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Because of this, Plato finds it odd that humans devote so much time and energy to pursuing external goods and so little to achieving internal goods. Second, Ancient Greek ethics is usually interpreted as egoistic in the sense that ethical inquiry centers on the question of what is the best life for an individual.

In this framework, discussions about why one should become virtuous are put in terms of how virtue relates to well-being. In other words, the Ancient Greek ethicists argue that we have self-regarding reasons to become virtuous; namely, that virtue will help us live a successful and happy life. With this in mind, it makes sense that Plato would think that we are obligated to care for the soul and body, since the good life requires it. Third, it is worth bearing in mind that the main ethical theories today have self-regarding features built into them and thus this idea is not entirely unique to Plato and other Ancient Greek ethicists.

The three main ethical theories today are virtue ethics advocated by Plato , deontology, and consequentialism. After expressing that citizens ought to care for others, the Athenian offers a fascinating argument in defense of the virtuous life. The crux of the argument is that vice leads to emotional extremes, while virtue leads to emotional stability. Because emotional extremes are painful, it follows that the virtuous life will be more pleasant ee.

The Athenian aims to show that the virtuous life will lead to more pleasure than pain. In doing this, he hopes to undermine the all too common thought, that the life of vice, though morally bad, is still enjoyable. The remainder of Book 5 returns to discussing the structure of Magnesia. This discussion covers a wide array of topics, which include: the selection of citizens ae , the distribution of land cd and a , the population eb and ba , religion ce , the ideal state ae , the four property classes bb , administrative units of the state be , the flexibility of the law in light of facts ed , the importance of mathematics dd , and the influence of the climate de.

The main philosophical ideas in this part of the book are covered in sections 3 and 4 above. With the geography and population of Magnesia established, the Athenian begins to describe the various offices in the city and the electoral process ae. The electoral process is quite complicated and difficult to understand, but typically has four stages: nomination, voting, casting lots, and scrutiny. All citizens who have served or are serving in the military will nominate candidates by writing their names on publicly displayed tablets. During this time, they are permitted to erase any names they find unsuitable.

The names that appear most frequently will be assembled into a list from which citizens will cast their votes. This process will then repeat; the names of citizens who have the most votes will be assembled into another list. From this list, lots will be drawn to determine who gets the position. If the selected names pass scrutiny, they will be declared elected. One might wonder what value casting lots adds to the electoral process, especially since the practice is no longer that common. The idea is that if all citizens are equal, then they all equally deserve to hold office; thus, the only fair procedure would be to have the office chosen randomly.

To have citizens vote for a candidate, is to admit that some citizens are more qualified than others. Hence, the inclusion of lot casting is a concession to the egalitarian sentiment found in democracies. Arithmetic equality treats everyone as equal and corresponds to the lot, while geometric equality treats everyone based on their nature and abilities and corresponds more closely to voting.

The Athenian maintains that geometric equality is the true form of equality since humans have different natures and to treat them as equal is actually a form of inequality. However, most citizens will not see things this way and thus the inclusion of the lot is a way to avoid dissension. There are various offices described in Book 6, but three are worthy of note: the assembly, the council, and the guardians of the law. The assembly is open to all citizens who are serving or have served in the military.

The main function is to elect members of the council and other officials, though there are other functions b, a, ea, c-d, 8. The council comprises ninety members from each property class, totaling members. The membership lasts one year and the main function is to conduct the day to day business of the state such as supervising elections and organizing the assembly bd.

The guardians of the law are made up of thirty-seven citizens aged at least fifty. They will hold the position for at least twenty years and their primary function is to guard the law b. They guard the law by supervising both officials and ordinary citizens, by helping resolve difficult judicial cases, and by supplementing and revising the law.

The conversation abruptly shifts to the topic of marriage and child-rearing, with an aside on slavery. In continuing with his emphasis on moderation and mixed constitutions, the Athenian encourages people to marry partners who have opposite characteristics. Although people are attracted to those who are like them, citizens will be encouraged to put the good of the state above their own preferences. However, because citizens will find such laws to be excessively restrictive, the Athenian only wants to encourage, but not require, citizens to marry people with opposite qualities ca.

If male citizens do not marry by the age of thirty-five, they will be subject to fines and dishonors. These laws might strike one as rather draconian; nonetheless, one should keep in mind three things. First, the marriage laws in Magnesia are inspired by actual practices in Crete and Sparta. In the Republic , the guardians will consider each appropriately aged person of the opposite sex to be their spouse.

Mating will be arranged by using a lottery. However, the lottery is rigged such that a select few will actually be controlling the sexual relationships so as to avoid incest, control the population, and implement eugenics Republic 5. Of course, Plato does not provide the details of the marriage laws surrounding the working class citizens and for all we know these might have been similar to the ones in Magnesia.

Third, for his time, Plato is actually progressive in his views of women. In Book 6, the Athenian advocates for the inclusion of women in the practice of common meals, an inclusion that Aristotle lists as something peculiar to Plato Politics 2. The Athenian emphasizes that a city cannot flourish unless all citizens receive a proper education. Traditional Greek education involved both musical and gymnastic training. Musical education includes all of the subjects of the Muses, subjects such as music, poetry, and mathematics.

Gymnastics is education related to physical activity. It includes things like military training and sports. Education, for Plato, mostly comes in the form of play and its importance cannot be overstated. The poetry and theatre allowed in Magnesia will mostly present images and sounds that provide positive moral lessons ed, bd. The underlying idea behind these restrictions is that humans will develop characteristics of the people they observe in poetry and theatre. If they see bad people doing well or acting as cowards, they will be more inclined to become bad and cowardly.

There is a notable exception, however, in that comedy will be allowed as long as it is performed by slaves or foreigners d-e. First, the policies reflect the view that the character we develop is largely shaped by what we find pleasurable and painful. The art and entertainment in the city should be such that we take pleasure in good and beautiful things and are pained by bad and ugly things.

Second, the inclusion of comedy reflects the lessons of the discussion concerning drunkenness; we can only learn to resist doing shameful behavior if we have some exposure to it. All Magnesians will learn basic mathematics, with some advancing to study astronomy. This is significant because in the Republic , Plato says that it is through mathematics that we come to learn about non-sensible properties, which are the subject of philosophical thought 7. In the Republic , this study is commonly thought to be reserved for the most elite and talented citizens, while in the Laws a portion of it is given to the entire citizen body.

This suggests that, on some level, all Magnesians will have some awareness of philosophy. Physical education aims at achieving two things: 1 the development of good character traits and 2 military training. Because physical education is meant to provide military training, sports will be modified to emphasize this. For example, impractical and unrealistic techniques will be forbidden a, e, and d and armed competitions will be emphasized ea. For example, the Athenian insists that fetuses and infants must constantly be moved around so that their excessive fears and anxieties are purged bd.

Second, the Athenian maintains that humans take on the characteristics of the things that they imitate. Dancers will become graceful and courageous by imitating graceful and courageous movements, while they will become the opposite by imitating the opposite ee. The evil doer actually desires what is good, so when they act wrongly, they are not doing what they actually want to do Protagoras a-c; Gorgias b; Meno 77eb. We can break this paradoxical view into two claims:. Ignorance Thesis : All wrongdoing is the result of ignorance. In Book 9 of the Laws , Plato will grapple with both claims.

On the one hand, the Athenian is adamant that the involuntary thesis is true, but on the other hand, he acknowledges that all lawgivers seem to deny it. Lawgivers treat voluntary wrongdoing as a more severe punishment than involuntary wrongdoing. Moreover, the concept of punishment seems to presuppose that the criminals are responsible for their actions and this seems to presuppose that they act voluntarily when they act unjustly. The Athenian, thus, faces a dilemma: he must either abandon the involuntary thesis or he must explain how the involuntary thesis is able to preserve the underlying thought in law that some crimes are accidental and others are not cd.

The Athenian refuses to abandon the involuntary thesis and attempts to resolve this difficulty by offering a distinction between injury and injustice. Injury explores what kind of harms were done to the victim and what the criminal owes to the victim, their family, or the state. Injustice explores the psychological conditions under which the crime was committed.

