Maurice Bloch on Religion and Imagination

Maurice Bloch remains one of the world’s most important anthropologists. His refusal to countenance silliness, his willingness to consider positions opposed to his own (and to endorse them when they are right) is stunning and rare in the academy, and his work continues to evolve.

A recent article by Bloch in Philosophical Transactions (via Anthropologi) points out the importance of the imagination to Bloch’s conception of religion. For Bloch, religion is the product of the human imagination; it is inconceivable and impossible without it.

But Bloch argues that religion is only one manifestation of this unique ability to form bonds with non-existent or distant people or value-systems.

Article in the New Scientist [link]

“Religious-like phenomena in general are an inseparable part of a key adaptation unique to modern humans, and this is the capacity to imagine other worlds, an adaptation that I argue is the very foundation of the sociality of modern human society.”

“Once we realise this omnipresence of the imaginary in the everyday, nothing special is left to explain concerning religion,” he says.


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