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Grand Theories and Everyday BeliefsScience, Philosophy, and their Histories$
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Wallace Matson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199812691

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812691.001.0001

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(p.49) Chapter 6 Eden
Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs

Wallace Matson

Oxford University Press

99% of human evolution has gone on while social units were hunter-gatherer bands of about forty adults, the “natural” human milieu: Eden. The low beliefs of all bands will be much the same, and true. But different bands will have diverse sets of high beliefs. These will tend to be edifying: promoting optimism and social cohesion. They will make sense of low beliefs teleologically, explaining on the model of human activity in terms of good, evil, purpose, goal, love, and hate ascribed to unseen person-like beings of great power: spirits, gods, conceived as subject to influence by sacrifices and prayers.In Eden an invisible membrane keeps high and low beliefs from getting in each others’ way. If a high belief gets rubbed up against reality and is in danger of disconfirmation, there will be mechanisms at hand to keep the membrane intact.Thus evolution works to assure that the beliefs of a community are right: low beliefs true, high beliefs edifying.

Keywords:   edify, hunter-gatherer band, high/low belief, teleology, make sense, invisible membrane, right belief

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