Multiple Axialities: A Computational Model of the Axial Age

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
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  • 1 University of Agder and NORCE Center for Modeling Social Systems
  • 2 Boston University and the Center for Mind and Culture
  • 3 Oxford University and NORCE Center for Modeling Social Systems
  • 4 Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center

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Abstract

Debates over the causes and consequences of the “Axial Age” – and its relevance for understanding and explaining “modernity” – continue to rage within and across a wide variety of academic disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, archaeology, history, social theory, and cognitive science. We present a computational model that synthesizes three leading theories about the emergence of axial civilizations. Although these theories are often treated as competitors (especially by their proponents), our computational model shows how their most important conceptual insights and empirically based causal claims can be integrated within a single computational architecture. The plausibility of the latter is supported by the results of our simulation experiments, which were able to simulate the emergence and growth of an axial civilization. The model shows how the relevant theories can be rendered consistent, while challenging the claims of any one to comprehensiveness.

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