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Homeostasis and Religious Behaviour

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The classic dichotomy between bodily and cognitive processes has survived in scientific thought and can still be seen undiminished in the classic paradigm of the cognitive sciences. Lately, however, the notion of amodal cognitive systems has been challenged by new insights. More and more findings from neurobiological and perceptual studies support the assumption that cognitive processes solely rely on the brain's modal activities – even the most complex ones. Discarding amodal systems, however, would have profound effects not only on the cognitive sciences, but also on the broader study of human behaviour. During the last two decades, cognitivist theories have made their entrance into humanistic studies, including the study of religion. Thus, in discarding one of the basic premises of the cognitive paradigm, as I argue in this article, could lead to a radical rethinking of the science of religion. I will argue that the body and its sensory-motor modalities are not only the mind's representational base, but also encompass the intentionality behind human behaviour in general and religious behaviour in particular. I will call this intentionality homeostatic intentionality, as it has to do with the self-regulation and optimization of the organism. Ignoring physiological activities, including homeostatic ones, in the mind's complex cognitive processes is unfortunately a characteristic of classic cognitivist theories, and this negligence, it seems to me, rules out a satisfying and realistic account of religious behaviour.

Affiliations: 1: Department of the Study of Religion, University of Aarhus, DK-8000 Århus C, Denmark


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