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The meaningful brain: Clifford Geertz and the cognitive science of culture

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The purpose of this essay is, among other things, to correct the misunderstandings that some evolutionary psychologists have promoted about Clifford Geertz. It is indeed unfortunate that generations of cognitive scientists of religion have simply accepted unwarranted claims about Geertz's attitude towards cognition and psychology. Furthermore, this blind acceptance goes hand in hand with the equally faulty idea that cognition has nothing much to do with culture, except that cognition came first. In this chapter, I will briefly introduce Clifford Geertz. The bulk of the chapter will consist of a detailed analysis of Geertz's understanding of cognition and culture followed by a brief description of criticism from evolutionary psychologists Tooby and Cosmides. The final section will indicate how Geertz's ideas mesh well with contemporary cognitive, social and affective neuroscience. Introduction to Clifford Geertz Clifford Geertz was not only a significant figure in anthropology; he was one of the great intellectuals of the latter half of the twentieth century. He was born on 23 August 1926 and died on 30 October 2006. After the war, he studied literature at Antioch College in Ohio from 1946 to 1950, which left an indelible influence on his literary style. He also studied philosophy and was greatly inspired by John Austin, Gilbert Ryle and Kenneth Burke. He then moved on to graduate school at Harvard, studying under Clyde Kluckhohn at an interdisciplinary department called “Social Relations”. Here Geertz met anthropology, psychology and sociology.

TitelMental Culture : Classical Social Theory and the Cognitive Science of Religion
RedaktørerDimitris Xygalatas, William W. McCorkle Jr.
Antal sider21
ForlagAcumen Publishing Limited
Udgivelsesår1 jan. 2012
ISBN (trykt)9781844656646
ISBN (Elektronisk)9781844656653
StatusUdgivet - 1 jan. 2012
SerietitelReligion, Cognition and Culture


  • religionsantropologi, evolutionspsykologi, kognitiv religionsvidenskab, teori og metode

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