modern cognitive theories promise a fresh understanding of how religious ideas are learnt; and if the same cognitive processes can be shown to underlie all religious ideologies, then the comparative study of religions will be placed on a wholly new footing. The present book is a contribution to this ambitious programme. In closely focused essays, a group of anthropologists debate the particular nature of religious concepts and categories, and begin to specify the cognitive constraints on cultural acquisition and transmission.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521438704
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/30/2008
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Table of Contents

I. Cognitive processes and cultural representations: 1. Cognitive aspects of religious symbolism Pascal Boyer; 2. Whither 'ethnoscience'? Scott Atran; II. The structure of religious categories: 3. Computational complexity in the cognitive modelling of cosmological ideas J. D. Keller and F. K. Lehman (U Chit Hlaing); 4. 'Earth' and 'path' as complex categories: semantics and symbolism in Kwaio culture Roger Keesing; 5. Domain-specificity, living kinds and symbolism Maurice Bloch; 6. Pseudo-natural kinds Pascal Boyer; III. Acquisition and belief fixation: 7. Sign into symbol, symbol as sign: cognitive aspects of a social process Christian Toren; 8. Talking about souls: the pragmatic construction of meaning in Cuna ritual language Carlo Severi; IV. The structure of ritual action: 9. Cognitive categories, cultural forms and ritual structures E. Thomas Lawson; 10. The interactive basis of ritual effectiveness in a male initiation rite Michael Houseman.

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