After the brown bag talk

Posted on October 11, 2007

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I have now given the talk here at the KLI. The PowerPoint presentation is downloadable. Apart from the normal KLI crowd, the talk was attended by Elias Khalil who is from my old Alma Mater – Monash University in Melbourne. There was an avalanche of questions, suggestions and objections at the end – the usual thing at the Institute. Quite draining intellectually, even though it is extremely valuable – I have never had as much useful input for my work as I get here. A number of points I have to seriously think about, including the objections that I am assuming that superstition is a single natural kind – the title of the talk kind of forces that view. I had not wanted to necessarily assume that, as I am actually quite open to there being significant differences between various superstitions. The problem is that it is hard to dissociate the issue of how superstitions form from what they are. Still, I can see that there are two different issues: What causes people to believe in particular superstitions such as unlucky cats or first footing versus why people (rightly perhaps) refer to all of these beliefs as superstitious. I am not sure to what degree they can be dealt with separately – it may be that people refer to them all under the one rubric because their causes are similar. Perhaps a useful step to take is to talk about superstitions in the plural rather than about superstition in the singular. It would keep in the foreground the idea that there are various different superstitions.

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