Witches, psychiatrists and evangelicals: discussion with Tanya Luhrmann

Tanya Luhrmann gave an interesting talk on placebo and prayer here yesterday. It was based on her book, When God Talks Back. It was videoed, so I’ll put it up when available. This one is also quite interesting:


  1. I wrote her and asked if evangelicals were pleased to have such a sort of functionalist account of their religious experiences or if they felt like it made less of them and she didn’t really have an answer which is a shame as I’d really like to know. The takeaway for me is that it illustrates a point I keep trying to make is which a “god” doesn’t tie everything together for believers but rather it takes concentrated effort (and practiced effort at that) to ‘manifest’ a god, so gods come and go for the faithful with their efforts (like all skills they can become non-conscious habits with practice).

    • I think that is interesting too. What stitches things together is habit, practice, as you suggest (and as Pascal did a long time ago). This is what allows understandings of god/gods to evolve and change; you move about in the sphere of possible practices.

      • indeed not just allows for but always already being remixed, re-purposed/bricolaged for new tasks/audiences/etc, same thing for all other human doings (including extended-mindings like tool-uses), this is what I think Tim Ingold is onto when he notes that we are always already improvising:

  2. Yes, but with the caveat that there is no intrinsic need to appeal to learning in some faith traditions.

    • many would vociferously deny that they are in fact manipulating/re-assembling but rather imagine themselves as being faithful to the
      things-themselves, ironically like people in crit-theory/philo who believe in god-like ideologies/structures/Concepts/Laws/etc even if they are atheists, arche-typal psychology everywhere one looks…

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