Thinking and communicating: rationality

  • Created by: melissa
  • Created on: 09-05-15 13:14


Rational thought= the state of having good sense and sound judgement based on facts or reason and not an emotion or feeling. Rationality is believed to be a universal human characteristic.

Evans-Pritchard challenge the thinking that the beliefs and practices of 'primitive' people as irrational; as the consultation of oracles, belief in witchcraft and the practice of magic makes sense within the overall context of the azande culture. 

Different cultures have different crirteria for rational belief and action, our standards are local to our culture, and no more objective than anyone else's.

The ability to reason is the very thing that separates us from other animals. It is what makes us human. Western philosophical concept from the C17/18th Enlightenment).

Logic=The way someone connects ideas when they are explaining something – thinking in an orderly way.  Logic can be described as reasoning.   To give explanations or reasons so that sense can be made of something. 

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Explanations of misfortune: Science

Misfortune= an unfortunate condition or event which causes distress or harm. 

Science= a systematic method of observation of phenomena.  

Science can explain everything: everything occurs for a reason and science discovers these reasons. Many scientific theories can be proved and if they cant then evidence for them can be suggested. It can make educated theories based on similar scientific studies. 

Science cannot explain everything: Many things cannot be proved. E.g. the creation of the universe; nobody will know how this occured and so science can only make 'educated guesses'. Science tells us that evolution originated from matter we don't know of.

Science tries to understand the workings of the universe, it is fundamentally flawed because it cannot and will not ever explain the why of anything. Religion was created/discovered to explain just that but then religion also depends upon your own personal opinion; religion and science teamed together can explain everything. 

Explaining the Haiti earthquake= Carribean and Northern plates slide past each other, stress builds up at the point they touch this is released in a sudden strong movement- tectonic plates jump position causing tremors. 

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Explanations of misfortune: Religion

Christianity: St Augustine: evil is not actually a thing but the lack of goodness. God does not want to force us to be good. He has given us free will to choose what to do. God is not responsible for making evil, it is caused by people making the wrong choices: it has been like this since Adam and Eve decided to disobey God in the garden of Eden. Weakness: Humans free will does not create natural disasters, does not explain disease. 

Sikh and Hinduism: the result of karma. Evil and suffering is the result of actions in your previous life. The response you give when facing evil and suffering is more important than any explanation you give for it. Weakness: there is no evidence and this could lead to blaming an individual when in fact the cause was outside factors. 

Islam: Life is a test. Allah wants his followers to grow and learn through their lives. Evil and suffering are all part of the test that is life. If we respond well to the test then we will be rewarded. Weakness: this is unfair and unjust to put individuals, particularly the vulnerable and innocent through a testing time. Far too harsh and innocent people can die with no time to learn from their mistakes.

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Explanations of misfortune: The azande

Witchcraft = the use of psychic power alone to cause harm to others 

The Azande of southern Sudan believe that witches possess an inherited substance that leaves their bodies at night and gradually eats away at the flesh and internal organs of their victims. Witches, as well as their victims, are considered unfortunate because the Azande believe that a person can be a witch without knowing it. Witches can do nothing to rid themselves permanently of their power, although they can be forced to stop bewitching some particular individual by overcoming their bad feelings against their victim. 

To see if witchcraft is involved they consult oracles- however test done is based on chance- feeding chicks poison. 

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Explanations of misfortune: Trobriand Islanders

The Trobriand Islanders distinguish among three types of knowledge. First there is knowledge of things in the everyday world, which is shared by all or a large group of adult members of the society. This is what a child learns from his or her parents and may be appropriate to one or the other gender. For example, boys might learn how to garden, and girls might learn how to weave mats. This isput to use in the everyday activities that are a part of the normal pattern of living. A second form of knowledge is more specialized and is shared with a limited number of individuals. This includes expert knowledge that is necessary for task specializations, such as sailing or woodcarving. This form also includes knowledge of particular magical rituals that tend to be learned by many members of the society. The highest level includes knowledge of the most complex and valued technological skills, such as canoe building, as well as knowledge of myths, songs, and dances. These skills are important to the community, and a person who has such skills is called tokabitam, “man with knowledge.” This level of knowledge includes knowledge of important magic, such as rain magic and garden magic. This knowledge is of great importance to the community, and the relatively few people who possess such knowledge are very important people, in terms of both prestige and wealth, because the services of such people are paid for.

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Explanations of misfortune: why magic

Tylor addressed the question of why people believe that magic works. The answer is because magic appears never to fail. There are several reasons for this. First, magic often attempts to bring about events that will occur naturally. Rain magic works because it will eventually rain. Rain magic often is performed at the end of the dry season, when rain is badly needed. Of course, the onset of rains normally follows the end of the dry season.

 In our society over 90 percent of all illnesses, including colds and fevers, will eventually disappear, with or without treatment. Therefore in the vast majority of illnesses a cure will naturally follow the ritual. 

Of course, if you do not get the expected results, it could be because you did not do it right; the failure is with the magician, not the magic. In fact, if the belief is that the ritual must be performed without error for it to succeed, failure of the ritual is direct evidence that the magician made an error. 

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Thinking and communicating: postmodern

All knowledge is relative and absolute truth is not possible. Science and witchcraft are simply alternative metanarratives and the only basis to choose between them is personal preference. There is no objective criteria to prove whether a theory is true. Therefore, any theory is just someones version of reality. Weakness: by assuming all theories are equally true, it becomes just as valid to deny the Nazi's murdered millions as to affirm it. 

Malinowski- religion has a psychotherapeutic quality- it gives individuals social support in confronting the anxiety they feel facing life challenges. 

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