A Cognitive Theory of Magic
Magic is a universal phenomenon. Everywhere we look people perform ritual actions in which desirable qualities are transferred by means of physical contact and objects or persons are manipulated by things of their likeness. In this book Sørensen embraces a cognitive perspective in order to investigate this long-established but controversial topic. Following a critique of the traditional approaches to magic, and basing his claims on classical ethnographic cases, the author explains magic's universality by examining a number of recurrent cognitive processes underlying its different manifestations. He focuses on how power is infused into the ritual practice; how representations of contagion and similarity can be used to connect otherwise distinct objects in order to manipulate one by the other; and how the performance of ritual prompts representations of magical actions as effective. Bringing these features together, the author proposes a cognitive theory of how people can represent magical rituals as purposeful actions and how ritual actions are integrated into more complex representations of events. This explanation, in turn, yields new insights into the constitutive role of magic in the formation of institutionalised religious ritual.
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actions performed argues ascribed ascription of magical Azande backward contagion basic basic-level categorisation behaviour beliefs blended space Boyer bread and wine causal chapter cognitive mechanisms cognitive science conceptual blending conceptual domains conceptual system constrained construction contagious contain context counterpart connections cultural models de-emphasised described direct domain-specific embedded emphasising entails essence essentialist Evans-Pritchard event-frames event-state example explain explanatory explicit expressed facilitates force-dynamic forward contagion function garden human image-schemata image-schematic structures important input spaces instrumental intentions interaction involving language linguistic magic and religion magical actions magical agency magical rituals magician manipulative magic meaning mental spaces metaphors metonymic notion objects ontological participants Pascal Boyer physical pragmatic profane psychological essentialism reference relation result ritual action ritual agent ritual efficacy ritual frame ritual space ritual structures ritualised role sacred domain sacred space social specific spell symbolic interpretations symbolist Tambiah theory of magic tion transfer transformation Trobriand Trobriand Islands understood