He mentions three main conditions: anger thumos , pleasure, and ignorance bc. Although there is much scholarly debate surrounding this issue, the general idea appears to be that a criminal can harm someone voluntarily or involuntarily, but can never be unjust voluntarily. For example, I might intentionally bump my coffee cup so that it spills on your computer or I might accidentally do this. The former is a voluntary harm, while the latter is an involuntary harm. Accordingly, the former should be punished more severally than the latter. Nevertheless, even in the instance when I voluntarily damage your computer, I am not voluntarily unjust.

This is because no one desires what is bad for them and injustice is bad for one, so no one desires injustice. If I truly knew what was good or was not overcome by pleasure or anger, I would not engage in vicious behavior because my soul would be just. Thus, Plato wants to preserve the voluntary thesis, while abandoning or qualifying the ignorance thesis by allowing for the possibility that anger and pleasure can move one to act unjustly.

However, when discussing voluntary and involuntary injustice the terms are used in the Socratic sense, reflecting what an agent deeply desires and wishes. Hence, the ordinary sense only refers to conscious psychological states, while the Socratic sense can refer to unconscious states or what is entailed by desiring the good. Punishment must not simply look to the harm that is caused, but must look to the psychological state under which injury resulted.

An agent who deliberates and then kills someone should not be treated the same as someone who kills someone in anger or as the result of some unforeseen accident. The purpose of the former is rather self-explanatory, but more needs to be said about the latter. As the Athenian explained in Book 1, the purpose of legal codes is to make citizens happy. Since, happiness is linked to virtue, the law must try to make citizens virtuous. Seeing punishment as curative is really just an extension of this idea to the criminal.

If justice is a healthy state of the soul, then injustice is a disease of the soul in need of curing via punishment. For passages that express this idea, see 5. Unfortunately, the Athenian never explains how particular punishments will achieve this goal. Punishment will take six forms: death, corporal punishment, imprisonment, exile, monetary penalties, and dishonors.

It is worth pointing out that the use of imprisonment as punishment in Greek society appears to be an innovation of Plato. One might wonder how capital punishment is compatible with a curative theory of punishment. The answer is that some people are beyond cure and death is best for them and the city da. For Plato, psychological harmony, virtue, and well-being are all interconnected. Accordingly, the completely vicious who cannot be cured will always be in a state of psychological disharmony and will never flourish. Death is better than living in such a condition.

Book 10 is probably the most studied and best known part of the Laws. The Book concerns the laws of impiety of which there are three varieties b :. Deism : The belief that the gods exist but are indifferent to human affairs. Traditional Theism : The belief that the gods exist and can be bribed. The Athenian believes that these impious beliefs threaten to undermine the political and ethical foundation of the city.

Because of this, the lawgiver must attempt to persuade the citizens to abandon these false beliefs. If citizens refuse, they must be punished. Clinias is surprised that atheists exist. This is because he thinks that it is well agreed by Greek and non-Greeks that certain visible celestial bodies are gods e. The Athenian takes Clinias to be too dismissive of atheists, attributing their belief to a lack of self-control and desire for pleasure a-b. The Athenian explains that the cause of atheism is not a lack of self-control, but, rather, a materialistic cosmology ea.

Atheists believe that the origins of the cosmos are basic elemental bodies randomly interacting with each other via an unintelligent process. Craft, which is an intelligent process, only comes into effect later once humans are created. There are two types of craft. First, there are those that cooperate with natural processes and are useful such as farming. Second, there are those that do not cooperate with natural processes and are useless such as law and religion. Hence, Atheists hold that the cosmos is directed via blind random chance and things like religion and law are products of useless crafts.

The Athenian responds by defending an alternative cosmology, which reverses the priority of soul and matter. Readers should be warned that the argument is obscure, difficult, and probably invalid; let this merely serve as a sketch of the main moves in it. The Athenian begins by explaining that there are two types of motions. The first motion cannot be a transmitted motion or else there would have to be an infinite series of transmitted motion e. Additionally, imagine, for instance, that there was a complete rest, the only thing that could initiate motion again would be self-motion a-b.

Thus, the first motion must be self-motion c. Having established that the first cause is self-motion, the Athenian examines the nature of self-motion. He argues that a thing that moves itself must be said to be alive and whatever has a soul is alive c. In fact, the definition of soul is motion capable of moving itself ea. From this he concludes that soul is the first source of movement and change in everything and is prior to material things c-d.

The Athenian asserts that if soul is prior to material bodies, then the attributes of soul such as true belief and calculation are also prior to material things d. Since soul is the cause of all things, it follows that it is the cause of both good and bad d. The Athenian concludes that since the soul dwells in and governs all moving things, it must govern the universe d-e.

The argument is not yet complete, however. At this point, even if the argument is sound, it does not establish that there are gods. At best, it only shows that there is at least one or two souls responsible for the motions in the world. The Athenian must show that the qualities that this self-moving soul possesses are divine and worthy of being called a god.


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This is what he does next by connecting the rationality of the soul with the divine and virtue bb. The argument raises a number of interpretative and philosophical questions. What is the nature of this bad soul and why does Plato include it? Most commentators have denied that the bad soul is anything like the devil; some hold it is cosmic evil in the universe generally, while others maintain it is located in humans. The inclusion of this issue is related to the problem of evil. The general worry is that if the world is governed by a rational, powerful, and good god or gods , what explains the inclusion of evil in the world?

Why would a rational, powerful, and good god allow for evil? Plato offers various answers. For example, in the Timaeus 42ed , evil is said to come from disorderly movements associated with necessity, in the Theaetetus a-b , evil is said to come from mortals, and in the Statesman ca , evil is said to come from god releasing control.

Accordingly, the Laws is unique in that evil is explicitly tied to the soul. How we understand the nature of this evil soul will explain whether the view articulated in the Laws is compatible or incompatible with these other texts. Having taking himself to refute atheism, the Athenian takes on deism and traditional theism. He notes that some youths have come to believe that the gods do not care about human affairs because they have witnessed bad people living good lives db. The Athenian responds to this charge by arguing that the gods know everything, are all powerful, and are supremely good d-e.

Now if the gods could neglect humans it would be through ignorance, lack of power, or vice.

However, because the gods clearly are not like this, the gods must care about the affairs of humans ea. However, the Athenian recognizes that not everyone will be moved by this argument and offers a myth that he hopes will persuade doubters bd. The myth declares that each part of the cosmos was put together with a mind towards the well-being of the whole cosmos and not any single part.

Humans go wrong in thinking that the cosmos is created for them; in reality, humans are created for the good of the cosmos. After this, the Athenian describes a process of reincarnation in which good souls are transferred to better bodies and bad souls to worse bodies. Thus, the unjust will wind up with bad lives and the just will wind up with good lives in the end. Ancient ethical theories are often criticized as being too egoistic; that is, they overly focus on the happiness of the individual and not on the contribution to the happiness of others.

However, this myth reveals that, at least for Plato in the Laws , this is inaccurate. The myth moves individuals away from their own selfish concerns to the good of everyone generally. After this, the Athenian swiftly dismisses traditional theism. He maintains that the gods are rulers since they manage the heavens e. But what type of earthly rulers do the gods resemble? If traditional theism were true, the gods would resemble petty and greedy rulers a-e. But this is an absurd conception of the gods, who are the greatest of all things b.

Hence, traditional theism must be wrong. It is easy enough to see why the deist and traditional theist pose a threat. If the gods are indifferent to human affairs or can be persuaded, then either the gods do not care about citizens disobeying the law or they can be bribed out of caring. It is less clear why the Athenian is concerned about atheists, however.

Whatever the answer is, it is clear that Plato thinks that belief in god is in some way tied to thinking that morality is objective. This is a surprising stance in light of the claims put forth in the Euthyphro in which it is argued that ethical truths do not depend on the gods. Book 11 and the beginning of 12 discuss various laws, which only have a loose relation to each other. Most of this section is relatively self-explanatory and does not warrant additional comment. This section addresses: property law ac , commercial law da , family law ad , and miscellaneous laws ec.

The function of scrutineers is to audit the officials of the city and to punish them when necessary. The scrutineers play an essential role in the system of checks and balances in Magnesia. But what ensures that the scrutineers themselves are not corrupt? To ensure that the scrutineers are not themselves corrupt, they must be citizens with proven reputation for good character and capable of approaching matters impartially.

