After religion cognitive science and the study of human behavior (pyysiäinen 2008)

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After religion cognitive science and the study of human behavior (pyysiäinen 2008)

  1. 1. III IINTERNATIIONAL ONLIINE CONFERENCE ON RELIIGIIOUS STUDIIES III IN TERNATIO NAL ONLIN E CONFERENCE ON RELIG IO US STUDIE S NTERNAT ONAL ONL NE CONFERENCE ON REL G OUS STUD ES 1 COMPARATIIVE   RELIIGIION:::  FROM   SUBJJECT   TO   PROBLEM      COMPARATIV E R ELIG IO N  F ROM S UBJE CT T O P ROBLEM   COMPARAT VE REL G ON FROM SUB ECT TO PROBLEM Prof. ILKKA PYYSIAINEN Academy Research Fellow Deputy Director, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies University of Helsinki, Finland ilkka.pyysiainen @ helsinki.fi AFTER RELIGION: COGNITIVE SCIENCE AND THE STUDY OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR© In this paper, I present a multilevel mechanistic model of explanation, arguing that the cognitive science of religion can operate at many differing levels of mechanisms and is open for many kinds of cross- disciplinary cooperation. Getting rid of the old idea of an essence of religion helps understand the so-called “religious” phenomena as a natural part of human psychology, culture, and behavioral repertoire.In the beginning … In what follows, I try to explain what kind of a research program the cognitive science ofreligion is, as I understand it. In the end of the 19th century, the study of religion came to be called“comparative religion” because it was first inspired by an attempt to understand why certain typesof beliefs and practices were recurrent in virtually all cultures [see Kippenberg 2002]. The earlyphenomenology of religion was by and large based on the view that such recurrence was to beexplained as a human response to a holy, supernatural, or a “wholly other” reality [see Otto1958/1917; Wiebe 1999; Jensen 2003; Masuzawa 2005, 107–120]. Mircea Eliade famouslyreworked this idea into a research program in which religious phenomena were interpreted as“hierophanies,” that is, profane manifestations of the “sacred” which was regarded as an “authentic”and unconditional mode of existence [see Rennie 2001, 2006]. All these attempts have had to sail between the Scylla of unfounded dogmatism and theKharybdis of vague speculation. On the one hand, the notion of a “wholly other” reality iscompletely meaningless as an explanation in a scientific context, while, on the other hand, the moreliberal views about the sacred as authentic existence are too vague to provide a basis for empiricalresearch. Thus, William Paden [1996], for example, has attempted to develop a “newcomparativism” which would be more in line with the spirit of science. Yet also his attempt suffersfrom lack of theory and thus an operationalizable measuring stick; what exactly is compared whenreligions or religious phenomena are compared [Lawson 1996]? There will, of course, always beroom for good ethnography. But when one wants to go beyond description, an explicit researchstrategy is needed. Gathering data is one thing, explaining it another thing. In the latter one needs atheory that says which information is relevant and in what sense. In explaining human behavior, one should be able to keep apart what is being explained [theexplanandum] and what is the explanation [the explanans]. In other words, data and theory shouldbe independent from each other. One problem is that religion is all too easily assumed to be acoherent category with certain singly necessary and jointly sufficient criteria that make somethingan instance of religion [see Fitzgerald 1999]. Yet religion does not have an essence; it is rather aheterogeneous category and recognizing a phenomenon as religious is based on a comparison withprototypically religious phenomena [Saler 2000; Day 2005]. Defining religion is a notoriouspseudoproblem of religionists and has received much attention with little being thereby gained [seeGeertz 2004]. Religion is not easily disentangled from non-religion, and in practice the Judeo-Christian tradition has served as the prototype of religion for Western scholars [Saler 2000]. Thenotion of “world religions” also is a pseudocategory with varying and vague criteria on which III   МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ   НАУЧНАЯ   ИНТЕРНЕТ‐‐КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ   ПО   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ    III М ЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ Н АУЧНАЯ И НТЕРНЕТ‐К ОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ П О Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ НАУЧНАЯ ИНТЕРНЕТ КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ ПО РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ:::ОТ   ПРЕДМЕТА   К   ПРОБЛЕМЕ    СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ О Т П РЕДМЕТА К П РОБЛЕМЕ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ ОТ ПРЕДМЕТА К ПРОБЛЕМЕ
