Origins of Religion, Cognition and Culture  book cover
1st Edition

Origins of Religion, Cognition and Culture

Edited By

Armin W. Geertz

ISBN 9781844657018
Published December 17, 2014 by Routledge
488 Pages

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Book Description

Attempts to understand the origins of humanity have raised fundamental questions about the complex relationship between cognition and culture. Central to the debates on origins is the role of religion, religious ritual and religious experience. What came first: individual religious (ecstatic) experiences, collective observances of transition situations, fear of death, ritual competence, magical coercion; mirror neurons or temporal lobe religiosity? Cognitive scientists are now providing us with important insights on phylogenetic and ontogenetic processes. Together with insights from the humanities and social sciences on the origins, development and maintenance of complex semiotic, social and cultural systems, a general picture of what is particularly human about humans could emerge. Reflections on the preconditions for symbolic and linguistic competence and practice are now within our grasp. Origins of Religion, Cognition and Culture puts culture centre stage in the cognitive science of religion.

Table of Contents

Introduction, Armin W. Geertz
Part I Evolutionary Scenarios
1. Whence Religion? How the Brain Constructs the World and What This Might Tell Us about the Origins of Religion, Cognition and Culture, Armin W. Geertz
2. Why "Costly Signalling" Models of Religion Require Cognitive Psychology, Joseph Bulbulia
3. The Prestige of the Gods: Evolutionary Continuities in the Formation of Sacred Objects, William E. Paden
4. The Evolutionary Dynamics of Religious Systems: Laying the Foundations of a Network Model, István Czachesz
5. Art as a Human Universal: An Adaptationist View, Ellen Dissanayake
6. The Significance of the Natural Experience of a ‘Non-Natural’ World to the Question of the Origin of Religion, Donald Wiebe
7. Religion and the Emergence of Human Imagination, Andreas Lieberoth
8. The Origins of Religion, Cognition and Culture: The Bowerbird Syndrome, Luther H. Martin
9. The Will to Sacrifice: Sharing and Sociality in Humans, Apes, and Monkeys, Henrik Høgh-Olesen
10. Apetales: Exploring the Deep Roots of Religious Cognition,Tom Sjöblom
Part II Cognitive Theories
11. Cognition and Meaning, Jeppe Sinding Jensen
12. Wittgenstein and the Naturalness of Religious Belief, Mark Addis
13. “Peekaboo!” and Object Permanence: On the Play of Concealment and Appearance in Cognition and Religion, Thomas Hoffmann
14. Yogācāra Buddhist Views on the Causal Relation between Language, Cognition and the Evolution of Worlds, William S. Waldron
15. A Resource Model of Religious Cognition: Motivation as a Primary Determinant for the Complexity of Supernatural Agency Representations, Uffe Schjoedt
16. The Recognition of Religion: Archaeological Diagnosis and Implicit Theorizing, Peter Jackson
17. Religion and the Extra-Somatics of Conceptual Thought, Mads Jessen
18. Tools for Thought: The Ritual Use of Ordinary Tools, Pierre Liénard & Jesper Sørensen
19. Care of the Soul: Empathy in a Dualistic Worldview, Gretchen Koch
20. From Corpse to Concept: A Cognitive Theory on the Ritualized Treatment of Dead Bodies, William W. McCorkle Jr
21. Anthropomorphism in God Concepts: The Role of Narrative, Peter Westh

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Armin W. Geertz is Professor in the History of Religions, Director of the Religion, Cognition and Culture Research Unit and MINDLab Coordinator of the Cognition and Culture Project at Aarhus University, Denmark. He is co-editor of Religious Narrative, Cognition and Culture (Acumen, 2011).


"Geertz’s brilliantly interdisciplinary volume brings together many of today’s top theorists of religion in a well-balanced, accessible selection of cutting-edge humanistic and scientific approaches. It will be indispensable." – Stewart E. Guthrie, Fordham University

"An interesting and important project” – Anthropology Review Database