However, if an official feels they are being unfairly treated by a scrutineer, they can accuse the scrutineers and a trial will be held to determine the truth. The nocturnal council is an elite group of elderly citizens, who have proven their worth by winning honors and have traveled abroad to learn from other states. The nocturnal council plays three roles in the city. First, they will be in charge of supplementing and revising the law in light of changing circumstances, while still keeping with the original spirit of the law.

Second, the nocturnal council will study the ethical principles underlying the law. This involves studying the nature of virtue itself, discovering the ways in which the individual virtues of moderation, courage, wisdom and justice are really one Virtue. In addition, members of the nocturnal council will study cosmology and theology. Third, they will explore how these philosophical and theological ideas can be applied to the law.

They are to ensure that, as far as possible, the law is in harmony with the philosophical principles they have learned. How similar they are depends on what kind of authority is granted to the nocturnal council. In the Callipolis, the philosopher rulers have absolute power, but it is far from clear whether this is the case for the nocturnal council. Indeed, it is a subject of much dispute. The difficulty stems from the fact that a few passages suggest that the nocturnal council will be entrusted with unrestricted power 7.

On the christological debate Maluleke says 'in Africa, Christ is the healer, liberator, ancestor, mediator, elder brother, the crucified one, head and master of initiation and the black messiah. Perhaps he should have explained further how Jesus is 'the healer, liberator, ancestor, mediator, elder brother and the crucified one. What are the. Africans doing to Him? This begs the question whether there is still room for him to transform African life. Maluleke points out:. In response he puts forward a view of how Africans have appropriated him. But does Jesus need any appropriation or is it human teaching that needs to be appropriated by their relationship with him?

Maluleke indicates that 'Africans have done a lot to Jesus, perhaps as much as He is supposed to have done to them. There is a need for African theologies to focus on what he has done for Africans! African theology has focused persistently on the evils of Europeans and their culture against the culture of Africa. This has been done consciously or unconsciously at the expense of God's revelation and relationship with Africans through Jesus Christ. Maluleke makes the assurance that there is only one Jesus who cannot be duplicated. In other words, the Jesus who is being presented by Africans is the same as the one Paul of Tarsus preached when he said 'I preach Christ and Him crucified.

The old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new' 2 Cor , KJV 1? In African theology it seems that when Christ is in Africa, he becomes one of the ancestors. If Christ becomes one of the ancestors, what is the position of God the Father? If Jesus becomes an ancestor to the people, does the Father become an ancestor to the Son? If that is the case, then there is a question about the position of the Holy Spirit. Somewhere the boundaries of the Christian faith are tested.

Jesus as an ancestor. Mbiti cites expressions that are often used by African people when they speak of dying, namely: 'going to one's Fathers', 'going home', 'be taken away or be received', 'departed'. Amongst other things, Mbiti claims that 'there are mountains, rivers and trees; those who have died as babies continue to grow; God is the Originator and Sustainer of all things', and this includes the living dead and the spirits. At the point of death a person becomes part of the 'living dead' and joins other members of his or her household who have preceded him or her in the spirit world.

This person would from time to time visit the family. Mbiti states that some may see the person and some may not. Those who are lucky enough to see the person are the elderly. However, the revelation of God is not based on luck but on grace and is for all generations and age groups. Luck suggests that only a few can 'see', depending on how lucky they may be, but the grace of God is for all. There is no fear whatsoever concerning the presence of the person. The person does not inform the family about the world of the spirits. After three to five generations, when no one in the family is there to recognise him or her, the living-dead person changes and becomes a spirit.

When Jesus died on the cross He went to meet others. Those who accept Jesus and partake in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are to be joined with the spiritual world. Water baptism is symbolised as death - 'the sacramental death when baptising a person is regarded as the doorway into the New Testament world of the spirit' Mbiti Mbiti further explains that the saints commune with God and the whole of heaven. The Christian practice of sharing the Eucharist, eating the body of Christ and drinking his blood, is regarded to be the same as Africans sharing their meal with the living dead ancestors.

In Christianity the two worlds of the living and the living dead overlap in Jesus Christ, and the goal is to transform and emulate the numerous African traditions that are associated with Jesus. Beyers and Mphahlele began their work by relating to what an ancestor is, whilst Afeke and Venter explain what African views concerning ancestor veneration are. But the concern here is about Jesus as an ancestor. In the work of Afeke and Venter he is seen as 'the supreme ancestor'.

Since a person according to the beliefs of ATR becomes an ancestor after death, and Jesus continued to speak and eat after his death, this qualifies him to be an ancestor. The suggestion is that 'African Christians be encouraged to communicate with their ancestors within the context of the Eucharist. It is believed that human beings have Jesus as their ancestor and, similarly, Jesus has God.

Christ and those who died are united as one family. Mogoba and Mekoa presented a paper at the Theological Society of South Africa in June , titled: 'Saints, martyrs and ancestors: An African reflection on the communion of the living and the dead. In ATR God is understood to be an intangible, invisible phenomenon able to penetrate and defuse things.

God is extremely great and far removed from humankind and therefore ancestors act as mediators between them and God. This poses the question as to why God sent his Son to die an incredibly painful and shameful death in order to bring humankind back to him, when there was such an easy way, namely through the ancestors. Talk about trinity in Africa. The African perspective of the Holy Trinity is formulated without a clearly defined role and position for Jesus Christ.

The human context plays a significant role when doing biblical studies, so sin is not viewed in terms of the Africans standing in a relation to God; the focus is rather the wrongs that were perpetuated by colonisers and oppressors upon Africans.

Maybe this is the reason that not many African theologians attempt to discuss the triune God. To make up for this lack, this study will turn to a brief investigation of three theologians, namely Ogbonnaya , Nyamiti and Kombo Ogbonnaya: Communitarian divinity. The work of Ogbonnaya is titled On communitarian divinity: An African interpretation of the Trinity. He applies his mind to the community which is the basis of relationships for Africans and he makes some links with the plurality of God within the Trinity. According to Ogbonnaya 'communality, relationality and fundamental interconnection underlie the African mode of seeing and being in the world.

Ogbonnaya approaches the Trinity from the position of 'many', as in community. The challenge he faces is what kind of community to focus on. He picks up the concept of relationship from interacting with other scholars. Ogbonnaya speaks of 'rural communities where personal relationships are characterised, explained and guided by traditional rules. There are also some who view community as events that join people together, not social groups. Individuals may be connected by the spirit, Ogbonnaya says , pointing to a common human nature.

There is no community without the past and the future. Historical events are shared by the community that anticipates a common goal for the future, paying attention to an African-centred perspective on community and interpretation. Ogbonnaya contends that:.

Ogbonnaya further acknowledges that 'in the context of African people they are surrounded not by things but by beings the metaphysical world is loaded with. In the African context the relationships go beyond the material world. There is recognition of the extended family and the community, but the relationships transcend geographical boundaries. African life is lived in daily recognition of the ancestors. These relationships between human beings and their ancestors are recognised as openness to the divine. Ogbonnaya further explains that the community is not just a state but a process of being in the world, a process that includes the past, the present and the future.

He states that it is within the context of the community that revelation takes place. Ogbonnaya in his discussion of African divinity introduces a debate about 'the one and the many. The first position deals with monotheism, the second deals with polytheism.

He draws out a third which he calls a community of gods. Ogbonnaya argues that there is no such thing as 'monotheistic radicalism in ATRs'. He regards any African who holds the monotheistic position as being influenced by the West. He believes that those scholars with Western influence accept the concept of God as absolutely personalistic and they continue to speak of the high or great God. He considers the term monotheism to be foreign to ATR.

He is dismayed with many African scholars who try to present the existence of an absolute monotheism of a singular personalistic deity in ATRs. He attacks the idea of the Supreme Being because it has a reference to one Superior Person. The use of the name Supreme Being can be used for any other being based on experience and it does not reveal the character of God.

Some kinds of experiences may cause a name change for that Being. Ogbonnaya believes that the greatness of any particular God depends on the experience of the individual addressing that God. This idea of a Supreme God has a negative influence on the worship and recognition of other gods. It seems to be unable to relate and communicate feelings.