  2. 2. III IINTERNATIIONAL ONLIINE CONFERENCE ON RELIIGIIOUS STUDIIES III IN TERNATIO NAL ONLIN E CONFERENCE ON RELIG IO US STUDIE S NTERNAT ONAL ONL NE CONFERENCE ON REL G OUS STUD ES 2 COMPARATIIVE   RELIIGIION:::  FROM   SUBJJECT   TO   PROBLEM      COMPARATIV E R ELIG IO N  F ROM S UBJE CT T O P ROBLEM   COMPARAT VE REL G ON FROM SUB ECT TO PROBLEMreligions supposedly count as a “world religions” [Masuzawa 2005]. Usually the best strategy issimply to forget about “religion” as a general category and merely to analyze human behavior andpatterns of thought.Religion and reductionism Forming a general definition of religion is neither a precondition, nor the ultimate goal ofcomparative religion [see Pyysiäinen in press c]. The scholar never studies religion as a whole; heor she rather focuses on some specific recurrent pattern in human thought, experience, andbehavior; this pattern may be studied as an instance of the more general category of “religiousphenomena,” although it is not necessary to make such explicit generalization in each and everyindividual study. The scholar of religion is free to study all forms of thought and behavior that canbe profitably taken as “religious” in the everyday sense of the term. “Profitably” here means that thescholar is able to show some connection between his or her interpretation of the data and that ofother scholars of religion. The cognitive science of religion took its first steps in 1975 and 1980, when Dan Sperber[1975] first published his book Rethinking Symbolism and Stewart Guthrie [1980] the paper “Acognitive theory of religion.” Sperber first expressed the idea that the human mental architectureseems to channel the cultural spread of religious ideas, and Guthrie argued that the nature of humanperception and cognition leads us to postulate supernatural agents. The new field then truly emergedin the 1990’s with attempts at explaining how the structure of religious rituals is mentallyrepresented and how religious concepts are culturally transmitted [Lawson and McCauley 1990;Boyer 1994; see Pyysiäinen 2008]. Later, also such issues as human evolution and the nature ofemotions have been discussed [Boyer 2001; Pyysiäinen 2001; Atran 2002; Tremlin 2006].Currently, we can find research on such areas as the mental representation of non-natural agentconcepts [Barrett and Keil 1996; Barrett 2004; Bering 2006], the evolution of the neuro-cognitivesystems that support the acquisition of cultural knowledge [Boyer 1994, 1998, 2001, 2003a],anthropomorphism [Guthrie 1993], and rituals [Lawson and McCauley 1990; McCauley andLawson 2002; Whitehouse 2000, 2004; Whitehouse and McCauley 2004]. “Cognitive science of religion” is now an established term but the kinds of research it coversno longer form a homogeneous whole. There are such varying research programs as Boyer’s“standard model” [Boyer 2005], the views of religion as an adaptation [see Sanderson 2008;Bulbulia et al. 2008], Whitehouse’s [2004] “modes theory,” and also approaches that emphasize theconstructive role of culture [Geertz 2008]. Three things that yet unite these approaches are theirmultidisciplinary nature, emphasis on explanation, and the view that human behavior must beunderstood in the light of the cognitive processes that support and direct it. Common objections to the cognitive science of religion are that it is “reductionist” and“explains religion away.” I have dealt with these claims elsewhere and shall here only summarizethe main points [see Pyysiäinen in press a, b, c]. All scientific research is reductionist in some sensebecause it is always made from some specific point of view; therefore, it is always possible to saythat all other perspectives have been reduced to the one perspective chosen. Thus, to argue thatreligion should not be reduced to anything non-religious, implies that religion only exists at somespecific level and has an irreducible essence. This is a highly problematic view, as we have seen; the word “religion” names a veryheterogeneous category and one person’s religion often is another person’s non-religion[superstition, culture, etc.]