Mental Culture : Classical Social Theory and the Cognitive Science of Religion book cover
1st Edition

Mental Culture
Classical Social Theory and the Cognitive Science of Religion

ISBN 9781844657421
Published August 28, 2014 by Routledge
278 Pages

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Book Description

Why is the set of human beliefs and behaviours that we call "religion" such a widespread feature of all known human societies, past and present, and why are there so many forms of religiosity found throughout history and culture? "Mental Culture" brings together an international range of scholars  -  from  Anthropology, History, Psychology, Philosophy, and Religious Studies - to answer these questions. Connecting classical theories and approaches with the newly established field of the Cognitive Science of Religion, the aim of "Mental Culture" is to provide scholars and students of religion with an overview of contemporary scientific approaches to religion while tracing their intellectual development to some of the great thinkers of the past.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Social Minds, Mental Cultures: Weaving Together Cognition and Culture in the Study of Religion, Dimitris Xygalatas and William W. McCorkle Jr. 2. Explanatory Pluralism and the Cognitive Science of Religion: Why Scholars in Religious Studies Should Stop Worrying about Reductionism, Robert McCauley 3. Early Cognitive Theorists of Religion: Robin Horton and his Predecessors, Stewart Guthrie 4. The Opium or the Aphrodisiac of the People? Darwinizing Marx on Religion, Jason slone 5. Immortality, Creation, and Regulation: Updating Durkheim's Theory of the Sacred, Harvey Whitehouse 6. Non-ordinary Powers: Charisma, Special Affordances, and the Study of Religion, Ann Taves 7. Malinowski's Magic and Skinner's Superstition: Reconciling Explanations of Magical Practicies, Konrad Talmont-Kaminski 8. Toward an Evolutionary Cognitive Science of Mental Cultures: Lessons from Freud, Joseph Bulbulia 9. Piaget on Moral Judgement: Towards a Reconciliation with Nativist and Socio-Cultural Approaches, Gordon Ingram 10. Building on William James: The Role of Learning in Religious Experience, Tanya M. Luhrmann 11. Explaining Religious Concepts: Levi-Strauss The Brilliant and Problematic Ancestor, Pascal Boyer 12. The Meaningful Brain: Clifford Geertz and the Cognitive Science of Culture, Armin W. Geertz 13. Cognitive Science and Religious Thought: The Case of Psychological Interiority in the Analects, Edward Slingerland 14. Conclusion: Moving Towards a New Science of Religion. Or, Have We Already Arrived? Luther H. Martin and Ilkka Pyysiainen

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Dimitris Xygalatas is Director of the Laboratory for the Experimental Research of Religion in Brno, Czech Republic and holds a joint position with Aarhus University, Denmark, and Masaryk University, Czech Republic. He is author of The Burning Saints: Cognition and Culture in the Fire-walking Rituals of the Anastenaria and Managing Editor of the Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion.

William W. McCorkle Jr. is Director of Experimental Research at the Laboratory for Experimental Research of Religion and Associate Professor in the Department for the Study of Religions at Masaryk University, Czech Republic. He is author of Ritualizing the Disposal of the Deceased: From Corpse to Concept.


"It is a rare treat to have the leading scholars of one generation comment on their towering predecessors. Mental Culture is a stunning book that should be required reading in both religious studies and cognitive science. Kudos to the editors for their vision, masterful organization, and firmly situating the cognitive science of religion within the distinguished history of the academic study of religion." – Richard Sosis, University of Connecticut

”The diverse phenomena of religion constitute one of the most crucial sets of evidence that we possess on the human mind. As such, it requires a thorough cross-disciplinary examination. This excellent collection of papers goes a long way toward achieving this end.” – Merlin Donald, Queen's University, Kingston

"A novel and clever way to revisit the founders of social science and to commemorate their contribution to the evolving field of cognitive science of religion." – Anthropology Review Database

"This book will excite and encourage young scholars to contribute to the field of the CSR while providing new and interesting insights for more established scholars. It is a significant contribution to the field and a must read for all interested in the study of religion." – BASR Bulletin