Maurice Bloch – How Did ‘Religion’ Come About?


Event Date: 28 March 2013
Room B36
Birkbeck Main Building
Birkbeck, University of London
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HX

The Department of Philosophy at Birkbeck presents:

Mind & Language Conference at Birkbeck College

The Cognitive Science of Religion

I argue that to talk of a cognitive theory of religion is misleading. To talk in this way assumes that religion is specific feature of what it is to be human.  By contrast I propose that the phenomena  which the  English word ‘religion’ evokes, such as beliefs that can be formulated as propositions,  must be,  understood as historically specific. The relevant history behind this  has to do with the nature of states and what happens after their collapse.   The other problem with a cognitive theory of religion is that the features that have been  looked at, for example the minimally counter-intuitive character of  ‘religion’, are, in fact,  universal  aspects of social life and which cannot be labeled ‘religion’.  These include the time transcending imaginations involved in notions of clans or nations. It turns out that what has been studied as ‘religion’ is a fundamental aspect of a general aspect of our species, that is  the unique character  of human sociability  It is the study of this general phenomenon that requires a  generalising cognitive examination.


Professor Maurice Bloch (LSE) – How Did ‘Religion’ Come About?
Chair: Deirdre Wilson (UCL)


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