. There is no homogenous “religion;” ideological variation can in someinstances be greater within the category of religion than between religion and non-religion. What Imean is that it is possible to find two religious discourses that contradict each other more sharply III   МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ   НАУЧНАЯ   ИНТЕРНЕТ‐‐КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ   ПО   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ    III М ЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ Н АУЧНАЯ И НТЕРНЕТ‐К ОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ П О Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ НАУЧНАЯ ИНТЕРНЕТ КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ ПО РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ:::ОТ   ПРЕДМЕТА   К   ПРОБЛЕМЕ    СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ О Т П РЕДМЕТА К П РОБЛЕМЕ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ ОТ ПРЕДМЕТА К ПРОБЛЕМЕ
  3. 3. III IINTERNATIIONAL ONLIINE CONFERENCE ON RELIIGIIOUS STUDIIES III IN TERNATIO NAL ONLIN E CONFERENCE ON RELIG IO US STUDIE S NTERNAT ONAL ONL NE CONFERENCE ON REL G OUS STUD ES 3 COMPARATIIVE   RELIIGIION:::  FROM   SUBJJECT   TO   PROBLEM      COMPARATIV E R ELIG IO N  F ROM S UBJE CT T O P ROBLEM   COMPARAT VE REL G ON FROM SUB ECT TO PROBLEMthan do some third religious discourse and its supposedly non-religious alternative. Buddhist andIslamic doctrines about God, for example, are in sharp contrast, whereas it may at times be difficultto say in what sense the claims presented by liberal-minded Lutheran ministers differ from those ofatheists [Nielsen 1985, 37]. Therefore, there cannot be any homogenous “religious language,”notwithstanding the philosophical claims about “religious language” differing radically from allfactual language. We cannot study religion in itself, pure and simple; instead, we study written texts, art,social groups and institutions, practices, the behavior of persons, and so forth. Thus, Eliade’s [1969,132–33] claim that we do not have the right to reduce the religious creations of the human mind “tosomething other than what they are, namely spiritual creations,” is dubious. When we peel ofhistory, culture, sociality, psychology, and so forth, nothing is left in the end. Thus, it is the attemptto be a true anti-reductionist that ironically leads one to explain [or understand] religion away in thesense that one no longer knows what it is that one is studying. Eliade, of course, could reply thatreligion is in the essence an attempt at finding authentic existence or something like that, and that itshould be studied as such. This, however, is only his view and is shared neither by the millions ofpeople who practice religion, nor by most scholars of religion. The claim that religion should not be “explained away” is based on a confusion between theexplanans [that which explains something] and the explanandum [that which is to be explained]: anexplanation of a religious fact is presupposed to take the place of the religious fact that is explained.Kelly Bulkeley [2003], for example, writes that “Boyer finds cause to dismiss religiousunderstandings and replace them with cognitive scientific ones” [emphasis added]. Yet it should beclear that explaining religion is something we do as scholars; practicing religion is another matter. Itmight still be argued that studying religion is dangerous business because it may make religioustruth claims dubious in the eyes of believers [see Dennett 2006]. However, such straightforwarddefense of religion is a purely political matter and should not be masked as valid methodologicalcriticism [see Wiebe 1999]. Whether a given explanation is valid should be judged on the basis ofevidence and logical coherence of the argument, not on the basis of a religious [or anti-religious]agenda.Mind matters Sometimes anti-reductionist arguments are based on the claim that religious phenomenashould be understood or explained as part of “society” or “culture” and that this immediatelyrenders all psychological arguments