Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||The emergence of cognitive science over the past thirty years has stimulated new approaches to traditional problems and materials in well-established disciplines. Those approaches have generated new insights and reinvigorated aspirations for theories in the sciences of the socio-cultural (about the structures and uses of symbols and the cognitive processes underlying them) that are both more systematic and more accountable empirically than the recently available alternatives. Without rejecting interpretive proposals, projects in both the cognitive science of religion and in cognitive archaeology seek to redress imbalances within those disciplines favoring the interpretive over the explanatory. (See Lawson and McCauley, 1990 and Renfrew, 1994a, respectively.) Both projects aim to reinvigorate scientific aspirations without reviving any sort of scientistic or explanatory exclusivism. Both have arisen, in part, in response to the science-bashing crusades that have enjoyed such prominence in both disciplines over the past twenty years. With the exception, perhaps, of linguistics, the influence of cognitive science has been as notable in archaeology and religious studies as it has been in any discipline in contemporary intellectual life. In both disciplines new sub-fields have begun to thrive, which take theoretical inspiration from cognitive science and, at least sometimes, deploy its findings and, in the case of the cognitive science of religion, even its methods in the course of testing their theories. This paper contains three sections. The first provides a framework for thinking about the constituents of culture as a means both for situating ritual and for considering its accessibility to cognitive and archaeological analysis. The second section outlines our theory of religious ritual competence and the ritual form hypothesis. The final section reviews the theory=s predictions about an assortment of properties of both individual religious rituals and religious ritual systems. It includes occasional speculations about some of the theory=s possible implications for some archaeological matters. A word of caution before we begin ..|
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