email page print page All Topic Reviews Anger and Forgiveness "Are You There Alone?" 10 Good Questions about Life and Death A Casebook of Ethical Challenges in Neuropsychology A Companion to Bioethics A Companion to Bioethics A Companion to Genethics A Companion to Genethics A Companion to Muslim Ethics A Cooperative Species A Critique of the Moral Defense of Vegetarianism A Delicate Balance A Fragile Life A Life for a Life A Life-Centered Approach to Bioethics A Matter of Security A Mirror Is for Reflection A Mirror Is for Reflection A Natural History of Human Morality A Philosophical Disease A Practical Guide to Clinical Ethics Consulting A Question of Trust A Sentimentalist Theory of the Mind A Short Stay in Switzerland A Tapestry of Values A Very Bad Wizard A World Without Values Action and Responsibility Action Theory, Rationality and Compulsion Acts of Conscience Addiction and Responsibility Addiction Neuroethics Advance Directives in Mental Health After Harm Aftermath Against Autonomy Against Bioethics Against Health Against Marriage Against Moral Responsibility Agency and Answerability Agency and Responsibility Agency, Freedom, and Moral Responsibility Aging, Biotechnology, and the Future Albert Schweitzer's Reverence for Life Alphaville Altruism Altruism American Eugenics American Psychosis An American Sickness An Anthology of Psychiatric Ethics An Introduction to Ethics An Introduction to Evolutionary Ethics An Introduction to Kant's Moral Philosophy Ancient Greek and Roman Slavery And a Time to Die Animal Lessons Animal Rights Animals Like Us Applied Ethics in Mental Health Care Are Women Human? Arguments about Abortion Aristotle on Practical Wisdom Aristotle's Ethics and Moral Responsibility Assisted Suicide and the Right to Die Autonomy Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism Autonomy, Consent and the Law Babies by Design Backsliding Bad Pharma Bad Souls Barriers and Belonging Basic Desert, Reactive Attitudes and Free Will Beauty Junkies Before Forgiving Being Amoral Being Yourself Bending Over Backwards Bending Science Bernard Williams Better Humans? Better Than Well Beyond Bioethics Beyond Choice Beyond Genetics Beyond Hatred Beyond Humanity? Beyond Loss Beyond Loss Beyond Moral Judgment Beyond Speech Beyond the DSM Story Bias in Psychiatric Diagnosis Bioethics Bioethics Bioethics and the Brain Bioethics at the Movies Bioethics Beyond the Headlines Bioethics Critically Reconsidered Bioethics in a Liberal Society Bioethics in the Clinic Biomedical Ethics Biomedical Ethics Biomedical Ethics Biomedical Ethics Biomedical Research and Beyond Bios Bioscience Ethics Bipolar Children Bluebird Bodies out of Bounds Bodies, Commodities, and Biotechnologies Body Bazaar Bound Boundaries and Boundary Violations in Psychoanalysis Braintrust Branded Breaking the Silence Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy Capital Punishment Case Studies in Biomedical Research Ethics Challenging the Stigma of Mental Illness Character and Moral Psychology Character as Moral Fiction Child Well-Being Children Children's Rights Choosing Children Choosing Not to Choose Clinical Dilemmas in Psychotherapy Clinical Ethics Cloning Close toYou Coercion as Cure Coercive Treatment in Psychiatry Cognition of Value in Aristotle's Ethics Cognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy Comfortably Numb Commonsense Rebellion Communicative Action and Rational Choice Competence, Condemnation, and Commitment Comprehending Care Conducting Insanity Evaluations Confidential Relationships Confidentiality and Mental Health Conflict of Interest in the Professions Consuming Kids Contemporary Debates In Applied Ethics Contemporary Debates in Moral Theory Contemporary Debates in Social Philosophy Contentious Issues Contesting Psychiatry Crazy in America Creating Capabilities Creatures Like Us? Crime and Culpability Crime, Punishment, and Mental Illness Critical Perspectives in Public Health Critical Psychiatry Cruelty Cultural Assessment in Clinical Psychiatry Current Controversies in Bioethics Current Controversies in Values and Science Cutting to the Core Cyborg Citizen Damaged Identities Deaf