Victoria Fomina

Reasoning against Faith: When Clerics Intervene in Popular Religion

  In their recent book The Enigma of Reason (2017), Mercier and Sperber debunk the popular view of reason as a source of disinterested, accurate knowledge about the world. The function of reason, they argue, is polemical rather than hermeneutic, as we mostly produce reasons to justify our actions to others and to evaluate the arguments other people use to convince us. This provocative argument opens up interesting avenues for further ethnographic investigations that would flesh out how argumentative reasoning functions across different cultural and socio-historical settings. As an anthropologist of religion, I find the question of how reasoning interacts with belief in the religious context particularly intriguing. ...

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How Can a Painting Make One Lose One’s Faith?

In 1867, the deeply religious Fyodor Dostoyevsky visited the Basel Art Museum and saw for the first time the original of Hans Holbein’s painting The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb. His wife later reported in her memoirs that the painting had such a powerful emotional effect on the writer that, in violation of the museum’s rules, he stepped on a chair to take a closer look. His face turned white, she recalled, and she had to drag him away from the painting fearing he would have an epileptic fit.  “Such a picture might make one lose one’s faith,” Dostoyevsky later told her. ...

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The True Self, Supernatural Agents, and the Problem of Evil

Nina Strohminger, Joshua Knobe, and George Newman’s compelling and thought-provoking piece on the “True Self” presents an original theoretical intervention into the vast body of literature on the self, which spans across several different disciplinary and epistemological traditions. Aside from making an important contribution to the existing theories of the self, the true self concept also opens up an avenue for raising a number of interesting questions in the domain of moral cognition. ...

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