dubious [Durkheim 1925; Geertz 1973; cf. Pyysiäinen 2001].However, this argument was developed before modern cognitive and developmental psychologyand cognitive neuroscience. Dan Sperber [1975; 1985; 2006] seems to have been the first to haverealized that culture and psychology cannot be in this way opposed, once we understand cultures assets of ideas that are passed on to others relying on certain mechanisms of memory. This passing oninvolves such sharing of ideas where everyone understands that others understand them tounderstand what others understand [and so on …; Dennett 1993, 243–46; see Pyysiäinen in press].Sperber’s “epidemiology of representations” means the study of the differential spread of conceptsand beliefs in populations. Some concepts and beliefs win and some lose in cultural selectionbecause not all concepts fit the human mind equally well. Pascal Boyer has studied the evolution of the neuro-cognitive systems that support theacquisition of cultural knowledge along these lines. He has emphasized the role of the so-calledintuitive ontology, that is, a set of ontological categories into which we intuitively assign all objects.The basic intuitive ontological categories are: PERSONS, ANIMALS, PLANTS, ARTIFACTS and NATURALOBJECTS [Boyer 1994, 101; 1998, 878; 2000, 280]. Counterintuitive representations are formed byadding or deleting a feature that then violates our intuitive expectations. It is possible to add mental III   МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ   НАУЧНАЯ   ИНТЕРНЕТ‐‐КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ   ПО   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ    III М ЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ Н АУЧНАЯ И НТЕРНЕТ‐К ОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ П О Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ НАУЧНАЯ ИНТЕРНЕТ КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ ПО РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ:::ОТ   ПРЕДМЕТА   К   ПРОБЛЕМЕ    СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ О Т П РЕДМЕТА К П РОБЛЕМЕ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ ОТ ПРЕДМЕТА К ПРОБЛЕМЕ
  4. 4. III IINTERNATIIONAL ONLIINE CONFERENCE ON RELIIGIIOUS STUDIIES III IN TERNATIO NAL ONLIN E CONFERENCE ON RELIG IO US STUDIE S NTERNAT ONAL ONL NE CONFERENCE ON REL G OUS STUD ES 4 COMPARATIIVE   RELIIGIION:::  FROM   SUBJJECT   TO   PROBLEM      COMPARATIV E R ELIG IO N  F ROM S UBJE CT T O P ROBLEM   COMPARAT VE REL G ON FROM SUB ECT TO PROBLEMcharacteristics to an artifact [e.g. a statue that hears prayers] or to deny a biological body to a person[e.g. gods], for example. Such minimally counterintuitive representations seem to be an importantdefining characteristic of religion [Pyysiäinen et al. 2003; see Boyer 2001; Barrett 2004]. Scott Atran [2002, 10–11] uses the image of evolutionary history as a landscape formed bydifferent mountain ridges: just as rain converges toward a limited set of rivers and lakes, so alsohuman experience falls into certain basic types determined by the cognitive architecture of ourspecies. Atran refers to Conrad Waddington’s [1959] idea of developmental processes as a complexlandscape of hills and branching valleys, descending from a high plateau. This plateau representsthe state of the fertilized egg. The valleys are developmental pathways leading to particular endstates such as a functioning eye, heart, and so on [see Jablonka and Lamb 2006, 63–65, 261–62]. Aset of genes and their mutual interactions forms a developmental system producing a phenotype [asdistinguished from a genotype]. Many features of the phenotype are explained by the dynamicalproperties of the system as a whole, not by individual alleles. Developmental canalization heremeans a “buffering” against both environmental and genetic parameters: single genes or features ofenvironment cannot bias development that is bound to go a certain way because of thedevelopmental canalization. Canalization thus not only blocks effects of environmental variationbut also the effects of variation in certain alleles [Griffiths and Machery 2008, 397–99]. Atran, however, uses the idea of cognitive architecture as canalizing cultural transmission toemphasize that certain ways of thinking are a natural part of human nature. Their independencefrom cultural construction does not mean that they could develop