Since names like Supreme God 'can convey an idea of a God who is incapable of having children or incapable of being in close familiar relationships', such a one cannot be truly God, according to Ogbonnaya He continues to say that 'a god incapable of working within a community of beings of similar substance would be highly suspect. Therefore, it is ATR's belief that God cannot be alone or singular because he has to have a community. In trying to avoid the word polytheism Ogbonnaya uses the term 'a plurality of gods'. If ATR recognises the worship of other gods, is this not the same as polytheism?

According to Ogbonnaya 'polytheism is that which separates the divine nature into many disparate parts. For Ogbonnaya the use of the terms monotheism and polytheism does not do justice to ATR. Because monotheism and polytheism are inadequate, Ogbonnaya introduces a third category, namely 'divine as community', as a more adequate way of conceiving of and explaining divinity in African contexts. He further explains that 'divine communalism is the position that the divine is a community of gods who are fundamentally related to one another and are ontologically equal.

According to the information so far given the two terms, monotheism and polytheism, are inadequate and cannot do justice to and be used within ATR. The names that are used, such as Supreme Being, Holy One, and Father of all cannot properly define the African understanding of God and have come about as an influence from the West. To move from monotheism and polytheism the term that seems to define the African understanding of God is divine communalism. By bringing in the concept of communalism, Ogbonnaya attempts to bring an understanding of the relationship amongst the gods and the gods with humanity.

Ogbonnaya indicates that 'plurality is not in opposition to the concept of oneness but it is inclusive of all of the gods. He says a god does not cease to be of the same nature with other gods, even if that god has been chosen to represent the rest, because one god is inextricably related to the other gods by virtue of a shared divine nature. The divine community may sound attractive but it may not mean anything. In polytheism the gods are many but their identity seems to be known.

Time and space is not enough to deal with gods from the ancient Near East and their names. The three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam have an identity for their God, but the divine community seems to have unidentified gods. Ogbonnaya claims 'that there may be a great god among the gods, is unquestionably African, but that this god is the only true god, is not African.

Africans also accept the concept of oneness but it is in the context of others. The names used for the recognition of one amongst the many is, Mulungu, Nzambi, Nkulunkulu, Modimo, Xikwenbu and so on. Ogbonnaya is concerned that the views as to how these two concepts one and many are related to each other have not been thoroughly examined. For him the oneness is the power which he calls 'a single all-pervasive power'.

Ogbonnaya also maintains that the ancestors are never considered gods. Who then are these gods in Ogbonnaya's divine community? Nyamiti: Ancestor and descendant. At this point it is appropriate to bring Nyamiti into the discussion, because he also discusses the doctrine of the Trinity from the perspective of the African Traditional Religion's concept of ancestors. We will mention a few points about the cult of ancestors in Africa, even though there is no uniform system of beliefs.

Nevertheless, the cult belongs to the majority of the African people. Nyamiti claims that the reason Africans desire to have many children is 'because by naming a child after the name of an ancestor, the spirit continues living within that family. By death an ancestor enters the life of sacred superhuman status, but the power of the ancestor is only linked to the family where the living enjoy the benefit of the dead, as long as they keep on venerating that ancestor.

Nyamiti is of the view that 'the concept of ancestors conveys the understanding that the worth of any human or religious value transcends time and place. Nyamiti urges that 'Africans should be taught to consider any authentic cultural values from any African society as belonging to him or her. He speaks of African theology founded on common cultural elements, but that does not lead to uniformity in African theology.

Scholars will always have different approaches in their theological reflection. The question is how does one link God and the ancestors?

Plato’s Aesthetics

Ogbonnaya focused on the community of divinity, but Nyamiti focuses on the family and culture. In a family, one is born within a relationship. Since there is communication amongst individuals within the family, Nyamiti argues the same for the divine familiy, namely that 'the communication being through begetting, the only form of mutual contact between these two persons is that which takes place through the Holy Spirit. Another point that distinguishes Nyamiti from Ogbonnaya is the acknowledgement of one Supreme Being, which contrasts with that of the community of the divine favoured by Ogbonnaya.

Nyamiti reveals the closeness of the ancestors to the Supreme Being. This is also in contrast with Ogbonnaya's position who does not accept that Africans worship their ancestors. In addition, Nyamiti argues that, owing to their superhuman condition and nearness to the Creator, the ancestors are sometimes considered mediators between the Supreme Being and their earthly kin, with the result that the living relatives only turn to the Supreme Being as a last resort. The living receive benefits from their ancestors, such as protection from sickness, long life, great wealth or many children.

In return the ancestors demand loyalty from the living relatives in the form of prayers and rituals. In some communities the Creator is regarded as an ancestor. Applying the category of the relationship between the living relatives and the ancestors, Nyamiti further explores the relationships within the Trinity. Nyamiti says that the Father and the Son communicate the Holy Spirit to each other with ancestral gifts and oblations as a token of their mutual love, homage and gratitude.

He says that God the Father is, analogically speaking, the ancestor and ancestress of his Son and the latter is his true Descendant. Kombo: African names. Kombo starts his article by investigating the work of Idowu, Mbiti and Setiloane. He also inquires about African gods before the arrival of missionaries.

He argues that the missionaries ignored the African pre-Christian experience of God. This approach brought questions about the relationship between the African God and the Christian God. When the Bible was translated into African languages, local names were used for God. According to Kombo , the true significance of this kind of conceptualisation is that the God of the African pre-Christian tradition has turned out to be the God of Christian worship. It is unclear, however, whether Christianity was a way to help Africans to discover the God of pre-Christian history or whether it made Africans repent and turn towards the God of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Kombo concludes that when Africans use African names for God, its trinitarian character is accepted and in this way the African God is Christianised and the African religious heritage obtains a Christian meaning. Just like Nyamiti , Kombo recognises monotheism in Africa.

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He notices that pre-Christian Africa had a form of monotheism that has been called primitive monotheism or diffused monotheism. But he denies the concept of polytheism. Kombo maintains that 'pre-Christian African religious consciousness had no place for polytheism, meaning that there was no worship of many gods. He adds that spirits are spirits of the people who have died, not of gods. Kombo proposes 'a modified monotheism where Christ and the Holy Spirit shall be situated in the centre of primitive monotheism.

He does not adopt too much terminology and categories from African Traditional Religion such as ancestors and other divinities, but recognises the role and position of the Son and the Holy Spirit. All scholars writing from an African perspective interpret the Trinity in an African way.

So far three different approaches have been discussed, namely, 1 Ogbonnaya recognises the Trinity as a community of divinity and rejects both monotheism and polytheism; 2 Nyamiti recognises God as the ancestor who has an ancestral relationship with his son, whilst 3 Kombo explores the African names employed for the divine in African languages and claims that in those names the Trinity is implied.

All three avoid using Jesus as a means towards the doctrine of the Trinity.

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Kombo , who can be regarded as a new approach to the debate, even tries not to involve the ancestral category whilst providing a very insignificant space for the incarnation. The focus now turns to the closing discussions of the three African theologians. Beginning with Ogbonnaya, one realises that he is strong on the matter of the relationship within the community. Ogbonnaya discusses the term dispositio and considers it 'closer to the African concept of intergenerative interconnection based on a never-ceasing belonging within the community that fosters a continual and unbroken communication.

The explanation of the word dispositio suggests the incarnation rather than the Trinity, because it is the internal relation between the various dimensions of a person: the body, soul and spirit. But, if the dimensions of a person are only body and soul due to the dualistic approach of some of the church fathers, what about the spirit? Using African categories, Nyamiti regards the Father as an ancestor who begets a Son, thus calling him a descendant, and the Holy Spirit as a gift from the Father to the Son. Nyamiti argues that:. From what has been pointed out concerning the relationship between the living family and the departed ancestor, the implication is that one of them has to be in the world of the living and the other one in the world of the dead.

If God the Father is regarded as an ancestor, he had to die first. In reality it is the Son who died. The relationship of a descendant and the ancestor suggests a form of hierarchy which was the position of the heretics in the early church. During the time of the church fathers when the Holy Spirit was regarded as a gift or an oblation, as an expression of the love between Father and Son, it made the Spirit just a property or an object to be used.