Identities in the Making Death Is That Man Taking Names Debating Procreation Debating Same-Sex Marriage Decision Making, Personhood and Dementia Decoding the Ethics Code Defining Difference Defining Right and Wrong in Brain Science Defining the Beginning and End of Life Delusions of Gender Dementia Democracy in What State? Demons of the Modern World Descriptions and Prescriptions Desert and Virtue Desire, Practical Reason, and the Good Destructive Trends in Mental Health Developing the Virtues Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? Difference and Identity Digital Hemlock Digital Soul Dignity Dignity Disability Bioethics Disability, Difference, Discrimination Discrimination against the Mentally Ill Disordered Personalities and Crime Disorders of Volition Disorientation and Moral Life Divided Minds and Successive Selves Does Feminism Discriminate against Men? Does Torture Work? Double Standards in Medical Research in Developing Countries Down Girl Drugs and Justice Dworkin and His Critics Dying in the Twenty-First Century Early Warning Economics and Youth Violence Embodied Rhetorics Emerging Conceptual, Ethical and Policy Issues in Bionanotechnology Emotional Reason Emotions in the Moral Life Emotions in the Moral Life Empathy Empathy and Moral Development Empathy and Morality Empirical Ethics in Psychiatry Encountering Nature Encountering the Sacred in Psychotherapy Engendering International Health Enhancing Evolution Enhancing Human Capacities Enough Eros and the Good Erotic Innocence Erotic Morality Essays on Derek Parfit's On What Matters Essays on Free Will and Moral Responsibility Ethical Choices in Contemporary Medicine Ethical Conflicts in Psychology Ethical Dilemmas in Pediatrics Ethical Issues in Behavioral Research Ethical Issues in Dementia Care Ethical Issues in Forensic Mental Health Research Ethical Issues in the New Genetics Ethical Life Ethical Reasoning for Mental Health Professionals Ethical Theory Ethical Wills Ethically Challenged Professions Ethics Ethics Ethics Ethics and Animals Ethics and Science Ethics and the A Priori Ethics and the Discovery of the Unconscious Ethics and the Metaphysics of Medicine Ethics at the Cinema Ethics at the End of Life Ethics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic Association Ethics Done Right Ethics Expertise Ethics for Everyone Ethics for Psychologists Ethics for the New Millennium Ethics in Cyberspace Ethics in Everyday Places Ethics in Health Care Ethics In Health Services Management Ethics in Mental Health Research Ethics in Practice Ethics in Psychiatry Ethics in Psychology Ethics in Psychotherapy and Counseling Ethics of Psychiatry Ethics without Ontology Ethics, Culture, and Psychiatry Ethics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about Children Evaluating the Science and Ethics of Research on Humans Evil Evil Genes Evil in Modern Thought Evil in Modern Thought Evolution, Gender, and Rape Evolutionary Ethics and Contemporary Biology Evolutionary Psychology and Violence Evolved Morality Experiments in Ethics Exploding the Gene Myth Exploiting Childhood Facing Human Suffering Fact and Value Facts and Values Faking It False-Memory Creation in Children and Adults Fat Shame Fatal Freedom Fellow-Feeling and the Moral Life Feminism and Its Discontents Feminist Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy Feminist Theory Final Exam First Do No Harm First, Do No Harm Flashpoint Flesh Wounds Forced to Care Forgiveness Forgiveness Forgiveness and Love Forgiveness and Reconciliation Forgiveness and Retribution Forgiveness is Really Strange Foucault and the Government of Disability Foundational Issues in Human Brain Mapping Foundations of Forensic Mental Health Assessment Free Will Free Will And Moral Responsibility Free Will and Reactive Attitudes Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life Free? Freedom and Value Freedom vs. Intervention Friendship From Darwin to Hitler From Disgust to Humanity From Enlightenment to Receptivity From Morality to Mental Health From Silence to Voice From Valuing to Value Frontiers of Justice Gender in the Mirror Genetic Politics Genetic Prospects Genetic