Cognitive Aspects of Religious Symbolism by Pascal Boyer
By Pascal Boyer
How are spiritual rules offered, got and transmitted? faced with spiritual practices, anthropologists have usually been content material with sociological generalizations, trained via obscure, intuitive versions of cognitive techniques. but the fashionable cognitive theories promise a clean figuring out of ways spiritual principles are learnt; and if an analogous cognitive tactics should be proven to underlie all non secular ideologies, then the comparative learn of religions might be put on a unconditionally new footing. the current booklet is a contribution to this formidable programme. In heavily centred essays, a bunch of anthropologists debate the actual nature of non secular thoughts and different types, and start to specify the cognitive constraints on cultural acquisition and transmission.
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Additional info for Cognitive Aspects of Religious Symbolism
One of these, the kong or shadow, survives after death and becomes a member of a village of 30 Pascal Boyer ghosts, and in that state is endowed with particular powers over the living, like the power to send misfortune. This description is roughly consistent with most native utterances, but it poses some difficult problems. For instance, it seems to imply that the mind does not survive after death. But ghosts-bekong are typically represented as creatures which have all the usual mental capacities of the living.
These assumptions justify the anthropological practice, following which rituals can be described either from direct observation, or from some informants' explicit statements about the prescribed actions or from any combination of those two types of information. From a psychological perspective, however, each of these assumptions is extremely problematic. First, the existence of different perspectives on, and different representations of a single ritual cannot be ignored. A general feature of religious rituals is that they require the cooperation of different actors, supposed to occupy different social positions.
It also makes it possible to illuminate, to a certain extent, the complex processes concerning the constructive nature of autobiographical memory (Fitzger ald 1 986: 1 28-32). More importantly for our problems, scripts seem to be involved in the representation of social interaction beyond everyday routines: for instance, Quinn's analysis of the concept MARRIAGE in the United States ( 1 987) describes the subjects' representation of prototypical scripts, standard sequences that provide both a description of various elements of marriage (the actors' positions, their intentions and other mental states) and the causal links that can be established between these elements (how certain expectations of intentions can lead to specific results).