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  • Author or Editor: Ilkka Pyysiäinen x
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Towards a New Cognitive Science of Religion
Recent findings in cognitive science and evolutionary psychology provide important insights to the processes which make religious beliefs and behaviors such efficient attractors in and across various cultural settings. The specific salience of religious ideas is based on the fact that they are 'counter-intuitive': they contradict our intuitive expectations of how entities normally behave.
Counter-intuitive ideas are only produced by a mind capable of crossing the boundaries that separate such ontological domains as persons, living things, and solid objects. The evolution of such a mind has only taken place in the human species.
How certain kinds of counter-intuitive ideas are selected for a religious use is discussed from varying angles. Cognitive considerations are thus related to the traditions of comparative religion.

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Abstract

It has been argued within the new cognitive science of religion that people's actual religious concepts and inferences differ from their explicitly held religious concepts and beliefs; the latter are too complex to be used in fast online reasoning. Natural intuitions thus tend to overwrite theological doctrine and to drive behavior. The cognitive science of religion has focused on this intuitive aspect of religion, ignoring theological thought. Here I try to outline a theoretical model on the basis of which it should be possible to explain the interaction of the intuitive and explicit processes in religious cognition.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

It is here argued that 'culture' is a universal in the philosophical sense of the term: it expresses a general property. It is not a singular term naming an abstract entity, but rather a singular predicate the intension of which is 'cultureness.' Popper's view of the ontology of mathematics is used as an analogous example in the light of which the ontology of culture is analyzed. Cultures do not have an independent existence (realism), they are not mere names (Nominalism), and neither do they exist as fixed entities in the mind (conceptualism). Cultures are abstractions made by the mind, which yet are not reducible to the mind. They exist in the form of certain mental operations creating a new level of reality. Scientific study of culture involves both explaining how cultural phenomena are constructed in minds and how these constructions function in cognition and communication.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
In: Christianity and the Roots of Morality
In: Christianity and the Roots of Morality

Abstract

This paper provides a theoretical discussion of the role the introduction of writing plays in the development of religious conceptual systems. It is argued that the writing down of religious traditions makes the transmission of radically counter-intuitive ideas possible, and that the formation of Canons introduces the distinction between a foundational text and its philosophical commentary. Defending the foundational role of the sacred texts by rational argumentation either leads to endless regression of arguments, or to circular reasoning and paradoxes. To accept this as natural, would deprive sacred texts of their special status as the foundation. In religions, this deadlock is used to illustrate the limits of human reasoning powers and, by the same token, to prove that there must be an ultimate reality which can only be accessed through "revelation", "enlightenment", and the like.

In: Numen