Conceptual, anthropological and cognitive issues surrounding religious experience
Interviewed by Martin E. Fortier & Maddalena Canna
cognitive science of religion, building-block approach, predictive coding, mystical insight, non-ordinary experience, belief
Cognitive Sciences of Religion scholar Ann Taves is the proponent of a ground-breaking building block approach (BBA) to religious experience. According to Taves, religious experience can be disaggregated into fundamental, constitutive components. Philosopher Martin Fortier and anthropologist Maddalena Canna
explore the conceptual, anthropological and cognitive aspects of the foundations of religion, as disaggregated by Taves. In her analyses of the cognitive underpinnings of religion, Taves adopts a Predictive Coding Framework (PCF). The compatibility between PCF and BBA is discussed at the light of the debate opposing inherentist and attributionist theories of religion. Particular attention is given to the role of paradox and non-ordinary experiences (NOE) in the emergence of belief. Finally, other fundamental components of religion are explored, such as the relation between perception (e.g. the vividness of a spiritual vision) and attribution of reality, as well as the interplay between religious processes (e.g. spiritual paths, trajectories) and events (e.g. enlightenment, epiphanies, mystical insights). Empirical examples include case studies from Tantric Buddhism, Kashmir Shivaism, Caribbean Spirit Possession, Amazonian Animism and Ayahuasca ritual.