Haunted Universes

  • Dorothy Emmet


I have been considering interpretations of religion made by sophisticated observers. They are unlikely to be the views of the believers, for whom it will have to do with the nature of things. Frazer indeed saw religion as something to which people had recourse when magic failed, while magic was a form of proto-science based on mistaken beliefs about how things worked. Primitives of course knew that they needed to use their own skills, but the right spell or the right ju-ju could help lead to success, for instance in war, hunting or healing. Yet often it did not, and religion was then a matter of submission to more powerful agencies. The submission was to agencies which were mistakenly believed actually to exist.


Scientific Theory Weak Sense Abstract Entity Scientific View Secondary Hypothesis 
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  1. 1.
    E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Nuer Religion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956).Google Scholar
  2. This book showed a change of emphasis from his classic Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1937).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Robin Horton’s views will be found in a collection of his papers, Patterns of Thought in Africa and the West (Cambridge, 1993).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 3.
    Philipp Frank, Between Physics & Philosophy (Cambridge, 1941).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 4.
    J.N.W. Watkins, ‘Between Analytic and Empirical’, Philosophy 1957;Google Scholar
  6. and ‘Confirmable and Inferential Metaphysics’, Mind 1958.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dorothy Emmet 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorothy Emmet
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.University of ManchesterUK
  2. 2.Lady Margaret HallOxfordUK
  3. 3.Lucy Cavendish CollegeCambridgeUK

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