Open Thread, 3/8/2015

BIL-2015-LA_T-Shirt-Front-900wideI’m at BIL right now. Interestingly there seem to be a more “LA” vibe this time around from what I recall in 2010 (when it was in Long Beach on the Queen Mary). By that, I mean less tech, more fashion and design. I have to

Apologies if I can’t post your comment right away, though I should be checking on my phone now and then. Please remember that you’ll be banned if you leave something insulting me (this doesn’t apply to those commenting on open threads usually, but hopefully lurkers will note this and save their own time and mine).

51yKWQ2hXqL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Still got my Kindle, and trying to get a few pages in here and there of Confucius: And the World He Created. It’s a pretty easy, if not excessively scholarly, survey (contrast it with Annping Chin’s book from a few years back). Ironically Confucius would recoil from the idea that he created a new world, with the standard model being that he revived ancient forms and ways. But the reality is that the emergence of a school around Confucius and his intellectual heirs did signal a change in the Zeitgeist¬†of what became ancient China. Though to a great extent even if Confucius existed and believed he was an expositor of ancient ways, almost certainly for all practical purposes his interpretations would seem strange and novel for the ancients he had in mind. But, I do think that philosophies like those expounded by Confucius, and contemporaries further east in Eurasia at the same time, tapped into deep rooted human intuitions, which were attempting to find more rational and systematic justification in a new complex world.

1234114Also, someone asked me in the comments earlier why the books I recommend on cognitive science of religion seem to date to the early aughts. For example, both In Gods We Trust and Religion Explained are from 2002. I should also mention that there are other works which I don’t mention as much, but which are also good. For example, Harvey Whitehouse’ Modes of Religiosity is interesting. Naturally it dates from 2004. So in any case, the reason for this coincidence in timing is that I got what I wanted out of that period of reading and study in relation to cognitive anthropology, which includes topics beyond the purview of religion. I retain an interest in human social and political development over time, but my focus in the domain of cultural anthropology is strongly influenced by the sort of views espoused by Dan Sperber in Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach, and the framework of Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson in The Origin and Evolution of Cultures. Since my time is finite usually I don’t focus on all the topics I’ve exhibited a fascination with in my life at any given moment. A quick skim of my Goodreads profile indicates that my interests are pretty catholic, at least compared to most people. But only for a few topics do I keep coming back to the same well (e.g., my interest in evolutionary biology goes back to early elementary school years). In most domains I check back in periodically, but if I think the findings are robust I stop following the field very closely.

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