without a cultural environment; itis rather that their development is not dependent on any particular culture [as Boyer 2003b, 238–39] puts it. The crossculturally recurrent patterns of religion studied by the early phenomenologistscould be explained with reference to the nature of the human mind [especially Boyer 1994]. Theepidemiology of representations thus offers an interesting research program for the study ofreligion. We might finally be able to explain why certain patterns of belief and behavior are socontagious. Underlying the epidemiology of representations is the idea of selectionism: scholars ask whysome concepts and beliefs are selected for cultural transmission. Scholars thus are askingpopulation-level questions and their answers are statements about trends in populations, notexplanations of the deepest motives of individuals [see Boyer 2001, 319; Pyysiäinen in press d]. As Justin Barrett [2008, 298] recently put it, cognitive theories have not been applied toparticular problems, scholars rather studying “why religious rituals appear the way they dogenerally, why people believe in gods generally,” and so forth. This is also often accompanied byattempts at solving only theoretical problems and to do this by conceptual analysis alone. This isunderstandable given the different kinds of background of cognitive scientists of religion and thenature of methodological training at many departments of comparative religion. However, it is important to be clear about whether one tries to explain certain recurrent typesof beliefs and practices, or something that characterizes the beliefs, experiences, and acts ofindividuals. Evolutionary explanations do not reveal the deepest unconscious motives ofindividuals; they only apply to population-level questions. Thus, mere epidemiology is not enoughin the study of religion, because then individual-level questions would be left out of the picture. Yetwe also need to be able to explain why an individual does or believes something. There is a curious tension in the program of the cognitive science of religion in the sensethat, on the one hand, emphasis is shifted from culture to the individual, and yet, on the other hand,it is not so much actual individuals that are studied but individual-level cognitive mechanisms III   МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ   НАУЧНАЯ   ИНТЕРНЕТ‐‐КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ   ПО   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ    III М ЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ Н АУЧНАЯ И НТЕРНЕТ‐К ОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ П О Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ НАУЧНАЯ ИНТЕРНЕТ КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ ПО РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ:::ОТ   ПРЕДМЕТА   К   ПРОБЛЕМЕ    СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ О Т П РЕДМЕТА К П РОБЛЕМЕ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ ОТ ПРЕДМЕТА К ПРОБЛЕМЕ
  5. 5. III IINTERNATIIONAL ONLIINE CONFERENCE ON RELIIGIIOUS STUDIIES III IN TERNATIO NAL ONLIN E CONFERENCE ON RELIG IO US STUDIE S NTERNAT ONAL ONL NE CONFERENCE ON REL G OUS STUD ES 5 COMPARATIIVE   RELIIGIION:::  FROM   SUBJJECT   TO   PROBLEM      COMPARATIV E R ELIG IO N  F ROM S UBJE CT T O P ROBLEM   COMPARAT VE REL G ON FROM SUB ECT TO PROBLEM[Boyer 1994]. Especially when these are studied within an evolutionary framework, as in Boyer[2001], the objects of explanation are always population-level phenomena; an evolutionaryexplanation does not account for the unconscious motives of an individual in a unique situation [seeAriew 2003; Pyysiäinen in press d]. Yet we must also bear in mind that mental and culturalrepresentations are not two different types of representations. It is rather a question of two differentpoints of view: either we view a concept or a belief as such, or explore its spread in humanpopulations [Boyer 2003b].Explanation When Dilthey [1924, 144] once argued in the Neokantian spirit: “Die Natur erklären wir,das Seelenleben verstehen wir,” he could not know anything about things such as cognitive science,neuropsychology, or modern philosophy of science. We no longer think that explanation is alwayscausal and based on formulating general laws [see Pyysiäinen in press a, d]. Also the very idea of“understanding” as well as its use have been critically