Prospects Genetics of Original Sin Genetics of Original Sin Genocide's Aftermath Getting Real Gluttony Good Work Goodness & Advice Greed Groups in Conflict Growing Up Girl Gut Feminism Habilitation, Health, and Agency Handbook for Health Care Ethics Committees Handbook of Bioethics Handbook of Children's Rights Handbook of Psychopathy Happiness Happiness and the Good Life Happiness Is Overrated Hard Feelings Hard Luck Hardwired Behavior Harmful Thoughts Heal & Forgive Healing Psychiatry Health Care Ethics for Psychologists Heterosyncracies Historical and Philosophical Perspectives on Biomedical Ethics Holy War Hooked Hooked How Can I Be Trusted? How Fascism Works How Propaganda Works How to Do Things with Pornography How to Make Opportunity Equal How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World How We Hope How We Think About Dementia Human Bonding Human Dignity and Assisted Death Human Enhancement Human Goodness Human Identity and Bioethics Human Trials Humanism, What's That? Humanitarian Reason Humanity Humanizing Madness I am Not Sick I Don't Need Help! I Was Wrong Identifying Hyperactive Children If That Ever Happens to Me Improving Nature? In Defense of Flogging In Defense of Sin In Love With Life In Our Own Image In the Family In the Land of the Deaf In the Name of Identity In the Wake of 9/11 In Two Minds Inclusive Ethics Informed Consent in Medical Research Innovation in Medical Technology Inside Assisted Living Inside Ethics Intelligence, Race, and Genetics Intensive Care Into the Gray Zone Is Human Nature Obsolete? Is Long-Term Therapy Unethical? Is There a Duty to Die? Is There an Ethicist in the House? Issues in Philosophical Counseling Judging Children As Children Just a Dog Just Babies Just Care Justice for Children Justice for Hedgehogs Justice in Robes Justice, Luck, and Knowledge Justifiable Conduct Kant on Moral Autonomy Kant's Theory of Virtue Kids of Character Killing McVeigh Lack of Character Lack of Character Law and the Brain Learning About School Violence Learning from Baby P Leaving You Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy Legal and Ethical Aspects of Healthcare Legal Aspects of Mental Capacity Legal Conceptions Legal Insanity Legalizing Prostitution Let Them Eat Prozac Levelling the Playing Field Liberal Education in a Knowledge Society Liberal Eugenics Life After Faith Life at the Bottom Life, Sex, and Ideas Listening to the Whispers Living Professionalism Losing Matt Shepard Lost Lucky Mad in America Mad Pride Madhouse Making Another World Possible Making Babies, Making Families Making Genes, Making Waves Making Sense of Freedom and Responsibility Malignant Masculinity Studies and Feminist Theory Meaning and Moral Order Meaning in Life Meaning in Life and Why It Matters Means, Ends, and Persons Means, Ends, and Persons Medical Enhancement and Posthumanity Medical Research for Hire Medicalized Masculinities Medically Assisted Death Meditations for the Humanist Melancholia and Moralism Mental Health Professionals, Minorities and the Poor Mental Illness, Medicine and Law Merit, Meaning, and Human Bondage Metaethical Subjectivism Mill's Utilitarianism Mind Fields Mind Wars Mind Wars Modern Theories of Justice Modernity and Technology Money Shot Monster Moral Acquaintances and Moral Decisions Moral Brains Moral Clarity Moral Cultivation Moral Development and Reality Moral Dilemmas in Real Life Moral Dimensions Moral Entanglements Moral Failure Moral Literacy Moral Machines Moral Minds Moral Origins Moral Panics, Sex Panics Moral Particularism Moral Perception Moral Psychology Moral Psychology: Volume IV Moral Realism Moral Relativism Moral Repair Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities Moral Status and Human Life Moral Stealth Moral Theory at the Movies Moral Tribes Moral Value and Human Diversity Moral, Immoral, Amoral Moralism Morality and Self-Interest Morality in a Natural World Morality, Moral Luck and Responsibility Morals, Rights and Practice in the Human Services Morals, Rights and Practice in the Human Services More Than Human Motive and Rightness Movies and the Moral Adventure of Life Murder in the Inn My Body Politic My