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Ritual Violence in the Hebrew BibleNew Perspectives$
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Saul M. Olyan

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190249588

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190249588.001.0001

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Cognitive Perspectives on Iconoclasm

Cognitive Perspectives on Iconoclasm

Chapter:
(p.93) 4 Cognitive Perspectives on Iconoclasm
Source:
Ritual Violence in the Hebrew Bible
Author(s):

Nathaniel B. Levtow

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190249588.003.0005

This chapter explores the phenomenon of iconoclasm from the perspectives of cognitive science. It argues that iconoclasm engages the same cognitive and ritual dynamics as iconism, only from an oppositional standpoint. These dynamics include the attribution of mind and agency to all things called gods in ancient West Asia and associated ritual practices that generate a conceptual fluidity between artifacts and living things. Iconic sacrificial cult is identified as a cognitively optimal expression of these natural, evolutionarily successful human tendencies toward anthropomorphic projection and conceptual fluidity. Iconoclasm is identified as a mode of transmission for non-optimal aniconic traditions, the long-term success of which depend on memorable violence against images.

Keywords:   iconoclasm, image, cognitive science of religion, agency, ritual, violence, idolatry, monotheism, icon, anthropomorphism

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