Then both the Son and the Holy Spirit lose their position of equality with the Father, which the Cappadocian Fathers advanced. He has moved from the approach of Jesus as an ancestor and liberator to Jesus as being God according to the Scriptures. Kombo departs from the African position that says that salvation and deliverance belong to God. He declares that the Bible states that salvation and deliverance belong to Christ. If Kombo would be one of the Cappadocian Fathers, he would use the Father rather than just God and he would hold that salvation belongs to the triune God.

To say that God is a spirit is first and foremost scriptural. Kombo explains that pre-Christian Africa also perceived God as a spiritual being without a material body. The African conceptual framework has spirits as a special category Kombo The challenge is an adequate interpretation and translation from the English to the African languages of words like spirit, wind and breath. In English wind is not the same as spirit. Moya is the word used by most South African languages. The spirit is moya, the wind is moya and breath is moya.

There is also the challenge of how to convey the meaning of Holy, because it is similar to pure. The African response to the creeds. The creeds are officially a product of the church and are therefore part of Christian tradition. The African Christian community of faith needs to take ownership of the creeds, especially the Nicene Creed. Historically the debate on the nature of Jesus Christ, his position and relationship with the Father, began here in Africa.

In addition, it has been stated that the term Trinity came from one of the sons of Africa, Tertullian. The question is what resources and categories of thinking can African theologians use? African theologians and scholars like Moila , Kombo and many others use African terms for God like Xikwembu, unKulunkulu and Uthixo. It is assumed that these refer to the God of Christianity. Although Mbiti and others have testified that Africans believe in that God, the debate is on how Africans relate to him and how close he is to Africans and how they perceive his involvement in their lives.

Some like Ogbonnaya have a problem with the term Supreme Being because to them it is not African. We then consider the cultural evolution of the religion—morality relationship. Here we argue that cultural evolution has served to connect the fractionated elements of religion and morality in a cascading myriad of ways, and it is at this level primarily that the religion—morality debate might be most fruitfully focused in future.

MFT is an avowedly pluralistic theory of morality. MFT falls within the latter tradition, proposing that the rich array of culturally constructed moral norms and institutions are triggered and constrained by several universal and innate psychological systems—the eponymous moral foundations. Moral foundations theorists have highlighted five core foundations, giving rise to the following pan-human principles: a care—harm: harming others is wrong, whereas treating others with kindness and compassion is right; b fairness—cheating: people should reap what they sow and not take more than they deserve; c in group loyalty—betrayal: what is good for the community comes above selfish interests; d respect for authority—subversion: we should defer to our elders and betters and respect tradition; and e purity—degradation: the body is a temple and can be desecrated by immoral actions and contaminants.

Moral foundations theorists claim that each of these principles is written into our distinctively human nature, arising from the normal operation of evolved cognitive mechanisms. On the other hand, the moral foundations are conceived as constraining, rather than determining, the types of moral systems that humans construct. One of the major contributions of the moral foundations approach has been to highlight the cultural and political variability in the expression of these foundations. Some cultures construct their moral norms and institutions on a comparatively small subset of foundations.

Although MFT is not without its critics, we regard it as the most fully developed, integrative, and comprehensive theory of morality currently available. Some critics monists dispute pluralism per se. For example, Gray et al. Many have argued that homosexuality is harmful, for instance, harmful to families or to society more generally e.

But Gray et al. Whereas Gray et al. To cite another topical example, the social media service Facebook recently attracted criticism for allowing users to post graphic footage of beheadings, while prohibiting photos of videos containing nudity including images of breastfeeding in which the baby does not totally obscure the nipple or in which the non-nursing breast is in view; see Clark, A final example concerns moral judgments of suicide, the self-directed nature of which poses an apparent problem for Gray et al.

One might argue that people who commit suicide harm others e. However, a recent study by Rottman, Kelemen, and Young casts doubt on this explanation. Participants read a series of fictitious but ostensibly real obituaries describing suicide or homicide victims, and made a series of ratings including rating the moral wrongness of each death.

Whereas perceived harm was the only variable predicting moral judgments of homicide, feelings of disgust and purity concerns—but not harm ratings—predicted moral condemnations of suicide. However, proponents of MFT do not claim that their list of five foundations is exhaustive, but have actively sought out arguments and evidence for others e. Moral foundations theorists have put forward their own celestial analogy to describe the process of identifying foundations:.

There are millions of objects orbiting the sun, but astronomers do not call them all planets. There are six including the Earth that are so visible that they were recorded in multiple ancient civilizations, and then there are a bunch of objects further out that were discovered with telescopes. Astronomers disagreed for a while as to whether Pluto and some more distant icy bodies should be considered planets.

Similarly, we are content to say that there are many aspects of human nature that contribute to and constrain moral judgment, and our task is to identify the most important ones. Graham et al. Using the fairness foundation for illustration, Graham et al. First, the relevant moral concern must feature regularly in third-party normative judgments, wherein people express condemnation for actions that have no direct consequences for them. Fairness certainly satisfies this requirement—as Graham and colleagues note, gossip about group members who violate fairness norms e.

Second, violations of the moral principle in question must elicit rapid, automatic, affectively valenced evaluations. LoBue, Nishida, Chiong, DeLoache, and Haidt found that children as young as 3 years old reacted rapidly and negatively to unequal distributions of stickers, particularly personally disadvantageous distributions.

For Graham et al. Their last three criteria relate to foundationhood per se. First, foundational moral concerns should be culturally widespread. According to Graham et al.

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Second, there should be indicators of innate preparedness for foundational concerns. Moreover, developmental studies show that young infants are sensitive to inequity. For example, Sloane, Baillargeon, and Premack found that month-old children expected an experimenter to reward each of two individuals when both had worked at an assigned task, but not when one of the individuals had done all the work.

Baumard, Mascaro, and Chevallier found that 3- and 4-year-old children were able to take merit into account by distributing tokens according to individual contributions. Finally, an evolutionary model should clearly specify the adaptive advantage conferred by the candidate foundation upon individuals who bore it in the ancestral past as Graham et al.

Fairness meets this criterion nicely. Although Saroglou provides a valuable synthesis of previous taxonomies of core religious dimensions, in our view, the dimensions he settles on Believing, Bonding, Behaving, Belonging do not correspond well to evolved cognitive systems, so are not good candidates for religious foundations. There are at least two important and potentially dissociable supernatural concepts here: the notion of supernatural agency , on the one hand e.

These consequences may be mediated by supernatural agents, as when gods bestow rewards or dispense punishments in this life or the next; but they may also reflect the impersonal unfolding of a cosmic principle e. Moreover, supernatural agents are not necessarily in the business of attending to our behaviors and implementing relevant consequences—as we shall review, gods vary in their concerns with human affairs in general and with moral issues more specifically.

In view of these various considerations, one could posit not one but two distinct dimensions of supernatural belief here: a supernatural agency, and b supernatural justice. Rather than take this route, our preference is to specify a small subset of evolved cognitive systems that, jointly or in isolation, would account for why these dimensions are cross-culturally and historically recurrent.

Here we discuss five strong candidates for religious foundationhood: a a system specialized for the detection of agents ; b a system devoted to representing, inferring, and predicting the mental states of intentional agents; c a system geared toward producing teleofunctional explanations of objects and events; d a system specialized for affiliating with groups through the imitation of causally opaque action sequences; and e a system specialized for the detection of genetic kinship.

Like proponents of MFT, we do not claim that this list is exhaustive, and future research may suggest alternative, or additional, candidates when relevant, we discuss current alternate views. Nevertheless, based on an extensive review of the cognitive science of religion literature, the following represent the most plausible candidates for universal religious foundations, on current evidence.

This logic has been used to undergird an influential claim in the cognitive science of religion. Guthrie has argued that for humans in the ancestral past, mistaking an agent e. Humans should therefore be equipped by natural selection with biased agency-detection mechanisms—what J. HADDs are often described as perceptual mechanisms, devices biased toward the perception of agents in ambiguous stimulus configurations. A by-product of their functioning would be a tendency toward false positives e. A broader conception of HADDs includes attributions of nonrandom structure Bloom, —such as naturally occurring patterns and events with no clear physical cause—to the activity of agents.

In other words, HADDs are a suite of hypothetical devices specialized for perceiving either agents or their effects. Such notions, once posited, would be attention grabbing, memorable, and thus highly transmissible because of their resonance with intuitive cognitive structures such as HADDs J. Barrett, ; J. Indeed, just as the cultural success of high-heeled shoes may owe to the fact that they function as supernormal stimuli insofar as they exaggerate sex specific aspects of female gait; Morris et al. At present, the evidence for a connection between supernatural concepts and beliefs and agency cognition is mixed.

