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Making MagicReligion, Magic and Science in the Modern World$
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Randall G. Styers

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195151077

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195151070.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 26 July 2021

Magic and the Regulation of Reason

Magic and the Regulation of Reason

(p.121) 3 Magic and the Regulation of Reason
Making Magic

Randall G. Styers (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the scholarly literature in which magic is defined as faulty or inchoate science. The chapter begins by examining early theoretical constructions of the “primitive”; irrational (or pre-rational) magical thought was seen by numerous early anthropologists and sociologists as a definitive index of the superstitious primitive mind. While the notion of the “primitive” has become intellectually untenable, magic nonetheless retains a central role in subsequent discussions of the nature and limits of modern rationality (often standing as shorthand for non-modern mental and social processes). Finally, the chapter moves to explore recent disputes among historians over the role of medieval natural magic in the emergence of early modern science. Positioned at (or beyond) the boundary of rationality, magic serves both as the foil against which distinctive forms of Western science are defined and as the decisive test of scientific rationality's ability to explain the irrational.

Keywords:   magic, modernity, primitives, rationality, science, superstition

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