Gods in Disorder


  • Robert N. McCauley Emory University
  • George Graham Georgia State University




Ecumenical Naturalism, cognitive science of religion, maturationally natural cognition, by-product theory, explanatory pluralism, hearing voices, meaning making


Commentators’ concerns occasion clarifications of positions in Hearing Voices and Other Matters of the Mind. Philosophical naturalism holds that philosophers needlessly handicap their projects if they ignore the sciences. Ecumenical Naturalism maintains that similar forms of cognition and experience associated with religiosity and mental disorders may submit to similar scientific explanations. The by-product theory, which looks to the operations of maturationally natural cognitive capacities to explain religious representations’ forms, offers explanatory leverage with regard to some mental disorders. The fact that examples are mostly American, Christian, and Western need not preclude the accounts’ broader applicability. Explanatory pluralism endorses many explanatory approaches. The aim is only to show how much cognitive considerations can do, not to suggest that they provide comprehensive theories of anything. Other telling proposals will enhance understanding of these matters. The operations of maturationally natural dispositions, regardless of how they are cued, contribute to what humans take to be meaningful.

Author Biography

Robert N. McCauley, Emory University

McCAULEY N. ROBERT, William Rand Kenan Jr. University Professor, Director, Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture, Emory University. His research focuses on philosophy of science (especially philosophy of psychology), cognitive science of religion, naturalized epistemology. Selected Publications: Rethinking Religion: Connecting Cognition and Culture (Cambridge 1990) and Bringing Ritual to Mind: Psychological Foundations of Cultural Forms (Cambridge 2002), both with E. Thomas Lawson. Editor of The Churchlands and Their Critics (Blackwell 1996). Research articles in Philosophy of Science, Synthese, Philosophical Psychology, Consciousness and Cognition, Theory and Psychology, Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and History of Religions. Fellowships and Honors: grants or fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, British Academy, National Endowment for the Humanities, Lilly Endowment, American Academy of Religion, Templeton Foundation, and Council for Philosophical Studies; Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award, 1996; Massée-Martin/NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor (1994-1998, inaugural appointment);
President, Society for Philosophy and Psychology (1997-1998).


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How to Cite

McCauley, R. N. ., & Graham, G. . (2021). Gods in Disorder. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 7(1), 94–111. https://doi.org/10.1558/jcsr.20513