William James and Embodied Religious Belief

In: Contemporary Pragmatism
Author: Tobias Tan1
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  • 1 Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9BS, UK, tobias.tan@oxon.org

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Scholars have recently identified resemblances between pragmatist thought and contemporary trends in cognitive science in the area of ‘embodied cognition’ or ‘4E cognition.’ In this article I explore these resemblances in the account of religious belief provided by the classical pragmatist philosopher William James. Although James’s psychology does not always parallel the commitments of embodied cognition, his insights concerning the role of emotion and socio-cultural context in shaping religious belief, as well as the action-oriented nature of such beliefs, resonate with embodied and embedded accounts of religious belief. James’s insights are readily extended in light of contemporary embodied cognition research to highlight the interdependency between religious belief of individuals and the cognitive scaffolding provided by embodied religious practices.

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