Rational Magic

£19.99
edited by Scott E. Hendrix and BNrian Feltham
ISBN: 978-1-848880-61-0

Rather than seeing a sharp division between rational, scientific thinking and irrational, magical thinking, this volume attempts to understand the way in which magical thinking too may be rational – in the sense that it forms part of the lives of agents who are rational beings taking their beliefs and practices to be in accordance with sensible, sound reasoning. The aim, then, is not to defend or to attack magical practices so much as to see them in their context.

Description

Magic and "superstitious" beliefs and their role in the modern world are poorly understood, largely because scholars have traditionally dismissed an analytical approach to systems of thought seen as standing in opposition to both Enlightenment ideas of rationality as well as a scientific outlook. Additionally, understanding such a complex set of ideas as those labeled under the heading of "magical" or "superstitious" requires a multidisciplinary approach, which has not always been encouraged within academia. However, a failure to understand the areas of modernity that exist apart from scientific rationalism stands as a barrier to a deep understanding of human societies and leads to misunderstandings about essential elements of the modern world ranging from overly-deterministic concepts of "rationality" to a failure to understand how and why magical modes of thought not only survive, but even to thrive. In order to clarify this understudied topic, this volume brings together the analytical abilities of scholars from the fields of philosophy, history, and anthropology, providing a wide-ranging treatment of the contextual nature of rationality and the value and purpose of magical practices. Rather than seeing a sharp division between rational, scientific thinking and irrational, magical thinking, this volume attempts to understand the way in which magical thinking too may be rational – in the sense that it forms part of the lives of agents who are rational beings taking their beliefs and practices to be in accordance with sensible, sound reasoning. The aim, then, is not to defend or to attack magical practices so much as to see them in their context.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Preface
Scott E. Hendrix and Brian Feltham

PART 1
Magic and Practical Agency
Brian Feltham

PART 2
Rational Astrology and Scientific Rationalism in Premodern Europe
Scott E. Hendrix

PART 3
An African Context of the Belief in Witchcraft and Magic
Uchenna Okeja

PART 4
Possessed Women Performing Public Ritual Drama: A Case Study from Serbia
Danijel Sinani

Index
Notes on Contributors

Downloadable Content
You can dowload a pdf copy of the Introduction here: Download Introduction (pdf)
About the Author/Editor

Scott E. Hendrix is an Assistant Professor of History at Carroll University in the United States. His research focuses on understanding belief systems within the historical and social contexts in which they develop, with a particular emphasis on the history of science. His recently published monograph, How Albert the Great's Speculum astronomiae was Interpreted and used by Four Centuries of Readers (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2010) received the Simon Evans Prize for Outstanding Contributions to Medieval Studies. His other published work includes studies of the mysticism of such figures as Teresa of Avila and Bernard of Clairvaux, as well as the role of epistemic regimes in the development of natural philosophical and scientific modes of thought.

Brian Feltham lectures in Political Theory at the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. Much of his current research is focused on the role of religious and value beliefs in political reasoning and he has published papers related to this in various journals. He has also edited Justice, Equality and Constructivism: Essays on G. A. Cohen’s Rescuing Justice and Equality (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) and, together with John Cottingham, Partiality and Impartiality: Morality, Special Relationships and the Wider World (OUP, 2010).

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