Fixating beliefs in Lublin

Posted on December 19, 2008

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I gave a talk at my own department yesterday. It was a Polish-language version of the “Fixation of superstitious beliefs” talk that I gave in Murcia in spring. The paper doesn’t feel as coherent as it did when I originally gave it. Seeing that a version of it is to be published next year I’ll have to read through the current paper version to see whether I am happy with what I have or if I need to make serious alterations. Given how long it is since I wrote it, it might be best to rewrite it completely or, perhaps, to only make minor changes to this version but then to prepare a completely new paper. The second alternative has the advantage that in this way the published paper will be indicative of what I presented in Spain – something that might not be the case if I find that my thinking has seriously evolved since then.

What was interesting was just how different the focus of the questions was in Lublin from that in Murcia. In Spain I found that I spent far too much time having to discuss the view of religion that my approach too up – that discussion only being brought to a close by Simon Blackburn’s effort to put things back onto a more constructive track. In Lublin everyone seemed to be much more interested in the psychological implication of my approach. Andrzej Kapusta, who also works in my department, had some particularly interesting point s to make, which is not that surprising since before taking up philosophy he finished a psychology degree and since his own work focusses on the philosophy of psychiatry. Wojciech Sady, on the other hand, tried to turn my views into some kind of neo-neo-positivism – assistance which I tried to gently but firmly decline. What was good to see was that there were a couple of post-grad students at the talk who are familiar with the work on the cognitive science of religion.

I’m planning to give a completely reworked version of the talk in Prague at the Biosemiotics meetings. In that version I will focus a lot more on the philosophy of language issues that arise out of the connection between untestability and latent functionality of religious and superstitious beliefs. Indeed, biosemiotics might offer valuable tools to develop these ideas a lot more than the little bit that I have done thus far.

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