Rituals, Music, and the Landscape Metaphor


  • Dor Shilton Tel Aviv University
  • Eva Jablonka Tel Aviv University




music, evolution, ritual, modes theory


In this commentary, we discuss two aspects of The Ritual Animal’s (2021) rich and multidimensional framework which may be further developed: the role of music and euphoric rituals within Harvey Whitehouse’s modes theory, and the use of the landscape model for studying sociocultural systems. We note the strong, cross-cultural association of music and religious rituals, consider the suitability of music for such practices, and suggest further research on how the use of music may accommodate both imagistic and doctrinal rituals. We then describe the social landscape model used by Whitehouse and consider his proposal to extend the model through the consideration of multiple landscapes at different levels. We accept his suggestion to explicitly include underlying and overlying networks of inputs but argue that since the interacting networks are not external to but constitutive of the landscape, a single landscape with multiple causal, constraining, and constitutive networks may better capture the integrated nature of social systems.

Author Biographies

  • Dor Shilton, Tel Aviv University

    Dor Shilton, Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel.

  • Eva Jablonka, Tel Aviv University

    Eva Jablonka, Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel and Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science (CPNSS) London School of Economics.


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Book Panel

How to Cite

Shilton, D., & Jablonka, E. (2022). Rituals, Music, and the Landscape Metaphor. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 8(2), 129–139. https://doi.org/10.1558/jcsr.22389