Meanwhile Riekki, Lindeman, Aleneff, Halme, and Nuortimo found that religious believers showed more of a bias than nonbelievers to indicate that photographs of inanimate scenes e.

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In all of these studies, agency detection was a measured variable. As far as we are aware, to date, no published study has investigated whether manipulating cues of agency e. Given the hypothesized causal route whereby agency detection biases predispose humans to acquire beliefs in religious concepts , this may be a fruitful avenue for future research.

For example, functional MRI experiments with religious participants have shown that religious belief Kapogiannis et al. Finally, Norenzayan, Gervais, and Trzesniewski found that autistic participants expressed less belief in God than did matched neurotypical controls.

In follow-up studies using nonclinical samples, these authors found that higher autism scores predicted lower belief in God, a relationship mediated by mentalizing abilities. ToM is also thought to play an important role in afterlife beliefs. It has been suggested, for example, that people spontaneously infer that dead relatives and friends are still present, even in the absence of cultural inputs to support such ideas.

The idea is that although we can simulate the loss of perceptual capacities like sight and hearing simply by covering the relevant organs the eyes and the ears , we cannot simulate the absence of thoughts, desires, memories, and so on. Even people who hold explicitly extinctivist beliefs e. The root of this, Bering argues, is that humans have dedicated cognitive machinery for reasoning about mental states, which, unlike our capacities for reasoning about the mechanical and biological properties of bodies, cannot conceptualize total system failure. For example, participants should be unable to fully appreciate that people lack conscious experiences when under general anesthesia, or that inanimate objects such as carpets and kitchen utensils lack such experiences.

Although we think this is implausible, it is an empirical question whether continuity judgments can be elicited in such scenarios. We note in this connection that recent research on pre life beliefs in Ecuadorian children indicates that, until about 9 to 10 years of age, they ascribe several biological and psychological capacities to their prelife selves; moreover, older children, who ascribe fewer capacities to themselves overall, are still more likely to ascribe certain mental states—in particular, emotional and desire states—to their prelife selves than other mental states e.

Another foundational cognitive predisposition where religion is concerned may be a tendency to favor teleofunctional reasoning. Research by Kelemen and colleagues e. Although it may be tempting to think that this teleological bias is attributable simply to acquisition of a creationist worldview e. If so, this tendency may render notions of intelligent supernatural designers, who have created the world and everything in it for a purpose, especially compelling Kelemen, To the extent that this relational-deictic stance represents a cognitive default, however, it may still serve as a strong foundation for religious cultural notions.

In particular, although we agree with Ojalehto et al. Humans often imitate each other without knowing why—that is, with little or no understanding of how the actions contribute to goals. Causal opacity of this kind is a hallmark feature of ritualized behavior. In rituals, the relationship between actions and stated goals if indeed they are stated at all cannot, even in principle , be specified in physical—causal terms P.

Social anthropologists have often observed that ritual participants are powerless to explain why they carry out their distinctive procedures and ceremonies, appealing only to tradition or the ancestors. Imitation of causally opaque behavior is a distinctively human trait. None of the other great apes shows a marked interest in devising highly stylized procedures and bodily adornments and using these to demarcate and affiliate with cultural groups.

Because rituals lack overt usefulness, most animals would not see any value in copying them. Yet by meticulously conforming to arbitrary social conventions, human groups bind themselves together into cooperative units facilitating cooperation on a scale that is very rare in nature. From an evolutionary perspective, deriving the benefits of group living requires a means of identifying ingroup members the ones you should cooperate with and out-groups people you should avoid or compete with.

One solution is to have a distinctive set of group conventions or rituals of course, there are other means too, e. Indeed, the willingness to copy arbitrary conventions is essential for acquiring language requiring us to accept that arbitrary utterances refer to stable features of the world around us, not because there is a causal relationship between the sound and the thing it refers to, but simply because that is the accepted convention.

Herrmann et al. Inclusive fitness theory predicts that organisms will behave in ways that preferentially benefit kin, with more benefits conferred as the degree of genetic relatedness between the actor and the recipient increases Hamilton, Mechanisms for recognizing and calibrating kinship are critical for such behaviors to evolve and can be classified as one of two broad types: those that exploit direct, phenotypic cues e. According to Lieberman, Tooby, and Cosmides , cues indicative of kinship are taken as input by two separate motivational systems. As Pinker points out, kin recognition in humans depends on cues in particular, linguistic cues that others can manipulate:.

Thus people are also altruistic toward their adoptive relatives, and toward a variety of fictive kin such as brothers in arms, fraternities and sororities, occupational and religious brotherhoods, crime families, fatherlands, and mother countries. These faux families may be created by metaphors, simulacra of family experiences, myths of common descent or common flesh, and other illusions of kinship. Cultural manipulations of kinship detection machinery may be rife in ritualistic behavior. As Saroglou notes, religious rituals serve to bond ritual participants together. Such rituals may accomplish this, in part, by incorporating a range of kinship cues.

First, many religious rituals involve artificial phenotypic cues of kinship—similar costumes, headdress, face paint, and so forth. Second, social synchrony is a key feature of many religious rituals, and has long been hypothesized to promote group cohesion e. Recent experimental studies confirm that synchronic movement increases cooperation among participants. For example, Wiltermuth and Heath found that participants who engaged in synchronic behaviors e. Third, the arousal that many rituals generate may function as a contextual cue to kinship. Xygalatas et al. High-ordeal participants donated significantly more than low-ordeal participants, and higher levels of self-reported pain were associated with greater donations.

A key feature of our approach is to consider whether the fractionated components of morality and religion have overlapping evolutionary histories. As noted earlier, just as there are genetically endowed physical structures e. Our fractionating strategy produces a preliminary matrix of at least 25 basic questions at the level of biological evolution e.

In our view, the most plausible cases of biologically evolved connections between the religious and moral foundations involve agency-detection mechanisms and ToM. Likewise, if the limitations of our evolved capacities to simulate mental states, or the absence of such states , triggered intuitions about the continued invisible presence of dead individuals, this would have been incidental. However, D. Johnson, Bering, and colleagues e. Johnson, ; D. The supposition of moral-foundations theorists is that the various foundations evolved to solve a range of adaptive problems e.

The evolution of these various mechanisms would have occasioned a novel set of selection pressures—in particular, the costs associated with being caught violating foundational moral principles. According to D. Johnson, Bering, and colleagues, the evolution of linguistic and mentalizing capacities would have ramped up these costs, as moral transgressions could be reported to absent third parties, exacerbating reputational damage for the transgressor.

The conjunction of these various mechanisms, therefore, may have increased the premium on mechanisms that inhibit moral transgressions. Johnson, , p. The notion that humans have a genetically endowed propensity to postulate moralizing, punitive supernatural observers is both compelling and controversial. If intuitions about punitive supernatural observers are a biological mechanism for inhibiting moral transgressions, we should expect activation of these intuitions to have the relevant inhibitory effect. In the next section, we review the evidence for this hypothesis.

Surveys indicate that people who score higher on indices of religiosity e. This would render religious individuals more susceptible to social desirability concerns, to which self-report measures of socially desirable behaviors are notoriously vulnerable Paulhus, Some studies have found that a link between self-reported religiosity and self-reported altruism remains even when social desirability concerns are measured and controlled for e.

One limitation of some of these behavioral studies, from a pluralistic moral perspective, is that competing moral motivations are sometimes conflated. For example, given the effect of religious priming on dictator game allocations, one might conclude that such priming activates the care foundation, promoting moral concerns for the well-being of others. An alternative possibility, however, is that the increased giving in the dictator game reflects the activation of the fairness foundation. This might be seen as compelling evidence that fairness concerns were paramount here.

However, although the modal response was to transfer half of the money, some participants in the religious prime condition transferred more than half—strictly speaking, an unfair allocation. A similar issue arises when considering the study of Pichon et al. These authors found that participants primed with positive religion words e. One might conclude that religious priming or, at least, positive religious priming had activated compassion for the disadvantaged. Notwithstanding these interpretive complexities, the results of religious priming studies, taken together, would seem to indicate that religious priming promotes adherence to moral norms.