evaluated [Martin 2000; Ylikoski in press].Yet some still argue that religion should be “understood” rather than “explained” [see Gothóni2005]. I shall here not discuss this controversy; instead, I want briefly to outline a view ofexplanation that might help understand how religion can be explained. Unlike in the old general law model, in modern philosophy of science, explanation is oftenunderstood as based on specifying a mechanism that is responsible for the production of aphenomenon, either in an etiological or in a constitutive sense. A mechanism thus produces orsupports something. It is something that exists in the real world and thus explanation is not just adeductive argument [as it was in the covering law model]. It is enough that an explanatorygeneralization is stable in the sense that the specified relation between cause and effect holds undera range of conditions [generally not universal]. Mechanisms are not deterministic; they ratherproduce a probability distribution over possible outcomes and show that the explanandum is aninstance of one of those possible outcomes [Craver 2007, 40; see Railton 1978]. Mechanisticexplanation consists in describing the parts, operations, and organization of a mechanism, andshowing how the mechanism realizes the phenomenon to be explained. A mechanism is a “set ofentities and activities organized such that they exhibit the phenomenon to be explained” [Bechtel2008, 49; Craver 2007, 5, 99]. Carl Craver’s model of mechanistic explanation is based on the idea of causal relevance. Inthis view, X is causally relevant with regard to Y if an “ideal intervention I on X with respect to Yis a change in the value of X that changes Y, if at all, only via the change in X” [Craver 2007, 95–96]. Causation is here understood in a manipulationist sense [Woodward 2003]. As explanationsspecify counterfactual relationships that are somehow invariant [Craver’s “stable conditions”], it ispossible to say what would have happened if the cause of the event had been manipulated by anideal intervention [Woodward 2003]. An intervention means that we manipulate a variable A inorder to see if changes in A have a causal relationship with changes in the variable B. The variablesmust have measureable values but it is enough that the intervention or manipulation is logically orconceptually possible [Woodward 2003, 94, 114, 127-133]. If a manipulation of A introduces achange in B, A is causally relevant with regard to B. Such causal relevance is best explained using counterfactuals [that is, contrastively]. Takethe question: “Did Socrates’ sipping the pint of hemlock cause his death?” If this means: “DidSocrates’ sipping of the pint of hemlock [rather than wine] cause his death?” the answer is “Yes.”But if the question is: “Did Socrates’ sipping [rather than guzzling or in some other wayconsuming] the pint of hemlock cause his death?” the answer is “No” [Craver 2007, 202–203].Experimental research relies precisely on such contrastive causal claims. An experiment is arrangedin order to find an answer to the question: “Did A [rather than B] cause C?” The experimental group III   МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ   НАУЧНАЯ   ИНТЕРНЕТ‐‐КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ   ПО   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ    III М ЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ Н АУЧНАЯ И НТЕРНЕТ‐К ОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ П О Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ НАУЧНАЯ ИНТЕРНЕТ КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ ПО РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ:::ОТ   ПРЕДМЕТА   К   ПРОБЛЕМЕ    СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ О Т П РЕДМЕТА К П РОБЛЕМЕ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ ОТ ПРЕДМЕТА К ПРОБЛЕМЕ
