Magic Science Religion


Magic Science Religion explores surprising intersections among the three meaning-making and world-making practices named in the title. Through colorful examples, the book reveals circuitous ways that social, cultural and natural systems connect, enabling real kinds of magic to operate. Among the many case studies are accounts of how an eighteenth-century actor gave his audience goosebumps; how painters, poets, and pool sharks use nonlinearity in working their magics; how the first vertebrates gained consciousness; how plants fine-tuned human color vision; and the necessarily magical element of activism that builds on the conviction that "another future is possible" while working to push self-fulfilling prophecy into political action.
Restricted Access


EUR €35.00USD $40.00

Biographical Note

Ira Livingston teaches and directs Poetics Lab at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. His many books - such as the 2015 digital book Poetics as a Theory of Everything (available free online) - cultivate hybrids of cultural studies and systems theory.

Table of contents

About this Book

1 Introduction
 1 All or Nothing?
 2 Kindness
  ASIDE: The Two-Million-Dollar Comma
  ASIDE: Sufficiently Magical Technologies
  ASIDE: Our Gods
 3 Cruelty
  ASIDE: Ghostly Causality
  ASIDE: Durable Cruelties
 4 Beginning, Again
  ASIDE: Chaos Invoked
 5 The Freedom Not to Choose
  ASIDE: No Atheists in Foxholes
  ASIDE: Blake on Firm Perswasion
  ASIDE: Metafictional Magic: The Writer’s Will
  ASIDE: Shapely Sentences
  ASIDE: Beckett Meets Twilight Zone, Glass-Half-Full Version

2 Complex Systems in a Nutshell
 1 Horror Movie Reboot
 2 Interpositivity
  ASIDE: Interpositivity
 3 Becoming a System
 4 Creatures of Light
  ASIDE: Transformative for Whom?
  ASIDE: Plant Sorcery
 5 Tornados, Whirlpools, and Fires
  ASIDE: iii
  ASIDE: Co-evolution
 6 Leveled
  ASIDE: On being born too early and dying too late
  ASIDE: Up Around the Bend
 7 A Personifying Universe of Stretchy Things
 8 Dynamism
  ASIDE: One Plus One Equals Infinity
 9 Magic, but No Black Boxes
  ASIDE: The T-Shirt Version
 10 Wildness
  ASIDE: Pet Resemblance via Social Theory

3 Magic by Example
 1 Failed Magic: Modernist Heaven (and Hell)
 2 Placebo Magic
  ASIDE: Pregnancy via Magic
  ASIDE: Following the Scent
 3 Mirror Magic
 4 Biting Game
 5 Dog Whisperer
 6 Conclusion

4 Future Perfect
 1 The Gettysburg Address as a Magical Speech Act
 2 Pool, Poetry, Prose, and Painting
  ASIDE: Dr. Livingston’s Magical Bank-Shot Visualizer
 3 Meteors, Messiahs, and Migraines
  ASIDE: On This Rock I Build My Church
  ASIDE: Falling Off a Log
 4 Magical Militarism
 5 Four Asides
  ASIDE: Dr. Livingston’s Time Travel 101
  ASIDE: A Somewhat Rationalizing Account of Mystical Nonviolence
  ASIDE: A Somewhat Mysticizing Account of Rationalist Nonviolence
  ASIDE: Four Scholars

5 What is Religion?
 1 A Fuzzy Set
 2 Magic, Science, and Religion Coevolve
 3 Restoring the Chaos
 4 Rain Dance
  ASIDE: From Flow
 5 Providence, via Vico
  ASIDE: Systematizers Systematized

6 God 3.5B (A Nearsighted Evolutionary Panorama)
 1 Salience to Sentience
 2 Primordial Systemhood Membership Narratives
  ASIDE: Law and Order
 3 The Myth of the Acquisition-of-Consciousness Moment
 4 Use of the Terms I and We
 5 Cis-Systems → Trans-Systems
 6 First Caveat: Characters
 7 Plant and Animal Intelligence
 8 Learning and Evolution from a Systems Perspective
 9 Second Caveat: Plot
 10 Especially Informative Postinfundibular Amphioxus Hypothalamus Neuropile
 11 The Holy Grail
  ASIDE: Neuro-X
 12 Teamlikeness
  ASIDE: Play and Teamlikeness
  ASIDE: Three-Ring Circuits
 13 Conclusion

7 Blake Magic
 1 Famous in Heaven
  ASIDE: No Success Like Failure
 2 Blake Magic
 3 Auguries
  ASIDE: Prophecies
 4 Angel Kings
 5 Magic in the Current Conjuncture
 6 Five Asides
  ASIDE: Black Lives Matter and Judith Butler
  ASIDE: An Elegant Pose
  ASIDE: Ritual Retraction
  ASIDE: Obscurity
  ASIDE: Butterfly Tornado



Likely readers include those interested in the relationships among science, religion and magic (and between science and the humanities); in complexity and systems theory, in science studies, cultural studies, cultural theory, evolutionary theory.


Collection Information