Brain Made Me Do It My Sister's Keeper My Sister's Keeper My Way Nano-Bio-Ethics Narrative Medicine Narrative Prosthesis Natural Ethical Facts Natural-Born Cybogs Naturalized Bioethics Neither Bad nor Mad Neoconservatism Neonatal Bioethics Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality Neuroethics Neuroethics Neuroethics New Takes in Film-Philosophy New Waves in Ethics New Waves in Metaethics Nietzsche on Ethics and Politics No Child Left Different No Impact Man Normative Ethics Normativity Nothing about us, without us! Oath Betrayed Of War and Law On Apology On Being Authentic On Evil On Human Rights On The Stigma Of Mental Illness On the Take On Virtue Ethics On What Matters On What We Owe to Each Other One Child One Nation Under Therapy One World Now One World Now Our Bodies, Whose Property? Our Bodies, Whose Property? Our Daily Meds Our Faithfulness to the Past Our Posthuman Future Out of Eden Out of Its Mind Out of the Shadows Overdosed America Oxford Handbook of Psychiatric Ethics Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 7 Oxford Textbook of Philosophy of Psychiatry Passionate Deliberation Patient Autonomy and the Ethics of Responsibility PC, M.D. Perfecting Virtue Personal Autonomy Personal Autonomy in Society Personal Identity and Ethics Personalities on the Plate Personhood and Health Care Persons, Humanity, and the Definition of Death Perspectives On Health And Human Rights Pharmaceutical Freedom Pharmacracy Pharmageddon Philosophy and This Actual World Philosophy of Biology Philosophy of Technology: The Technological Condition Physician-Assisted Dying Picturing Disability Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Playing God? Playing God? Political Emotions Pornland Powerful Medicines Practical Autonomy and Bioethics Practical Ethics Practical Ethics for Psychologists Practical Rules Pragmatic Bioethics Pragmatic Bioethics Pragmatic Neuroethics Praise and Blame Preferences and Well-Being Primates and Philosophers Pro-Life, Pro-Choice Procreation and Parenthood Profits Before People? Progress in Bioethics Property in the Body Prozac As a Way of Life Prozac on the Couch Psychiatric Aspects of Justification, Excuse and Mitigation in Anglo-American Criminal Law Psychiatric Ethics Psychiatry and Empire Psychological Concepts and Biological Psychiatry Psychology and Consumer Culture Psychology and Law Psychotropic Drug Prescriber's Survival Guide Public Health Law Public Health Law and Ethics Public Philosophy Punishing the Mentally Ill Punishment Pursuits of Wisdom Putting Morality Back Into Politics Putting on Virtue Quality of Life and Human Difference Race Radical Hope Radical Virtues Rape Is Rape Re-creating Medicine Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings Reason's Grief Reasonably Vicious Reckoning With Homelessness Reconceiving Medical Ethics Recovery from Schizophrenia Redefining Rape Redesigning Humans Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness Reflections on Ethics and Responsibility Reflections On How We Live Reframing Disease Contextually Refusing Care Refuting Peter Singer's Ethical Theory Relative Justice Relativism and Human Rights Religion Explained Reprogenetics Rescuing Jeffrey Respecting Animals Responsibility Responsibility and Psychopathy Responsibility and Punishment Responsibility and Punishment Responsibility from the Margins Responsible Genetics Rethinking Commodification Rethinking Informed Consent in Bioethics Rethinking Mental Health and Disorder Rethinking Rape Return to Reason Revolution in Psychology Rights Rights, Democracy, and Fulfillment in the Era of Identity Politics Risk and Luck in Medical Ethics Robert Nozick Rousseau and the Dilemmas of Modernity Rule of Law, Misrule of Men Run, Spot, Run Running on Ritalin Satisficing and Maximizing Schizophrenia, Culture, and Subjectivity Science and Ethics Science in the Private Interest Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal Science, Seeds and Cyborgs Scratching the Surface of Bioethics Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament Seeing the Light Self-Constitution Self-Made Madness Self-Trust and Reproductive Autonomy Sentimental