Nevertheless, the picture may be more complicated than this, as other studies have shown that religious priming also elicits a range of aggressive and prejudicial behaviors. Saroglou, Corneille, and Van Cappellen found that religiously primed participants encouraged by the experimenter to exact revenge on an individual who had allegedly criticized them were more vengeful than those given neutral primes. Van Pachterbeke, Freyer, and Saroglou found that religiously primed participants displayed support for impersonal societal norms even when upholding such norms would harm individuals the effects reported by Saroglou et al.

And Ginges et al. One might suppose that the effects of such priming on aggression and prejudice count against the hypothesis that intuitions about supernatural observers inhibit moral norm violations. But without knowing what participants perceive as the relevant norm, this is difficult to establish. For example, in the Bushman et al. There are other reasons to doubt that religious priming studies demonstrate that activating intuitions about punitive supernatural agents curbs moral infractions. The effect of the secular primes, they suggest, is more consistent with the behavioral priming explanation.

Similar considerations apply to a study by Mazar et al. More recently, Ma-Kellams and Blascovich found that even primes of science e. It remains to be demonstrated, however, that the perception that one is observed is what mediates the effect of the primes on behavior. It is possible that religious priming might activate both surveillance concerns and moral concepts, but that only the latter influence game behavior. Earlier we mentioned methods that potentially conflate distinct moral motivations e. Jesus preached the latter e. If supernatural primes activate concerns for fairness, then primed participants should be more likely to punish violations of fairness norms.

If, on the other hand, such primes stimulate kindness, then participants may be less likely to engage in such punishment. We found that religious primes strongly increased the costly punishment of unfair behaviors for a subset of our participants—those who had previously donated to a religious organization. This finding seems consistent with the notion that supernatural agency concepts promote fairness and its enforcement, although, as this study did not disambiguate agency and moral dimensions along the lines suggested earlier, it may be that the effect here was a result of behavioral priming of moral behavior in this case, punishment of unfair behavior rather than activation of supernatural agent concepts.

Another problem is that different idiosyncratic conceptions of God e. When possible, therefore, priming studies should attempt to measure idiosyncratic conceptions of God e. Overall, we think that religious priming studies provide at least tentative evidence that activating intuitions about supernatural agents curbs moral norm violations. But what of the intuitions themselves? If intuitions about such supernatural punishers are properly foundational , they should be culturally and historically widespread. However, Baumard and Boyer a note that the gods of numerous classical traditions e.

Although these considerations may seem to refute any suggestion that moralizing, punitive supernatural agents are historically and cross-culturally universal, recent work suggests that even when gods are not explicitly represented as caring about human morality, there is nevertheless a moral undercurrent beneath the surface of such explicit, reflective representations Purzycki, In any case, as Graham et al. Cultural influences may restrict the expression of innate cognitive tendencies, just as they can restrict the expression of innate physical propensities e. However, Graham and colleagues also note that not all cultures are equally informative when it comes to establishing foundationhood.

For example, the Hadza of northern Tanzania and the! Kung of the Kalahari Desert are contemporary hunter—gatherer societies with gods who take little interest in human wrongdoing Norenzayan, In our judgment, therefore, it is unlikely that our evolved cognitive systems produce stable intuitions about omnipresent supernatural punishers. What we think more plausible is that we have a genetically endowed sensitivity to situational cues that our behavior is being observed.

A burgeoning literature indicates that even very subtle cues of surveillance influence adherence to prevailing moral norms. In contrast to these studies, Raihani and Bshary found that dictators donated less money in the presence of eye images. However, these authors only analyzed mean donations, and not the probability of donating something however small. Nettle et al. Bateson, Nettle, and colleagues have found similar effects using an image of a pair of eyes on a notice in naturalistic settings. Bateson, Nettle, and Roberts found that, compared with images of flowers, eye images substantially increased the level of contributions to an honesty box in a psychology department tea room; and Ernest-Jones, Nettle, and Bateson found that similar images halved the odds of littering in a university cafeteria.

Bourrat, Baumard, and McKay found that such images led to greater condemnation of moral infractions. Relatedly, Cavrak and Kleider-Offutt recently found that participants exposed to religious images associated with a prominent supernatural agent e. Finally, there is evidence that experimental cues of anonymity rather than of surveillance e. The upshot of all this work is that evolved agency-detection mechanisms may serve to deliver intuitions about observing agents and to regulate our behavior in the presence of those agents.

We doubt, however, that such mechanisms deliver intuitions about moralizing, punitive supernatural agents—instead, we think that the relevant intuitions are more basic just concerning the presence of agency per se. And drawing on intuitions about fairness and the psychological characteristics of intentional agents ToM , such supernatural watcher concepts may morph into more complex, compelling, and culturally transmissible notions of moralizing gods—notions which, when made salient or activated as in priming studies , serve to promote adherence to the perceived norms of those gods.

What this highlights is that we can often make no principled distinction between religion and morality at the level of culture or cognition. Our aim here has been to pinpoint some of the major features in the religious and moral constellations. Recall the analogy drawn earlier between the properties of a hands and gloves, and b evolved cognitive systems and explicit cultural representations. Whereas hands are biologically evolved features of human anatomy, gloves are culturally evolved artifacts that must follow the contours of the hand at least to some extent in order to be wearable.

In this section, we ask whether, in a similar fashion, culturally evolved belief systems must follow the contours of our evolved cognitive systems. Moreover, from the perspective of our concern with the religion—morality relationship, do cultural systems create durable connections between the moral and religious foundations depicted in Figure 2? In posing these particular questions, we do not mean to suggest that the direction of causality must always run from religion to morality. In considering these questions, one might seek to supplement the examples in Figure 2 with further examples plucked from the ethnographic record.

Although time-consuming, such an exercise would undoubtedly be instructive in many ways. It would indicate, for example, whether—and how—cultural systems from diverse regions of the world are capable of connecting moral and religious foundations in a variety of ways. It would not, however, address the deeper question of why they do so. Established in the early s and spreading to encompass scores of villages in some of the more remote regions of the island, the movement has a centralized leadership, based at a large coastal settlement, from which regular patrols to outlying villages are sent, bringing news, collecting taxes, and policing the orthodoxy.

The mainstream Kivung exhibits all the fractionated elements of our intuitive religious repertoire: hyperactive agency detection, ToM, teleofunctional reasoning, the ritual stance, and group psychology. And it connects each of these elements to our five moral foundations care, fairness, loyalty, respect, and purity. At the heart of Kivung teachings is the idea that the ancestors of followers will someday soon return from the dead, bringing with them all the wonders of Western technology. Until that day, however, the ancestors exist only as bodiless agents, discernible by the sounds they make and the traces they leave behind.

Failures to observe the laws of the Kivung are said to delay the miracle of returning ancestors. Only when a certain moral threshold has been achieved will the living and the dead be reunited. This dogma connects with all our moral foundations because the Kivung laws, adapted from the Ten Commandments as taught by Catholic missionaries in the region, forbid such a broad range of transgressions as violence and slander harming , cheating and stealing fairness , criticizing the Kivung loyalty , disobedience respect , and cooking during menses purity.

Kivung ideas about ancestors not only link up our moral foundations but also weave intricate connections through discourse and ritual between each of our religious foundations. For example, among the many rituals observed by Kivung followers is the daily laying out of food offerings to the ancestors. Great attention is paid to the noises of ancestors entering the temple e. This simple ritual requires intense concentration, as it is said that if the ancestors detect insincerity telepathically , they will withhold their forgiveness.

Teleofunctional reasoning meanwhile is a pervasive feature of Kivung origin myths and various rituals associated with the sacred gardens one of which memorializes a Melanesian Eden. And lastly, the Kivung activates group psychology by creating familial ties based on shared ritual experiences and coalitional bonds via us—them thinking in relation to external detractors and critics.

In the end, however, it constitutes a question about how , rather than why , cultural systems create connections between moral and religious foundations. To address the why, we need to consider issues of function and ultimate causation. Two contrasting positions on the why of the morality—religion relationship in cultural evolution have achieved some prominence in recent years.

