Cognitive Aspects of Religious Symbolism

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Pascal Boyer
CUP Archive, Mar 4, 1993 - Psychology - 246 pages
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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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Contents

Computational complexity in the cognitive modelling
74
semantics
93
Domainspecificity living kinds and symbolism
111
Pseudonatural kinds
121
cognitive aspects of
147
the pragmatic construction of meaning
165
Cognitive categories cultural forms and ritual structures
188
The interactive basis of ritual effectiveness in a male initi
207
References
225
Index of names
241
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About the author (1993)

Pascal Boyer studied philosophy and anthropology at the Universities of Paris and Cambridge, where he did his graduate work with Professor Jack Goody, on memory constraints on the transmission of oral literature. He has done anthropological fieldwork in Cameroon on the transmission of the Fang oral epics and on Fang traditional religion. Since then he has worked mostly on the experimental study of cognitive capacities underlying cultural transmission. After teaching in Cambridge, San Diego, Lyon, and Santa Barbara, Boyer moved to his present position at the departments of anthropology and psychology at Washington University, St. Louis.

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