Rules Sex Fiends, Perverts, and Pedophiles Sex Offenders Sex, Family, and the Culture Wars Sexual Deviance Sexual Ethics Sexual Predators Sexualized Brains Shaping Our Selves Shock Therapy Should I Medicate My Child? Shunned Sick to Death and Not Going to Take It Anymore Sicko Side Effects Sidewalk Stories Sister Citizen Skeptical Feminism Social Dimensions of Moral Responsibility Social Inclusion of People with Mental Illness Social Justice Sociological Perspectives on the New Genetics Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat Sovereign Virtue Speech Matters Spiral of Entrapment Split Decisions Sticks and Stones Stories Matter Subhuman Subjectivity and Being Somebody Suffering, Death, and Identity Suicide Prohibition Surgery Junkies Surgically Shaping Children Taking Morality Seriously Taming the Troublesome Child Technology and the Good Life? Testimony Text and Materials on International Human Rights The Aims of Higher Education The Almost Moon The Altruistic Brain The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Forensic Psychiatry The Animal Manifesto The Animals' Agenda The Art of Living The Autonomy of Morality The Beloved Self The Best Things in Life The Big Fix The Bioethics Reader The Biology and Psychology of Moral Agency The Blackwell Guide to Medical Ethics The Body Silent The Bond The Book of Life The Burden of Sympathy The Cambridge Companion to Virtue Ethics The Cambridge Companion to Virtue Ethics The Cambridge Textbook of Bioethics The Case against Assisted Suicide The Case Against Perfection The Case Against Punishment The Case for Perfection The Case of Terri Schiavo The Challenge of Human Rights The Character Gap The Code for Global Ethics The Colonization Of Psychic Space The Commercialization of Intimate Life The Common Thread The Connected Self The Constitution of Agency The Creation of Psychopharmacology The Criminal Brain The Decency Wars The Difficult-to-Treat Psychiatric Patient The Disability Pendulum The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation The Domain of Reasons The Double-Edged Helix The Duty to Protect The Emotional Construction of Morals The End of Ethics in a Technological Society The End of Stigma? The Essentials of New York Mental Health Law The Ethical Brain The Ethical Dimensions of the Biological and Health Sciences The Ethics of Bioethics The Ethics of Choosing Children The Ethics of Human Enhancement The Ethics of Parenthood The Ethics of Sightseeing The Ethics of the Family The Ethics of the Family in Seneca The Ethics of the Lie The Ethics of Transplants The Ethics of War The Ethics Toolkit The Evolution of Mental Health Law The Evolution of Morality The Family The Fat Studies Reader The Forgiveness Project The Form of Practical Knowledge The Fountain of Youth The Freedom Paradox The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia The Future of Human Nature The Good Book The Good Life The Great Betrayal The Handbook of Disability Studies The Healing Virtues The High Price of Materialism The History of Human Rights The Horizon The Idea of Justice The Ideal of Nature The Illusion of Freedom and Equality The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks The Importance of Being Understood The Insanity Offense The Joy of Secularism The Language Police The Last Normal Child The Last Utopia The Limits of Medicine The Lobotomist The Love Cure The Lucifer Effect The Manual of Epictetus The Mark of Shame The Meaning of Nice The Medicalization of Society The Merck Druggernaut The Mind Has Mountains The Modern Art of Dying The Modern Savage The Moral Arc The Moral Brain The Moral Demands of Memory The Moral Fool The Moral Mind The Moral Psychology Handbook The Moral Punishment Instinct The Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and Screening The Most Good You Can Do The Myth of Choice The Myth of the Moral Brain The Nature of Normativity The New Disability History The New Genetic Medicine The New Religious Intolerance The Offensive Internet The Origins of Fairness The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics The Oxford Handbook of Ethics at the End of Life The Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics The Palgrave Handbook of Practical Animal Ethics The Perfect Baby The Philosophical Parent The Philosophy of Need The Philosophy of Pornography The Philosophy of Psychiatry The Politics Of Lust The Portable Ethicist for Mental Health Professionals The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere The Price of Perfection The Price of Truth The Problem of Punishment The Prosthetic Impulse The Psychology of Good and Evil The Psychology of Good and Evil The Psychopath The Purity Myth The Pursuit of Perfection The Relevance of Philosophy to Life The Right Road to Radical Freedom The Right to Be Parents The Righteous Mind The Root of All Evil The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Empathy The Rules of Insanity The Second Sexism The Second-Person Standpoint The Silent World of Doctor and Patient The Sleep of Reason The Social Psychology of Good and Evil The Social Psychology of Morality The Social Psychology of Morality The Speed of Dark The Stem Cell Controversy The Stem Cell Controversy The Story of Cruel and Unusual The Story Within The Stubborn System of Moral Responsibility The Suicide Tourist The Terrible Gift The Theory of Options The Therapy of Desire The Trauma of Psychological Torture The Trauma of Psychological Torture The Triple Helix The Trolley Problem Mysteries The Trouble with Diversity The Truth About the Drug Companies The Ugly Laws The Varieties of Religious Experience The Virtue of Defiance and Psychiatric Engagement The Virtues of Freedom The Virtues of Happiness The Virtuous Life in Greek Ethics The Virtuous Psychiatrist The Voice of Breast Cancer in Medicine and Bioethics The War Against Boys The War for Children's Minds The Whole Child The Woman Racket The Worldwide Practice of Torture Therapy with Children Thieves of Virtue Three Generations, No Imbeciles Times of Triumph, Times of Doubt Tolerance Among The Virtues Tolerance and the Ethical Life Toleration Toxic Psychiatry Trauma, Truth and Reconciliation Treatment Kind and Fair Trusting on the Edge Try to Remember Ultimate Judgement Unborn in the USA: Inside the War on Abortion Undermining Science Understanding Abortion Understanding Cloning Understanding Emotions Understanding Evil Understanding Kant's Ethics Understanding Moral Obligation Understanding Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry Interactions Understanding Terrorism Understanding the Genome Understanding the Stigma of Mental Illness Understanding Treatment Without Consent Unhinged Unprincipled Virtue Unsanctifying Human Life: Essays on Ethics Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People Up in Flames Upheavals of Thought Users and Abusers of Psychiatry Value-Free Science? Values and Psychiatric Diagnosis Values in Conflict Vegetarianism Violence and Mental Disorder Virtue Ethics Virtue, Rules, and Justice Virtue, Vice, and Personality Virtues and Their Vices Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals Vulnerability, Autonomy, and Applied Ethics War Against the Weak War, Torture and Terrorism Warrior's Dishonour Weakness Welfare and Rational Care What are you staring at? What Genes Can't Do What Have We Done What Is a Human? What Is Good and Why What Is Good and Why What Is the Good Life? What Price Better Health? What Should I Do? What We Owe to Each Other What Would Aristotle Do? What's Good on TV What's Normal? What's Wrong with Children's Rights What's Wrong with Homosexuality? What's Wrong With Morality? When Is Discrimination Wrong? Who Holds the Moral High Ground? Who Owns You Who Qualifies for Rights? Whose America? Whose View of Life? Why Animals Matter Why Animals Matter Why Does Inequality Matter? Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability Why Not Kill Them All? Why Punish? How Much? Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale Wisdom, Intuition and Ethics Without Conscience Women and Borderline Personality Disorder Women and Madness Wondergenes Would You Kill the Fat Man? Wrestling with Behavioral Genetics Writing About Patients You Must Be Dreaming Your Genetic Destiny Your Inner Fish Youth Offending and Youth Justice Yuck!