  6. 6. III IINTERNATIIONAL ONLIINE CONFERENCE ON RELIIGIIOUS STUDIIES III IN TERNATIO NAL ONLIN E CONFERENCE ON RELIG IO US STUDIE S NTERNAT ONAL ONL NE CONFERENCE ON REL G OUS STUD ES 6 COMPARATIIVE   RELIIGIION:::  FROM   SUBJJECT   TO   PROBLEM      COMPARATIV E R ELIG IO N  F ROM S UBJE CT T O P ROBLEM   COMPARAT VE REL G ON FROM SUB ECT TO PROBLEMand the control group differ only with respect to the value of the putative causal variable [Craver2007, 203]. Here the contrast serves to specify the explanandum as clearly as possible. Objectiverelations of causal relevance then explain the effect [Craver 2007, 204]. For the study of religion, such multilevel mechanistic explanation means that it is possible toexplain different aspect of religion at differing levels by specifying mechanisms that produce andsustain various religious phenomena. There is no one level at which religion should only beexplained. At which level of mechanisms we look for an explanans depends on what we havechosen as the explanandum. If we, for example, want to know why praying has diminished as apractice in this or that society, and then offer a sociological answer to this question, it might be thatsomebody objects, saying that the real answers are to be found in the brain. This, however, does notlead to a better answer to the original question; it is rather a strategy of changing the explanandumfrom a sociological phenomenon into a neural one. Sometimes we need to do this, but it isnecessary to understand that when we change the explanans, also explanandum is changes [seeCraver and Bechtel 2007]. As we want to know different kinds of things about saying prayers, thereis room for different kinds of questions. But any specific answer given at some specific level is notnecessarily an answer to another question which exists at another level. To take an example, when Pascal Boyer and Pierre Liénard [2006] presented their theory ofaction ritualization, some of the commentators understood them to be claiming that religious ritualsare mere obsessive-compulsive disorders. As Joan Hageman [2006, 619] puts it, she wants to argue“against the theory that cultural ritual behavior is meaningless or that ritual action is solely a by-product of fearbased precautionary and action-parsing systems.” But Boyer and Liénard were notsaying that all cultural ritual behavior is blindly produced by the hazard precaution system. Theirargument is that actions of an individual are ritualized under specific conditions and that such actionritualization is one component making cultural ceremonies salient and memorable. Not all ritualaction is ritualized action. Thus, the mechanisms supporting cultural ritual behavior exist atdiffering levels, from culture to individuals, cognitive systems, neural systems, and molecular-levelevents [see Craver 2007; Pyysiäinen in press d]. To say, for example, that “genes have nothing to dowith God” is true but only in the sense that there is a component of the mechanism missing at theintermediate level between genes and the idea of God. Explanatory cognitive science of religion canoperate at many differing levels of mechanisms and is open for many kinds of cross-disciplinarycooperation. Getting rid of the old idea of an essence of religion helps understand the so-called“religious” phenomena as a natural part of human psychology and behavioral repertoire.ReferencesAriew, André. [2003]. Ernst Mayr’s ‘ultimate/proximate’ distinction reconsidered andreconstructed. Biology and Philosophy 18, 553–65.Atran, Scott. [2002]. In gods we trust: The evolutionary landscape of religion. New York: OxfordUniversity Press.Barrett, Justin L. [2004]. Why would anyone believe in God? Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.Barrett, Justin L., & Frank Keil. [1996]. Conceptualizing a nonnatural entity: Anthropomorphism inGod concepts. Cognitive Psychology 31, 219–47.Bechtel, William. [2008]. Mental mechanisms: Philosophical perspectives on cognitiveneuroscience. New York: Routledge.Boyer, Pascal. [1994]. The naturalness of religious ideas: A cognitive theory of religion. Berkeley:University of California Press. III   МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ   НАУЧНАЯ   ИНТЕРНЕТ‐‐КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ   ПО   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ    III М ЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ Н АУЧНАЯ И НТЕРНЕТ‐К ОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ П О Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ НАУЧНАЯ ИНТЕРНЕТ КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ ПО РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ:::ОТ   ПРЕДМЕТА   К   ПРОБЛЕМЕ    СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ О Т П РЕДМЕТА К П РОБЛЕМЕ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ ОТ ПРЕДМЕТА К ПРОБЛЕМЕ