One takes the form of adaptationist arguments concerning the emergence and spread of routinized rituals and moralizing gods. The other argues that all cultural traditions, however they trace or fail to trace the connections between moral and religious foundations, are by-products of cognitive predispositions and biases, rather than cultural adaptations that enhance the fitness of individuals or groups.

We briefly review these alternative positions and consider what evidence would be required to adjudicate satisfactorily between the two. Scholars in the cognitive science of religion tend to agree that many globally and historically recurrent features of religious thinking and behavior are by-products of cognitive machinery that evolved for reasons that have nothing to do with religion e. Barrett, ; Bloom, ; Boyer, For example, HADDs are thought to have evolved to help support the detection of predators and prey.

If they also undergirded intuitions about the presence of bodiless agents, then this was originally a side effect by-product of their main function J. Barrett, , , To express this in terms of our body—clothing analogy, if HADDs were equivalent to the evolved anatomy of the hand, then the accumulated cultural knowledge of expert trackers and hunters would be equivalent to the protective functions of gloves, essential for survival in very cold climates.

But gloves can also have decorative frills, like bobbles and tassels, which have no particular survival value. Cultural representations concerning bodiless agents would be decorative frills of this kind. As such, these kinds of functionally superfluous additions need not follow the contour of the hand at all—and might derive their popular appeal precisely from the fact that they do not.

Conceivably, the cultural success of certain Christian ideals e. What distinguishes the adaptationist perspective on religion, however, is the view that at least some of these religious by-products became useful for the survival of individuals and groups in the course of cultural evolution. Most commonly, this argument has been applied to the growth of large-scale societies.

Humans evolved to live in face-to-face bands of hunter—gatherers rather than in vast empires or nations. Small group psychology, it has been argued, would have been insufficient to handle many of the challenges of large group living. Religion provided cultural adaptations to support the transition from foraging to farming, from local community to state formation.

One line of adaptationist thinking has focused on the role of ritual frequency in this transition Whitehouse, We consider each of these approaches in turn. One of the major challenges in understanding how and why religion changes as societies become larger and more complex relates to the changing structure and function of ritual. As conditions permitted an escalation of the scale and complexity of human societies, cultural evolutionary processes may have further tuned the elements of ritual, promoting social cohesion.

With the evolution of social complexity, religious rituals become more routinized, dysphoric rituals become less widespread, doctrine and narrative becomes more standardized, beliefs become more universalistic, religion becomes more hierarchical, offices more professionalized, sacred texts help to codify and legitimate emergent orthodoxies, and religious guilds increasingly monopolize resources Whitehouse, , Some of these patterns have recently been documented quantitatively using large samples of religious traditions from the ethnographic record.

Instead, the much more frequent rituals typical of regional and world religions sustain forms of group identification better suited to the kinds of collective action problems presented by interactions among strangers or socially more distant individuals Whitehouse, As rituals become more routinized, however, they also become less stimulating emotionally, and perhaps even more tedious Whitehouse, As some societies became ever larger and more complex, even the processes described here may not have been sufficient to sustain cooperation and a host of new cultural adaptations—most notably, forms of external information storage and secular institutions of governance—became increasingly important Mullins et al.

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With the emergence of agriculture and larger, more complex social formations, strangers or relative strangers needed to be able to assess their respective reputational statuses when biographical information was not readily available. The signaling theory of religion and ritual has been recently extended by the theory of credibility enhancing displays CREDS; Henrich, By engaging in costly behaviors, rather than merely advocating such behavior in others i.

This is thought to facilitate the spread of moral norms across large populations and safeguard their transmission across the generations. CREDS theory seeks to explain not only the wide distribution of moral norms in the so-called ethical religions but also the prevalence of moral exemplars in such traditions e. One of the most vigorous debates in the recent literature on religion and morality has concerned the cultural prevalence of moralizing gods—powerful supernatural agents who monitor behavior and punish moral infractions.

Ara Norenzayan and colleagues e. In small-scale and traditional societies in which everybody knows everyone else and most social behavior is easily observed and reported, transgressions are easily detected. Modern technologies of surveillance, such as police cameras, identity cards, and computer records, allow increasingly extensive monitoring of thieves, cheats, defectors, and free riders by designated authorities. Norenzayan et al. In contrast, Baumard and Boyer a argue incisively that the cultural prevalence of moralizing god representations does not result from the fact that such representations promote socially cohesive behaviors among human groups.

Instead, these representations are successful because they have features e. In short, moralizing gods are cultural variants with effects that enhance their own success and so are adaptive in that sense; Dennett, , but these effects do not include changes in the biological or cultural fitness of their human vectors. How are we to evaluate these opposing views? One feature of Norenzayan et al.

As we have seen, a wealth of evidence from priming studies indicates that the activation of supernatural concepts can promote adherence to moral norms. Do the latter studies undermine the hypothesis of Norenzayan and colleagues? On the contrary, they may be aggressive, murderous, and even genocidal. It is less clear that these findings are consistent with Baumard and Boyer a. The latter authors claim that the success of moralizing god concepts is entirely a result of the resonance of these concepts with the output of intuitive systems, so their theory does not require that these concepts have any effects whatsoever on behavior.

Any such effects are incidental and superfluous from their perspective. They then converted to Christianity, a moralizing religion, and were promptly crushed by barbarians with tribal, nonmoralizing gods. As they acknowledge, however, the gods of antiquity were represented as monitoring the appropriate performance of rituals. To the extent that rituals represent or promote moral behaviors see earlier , therefore, gods that care about rituals care about morality, directly or indirectly. We note in this connection that common components of ritual performance may facilitate parochially altruistic behaviors, including aggression e.

The relationship between religion and morality is a deep and emotive topic. The confident pronouncements of public commentators belie the bewildering theoretical and methodological complexity of the issues. In the scholarly sphere, progress is frequently impeded by a series of prevailing conceptual limitations and lacunae. We have set out an encompassing evolutionary framework within which to situate and evaluate relevant evidence. Our view is that cultural representations—concepts, dogmas, artefacts, and practices both prescribed and proscribed—are triggered, shaped, and constrained by a variety of foundational cognitive systems.

We have sought to identify the most currently plausible conjectures about biologically evolved connections between these systems, and have reviewed and evaluated the most prominent published debates in the cultural evolutionary domain. Ultimately, we see and foresee no pithily characterizable relationship between religion and morality.

Second, under the pluralistic approach we advocate, which fractionates both religion and morality and distinguishes cognition from culture, the relationship between religion and morality expands into a matrix of separate relationships between fractionated elements.

Although we eschew a simplistic story, we live in a very exciting time for psychological research on this topic. The aim should be to settle upon a parsimonious set of culturally and historically widespread cognitive predispositions that exhibit developmental and comparative evidence of innate preparedness, and that jointly account for the great bulk of culturally distributed items falling under the umbrella of religion and morality.

On the one hand, morality may require God in the sense that the very notion of morality is incoherent without God i. This is what Socrates had in mind and disputed. On the other hand, morality may require God in the sense that belief in God is needed to enforce moral behavior. This is what Dostoevsky meant.

Cohen and colleagues e. Cohen, ; A. Some religions e. The point that scientific research on religion should consider all four whys has been eloquently made by Hinde and informs his writings on religion more generally e. This lesson is particularly important when considering evidence germane to the religion—morality debate.

Although they found a positive relationship between intensity of religiosity and altruism in the dictator game, they acknowledged that the causality of this relationship could have run from altruism to religiosity, or that unobserved third variables may have influenced both altruism and religiosity. The second player has a completely passive role which is why the dictator game is not, strictly speaking, a game and must accept whatever the first player transfers.

In a public goods game, players privately choose how much of an endowment to donate to a public pot. For example, punishment of unfairness has been associated both with self-control e. At present, there is no official moral foundation of self-control. And thanks to God for it. Hadnes and Schumacher found that priming West African villagers with traditional beliefs substantially increased trustworthy behavior in an economic trust game. Aveyard tested a sample of Middle Eastern Muslim undergraduates and found that whereas a laboratory priming manipulation had no effect on their cheating rates, participants exposed to a naturalistic religious prime—the Islamic call to prayer—cheated substantially less.

Johnson, The database contains quantitative variables describing numerous characteristics of the societies in the sample. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Psychological Bulletin. Psychol Bull. Published online Dec Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.