This is an
altogether remarkable book.
as I was to the older literature on religion such as Freuds Future of an Illusion I expected to find
some variant on the story that religious feeling, thought and behavior is specifically motivated or on the other
commonplace theory that religions are pre-scientific theories that provide believers with explanations for the many
puzzling features of the world around them.
Pascal Boyer, a cognitive anthropologist, carefully argues that neither
of these approaches are tenable. Instead, he draws on the work of Scott Atran
and others to argue, to my mind very plausibly, that religion is a spin-off
from the hard-wired, modular cognitive inference systems characteristic of our
species. In other words, religious
tendencies are more a by-product than a product of our cognitive
evolution. To inquire into the evolved
function of religion is therefore Quixotic: what we need to be looking at are
the deep cognitive processes that have, accidentally, given rise to religion.
that those forms that many people call the great religions are not typical of
To base a general
theory of religion on one or another of these is therefore to make use of an
unrepresentative example. Religion,
most broadly defined, is the belief in supernatural agents. Boyer shows that these supernatural agents
inevitably possess counterintuitive properties, i.e. characteristics that do
violence to their ontological kind (e.g. a tree that can understand human
language, a person who is dead yet still alive, a being who is simultaneously
one entity and three entities, a woman who can become pregnant whilst remaining
a virgin). Irrespective of their other
qualities, all supernatural agents are said to possess minds. This tells us, that religious ideas rooted
in our innate social inference systems.
Our incredible talent for discerning the moods, motives and
psychological states of others our mindreading ability is the output of a
hair-trigger cognitive module that tends to see minds when none are actually
there. The disposition towards religion is the price that we pay for our
specific mental architecture.
Of course, the
broad class of supernatural agents includes all manner of entities.
What differentiate the supernatural agents
relevant to religion from the others is their special powers. They are fullaccess strategic agents who
are believed to possess a great deal of knowledge relevant to human affairs and
the power to intervene in these affairs.
This kind of entity is well worth interacting with and, as the author
emphasizes, religion is typically more a matter of interaction with
supernatural agents than it is a matter of theology. Religion Explained goes
on to tackle many perplexing aspects of religious phenomena. There are particularly interesting
discussions of the nature of ritual and the treatment of the dead.
strength of this book is its provision of a purely naturalistic account of
religious cognition, whereas its major weakness is, in my opinion, the neglect
of the role of religious affect.
that, as Dawkins notes, that religion so often involves feelings resembling
sexual love? Perhaps there is something
to be gained from reconsidering analyses like Freuds that address this aspect
of religious phenomena. What Freud,
following Romaine Rolland, called the oceanic feeling has been addressed by
recent neuroscientific research, and it would be most valuable for Boyers
cognitive psychology of religion to be brought into relation with this body of
research. He does discuss the aspects of the affective dimension of fundamentalist
zeal. This is interpreted as preemptive
righteous anger directed at potential defectors from the group, which is a
novel application of Trivers hypothesis of the regulatory role of affect in
I think that
this is a brilliant contribution to cognitive-evolutionary psychology generally
and to the scientific understanding of religion in particular.
It opened my mind both to a novel and
powerful understanding of religion and to a wider literature. This book is likely to become a classic: the
writing style is lucid, the thinking is both disciplined and creative, and the
research is first rate. Definitely a
© 2002 David Livingstone
Livingstone Smith, University of New England.
We feature over 8100 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and
We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.
Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send
review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank
you for your support!
Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these
announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click
Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers
for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor. Metapsychology Online Reviews Promote your Page too
Metapsychology Online Reviews