Phenomena, Mechanisms, and Levels of Analysis in the CSR
Keywords:Cognitive Science, Religion, Levels of Analysis
This outstanding textbook provides an expansive overview of the sub-field of the Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR). White’s summary of the field’s core assumptions affords the opportunity – as does the book as a whole – to reflect on theory and method in the CSR and its implications for the evolutionary study of religion and/or culture more generally. Although White effectively summarizes the core assumptions using the “fractionation” terminology widely adopted in the field, I think the process of deconstructing and reconstructing needs to be more firmly grounded in philosophical work on explanation and multi-level research on meaning-making and appraisal processes. Without that, researchers run the risk of conflating levels of analysis and muddying what can and cannot be claimed at each level. Greater clarity in this regard suggests that “fractionating” religion is a positive step toward a more comprehensive, scientific understanding of the possibilities and limits of cultural diversity rather than a theory of religion.
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