  7. 7. III IINTERNATIIONAL ONLIINE CONFERENCE ON RELIIGIIOUS STUDIIES III IN TERNATIO NAL ONLIN E CONFERENCE ON RELIG IO US STUDIE S NTERNAT ONAL ONL NE CONFERENCE ON REL G OUS STUD ES 7 COMPARATIIVE   RELIIGIION:::  FROM   SUBJJECT   TO   PROBLEM      COMPARATIV E R ELIG IO N  F ROM S UBJE CT T O P ROBLEM   COMPARAT VE REL G ON FROM SUB ECT TO PROBLEMBoyer, Pascal. [1998]. Cognitive tracks of cultural inheritance: How evolved intuitive ontologygoverns cultural transmission. American Anthropologist 100[4], 876–89.Boyer, Pascal. [2000]. Natural epistemology or evolved metaphysics? Developmental evidence forearly-developed, intuitive, category-specific, incomplete, and stubborn metaphysical presumptions.Philosophical Psychology 13[3], 277–97.Boyer, Pascal. [2001]. Religion explained: The evolutionary origins of religious thought. NewYork: Basic Books.Boyer, Pascal. [2003a]. Religious thought and behaviour as by-products of brain function. Trends inCognitive Sciences 7[3], 119–24.Boyer, Pascal. [2003b]. Are ghost concepts “intuitive,” “endemic” and “innate”? Journal ofCognition and Culture 3[3], 233–43.Boyer, Pascal. [2005]. A reductionistic model of distinct modes of religious transmission. In HarveyWhitehouse & Robert N. McCauley [Eds.], Mind and religion: Psychological and cognitivefoundations of religiosity, 3–29. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.Boyer, Pascal, & Pierre Liénard. [2006]. Why ritualized behavior? Precaution systems and action-parsing in developmental, pathological and cultural rituals. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29[6],595–650 [with commentaries].Bulbulia, Joseph, Richard Sosis, Erica Harris, Russell Genet, Cheryl Genet, & Karen Wyman [eds.].[2008]. The evolution of religion: Studies, theories, & critiques. Santa Margarita, CA: CollinsFamily Foundation.Bulkeley, Kelly. [2003]. Review of Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer; How Religion Works byIlkka Pyysiäinen. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 71, 671–74.Craver, Carl. [2007]. Explaining the brain: Mechanisms and the mosaic unity of neuroscience. NewYork: Oxford University Press.Craver, Carl, & William Bechtel. [2007]. Top-down causation without top-down causes. Biologyand Philosophy 22, 547–63.Day, Matthew. [2005]. The undiscovered and undiscoverable essence: Species and religion afterDarwin. Journal of Religion 85[1], 58–82.Dennett, Daniel C. [2006]. Breaking the spell: Religion as a natural phenomenon. New York:Viking.Dilthey, Wilhelm. [1924]. Die Geistige Welt. [Gesammelte Schriften; 5.] Leipzig: Teubner.Durkheim, Émile. [1925/1912]. Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse. Paris: Alcan.Fitzgerald, Timothy. [1999]. The ideology of religious studies. New York: Oxford University Press.Geertz, Armin. [2004]. Definition, categorization, and indecision: Or, how to get on with the studyof religion. In Unterwegs. Neue Pfade in der Religionswissenschaft / New Paths in the Study ofReligions: Festschrift in Honour of Michael Pye on his 65th birthday, edited by Christoph Kleine,Monika Schrimpf, & Katja Triplett, 109–118. München: Biblion.Geertz, Armin. [2008]. From apes to devils and angels: Comparing scenarios on the evolution ofreligion. In Bulbulia, Joseph, Richard Sosis, Erica Harris, Russell Genet, Cheryl Genet, & KarenWyman [eds.], The evolution of religion: Studies, theories, & critiques, 43–49. Santa Margarita,CA: Collins Family Foundation.Geertz, Clifford. [1973]. The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books. III   МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ   НАУЧНАЯ   ИНТЕРНЕТ‐‐КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ   ПО   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ    III М ЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ Н АУЧНАЯ И НТЕРНЕТ‐К ОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ П О Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ МЕЖДУНАРОДНАЯ НАУЧНАЯ ИНТЕРНЕТ КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ ПО РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЮ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ   РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ:::ОТ   ПРЕДМЕТА   К   ПРОБЛЕМЕ    СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ Р ЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ О Т П РЕДМЕТА К П РОБЛЕМЕ СРАВНИТЕЛЬНОЕ РЕЛИГИОВЕДЕНИЕ ОТ ПРЕДМЕТА К ПРОБЛЕМЕ
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