How do historians understand the minds, motivations, intentions of historical agents? What might evolutionary and cognitive theorizing contribute to this work? What is the relation between natural and cultural history? Historians have been intrigued by such questions ever since publication in 1859 of Darwin's The Origin of Species, itself the historicization of biology. This interest reemerged in the latter part of the twentieth century among a number of biologists, philosophers and historians, reinforced by the new interdisciplinary finding of cognitive scientists about the universal capacities of and constraints upon human minds. The studies in this volume, primarily by historians of religion, continue this discussion by focusing on historical examples of ancient religions as well as on the theoretical promises and problems relevant to that study.
Table of Contents
Preface, Luther H. Martin and Jesper Sørensen PART I: Introduction 1. Past Minds: Evolution, Cognition and History, Luther H. Martin 2. Cognitive History and Cultural Epidemiology, Christophe HeintzPART II: Minds and Ancient Civilizations 3. Technology and Past Minds: the Case of Jewish Niche Construction, Gabriel Levy 4. Illuminatory of the Wide Earth: Strong Weapon of the Gods: Unbribable Judge: Intuitive Ontologies and the Use of Divine Epithets in Assyro-Bablylonian Texts, Peter Westh 5. Cultural Stability and the Ideal Landscape: The Symbolism of Trees and Plants in Maya Culture, Christian Prager 6. No time to philosophize? Norwegian Oral Tradition and the Cognitive Economics of Belief, Dirk Johannsen PART III: Roman Minds 7. Prisons of the longue durée: The Circulation and Acceptance of prodigia in Roman Antiquity, Anders Lisdorf 8. What Might Cognitive Science Contribute to Our Understanding of the Roman Cult of Mithras?, Aleš Chalupa 9. Do the Multiple Initiations of Lucius in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses Falsify the Ritual Form Hypothesis?, Douglas L. Gragg 10. Religion Explained? Lucian and the Cognitive Study of Religion, Ulrich Berner 11. Magic and Mind in Early Christianity, Istvan Czachesz PART IV: Conclusion 12. Beneath the Surface of History?, Donald Wiebe 13. Past Minds – Present Historiography and Cognitive Science, Jesper Sørensen
Luther H. Martin is a Professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Vermont. Jesper Sørensen works in the Department of Culture and Society at Aarhus University, Denmark.
"Past Minds is an interesting and ambitious effort to integrate historical thinking with evolutionary and anthropological thinking."
Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database