PSYCHOLOGICAL ANTH ANTH 107
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Date Created: 10/22/15
Reading Guide Week 7 Re ection Topic Vices or Virtues Gambling and illegal drugs The argument can be made that both gambling and drug use are useful and convenient ways to achieve transcendence from the everyday entrapments of our conscious processes In a sense they offer something for nothing iwhich appeals to some peoples personalities and is appalling to others e g those who pride themselves on an intense work ethic and devout forms of spiritual attention Those who oppose gambling and drug use often see them as harmful vices which lead to the moral downfall of peoples integrity When rationalists from the intellectual tradition pitch arguments about the ills of drugs and gambling they often appeal to negative consequence invoke guilt by association and leave out the equal role of chance and nonillegal mystical experience in otherwise acceptable and morally tolerated aspects of life What is seldom noticed is that the Debate about gambling is never just about gambling and drugs it is about different ways of being in the world from Lears 2004 In defense of the virtues of gambling and drug use they are a way to spiritual enlightenment to know grace Great Gamblers have seen the grim absurdities in capital and its accumulation There is ease and even transcendence in that feeling David Thomson pp 223 in Jackson Lears Something for Nothing The transcendence leads away from a focus on money and spiritual devotion as the ultimate measure of utility and includes thrill sport and iwhen luck would have itia release from the grip of moral convention and a freeing from the subordination to dominants who otherwise had the economic and moralistic powers to affect your wellbeing Naturally occurring drugs e g khat betel nut tobacco coca and marijuana share a coevolutionary history with humans that is millions of years old and it has been argued that human motivation to seek out these substances appears to not be pathological Sullivan and Hagen 2002 In fact it seems likely that specific chemicalecological adaptations in mammals to seek Y J 39 If 39 and 39 quot them and defenses in plants that have evolved to create chemicals which mimic mammalian neurotransmitter effects together have an intimate evolutionary relationship For as long as we can tell humans have exploited plant chemicals as substitutes for costly nutritionally constrained endogenous neurotransmitters Psychotropic plants offer us with little investment analgesia stimulation and sedation 7 all useful and potentially beneficial behavioral modulations in moment to moment day to day contexts when we intuitively recognize personal deficits in needed neurotransmitters e g needed to maintain focus and productivity when fatigued achieve efficient rest and relaxation avoid illness resulting from heightened levels of stress The ethnographic record bears repeated evidence that native people understood their drugs as food and viewed their gambling divination and magic as ways to understand the world In light of the arguments for benefits at the personal level that could come from more available drugs and gambling should we be more tolerant of both gambling and drug use idespite the enormous societal costs associated with each Institutionalized gambling and psychotropic drug sale e g from cafes such as found in Amsterdam could be argued to offer benefits to society as well though perhaps at the expense of some miserable individuals Institutionalizing these vices appropriates individuals losses to public fortune ultimately investing in societal infrastructure lotteries and authorized drugs would be a way to raise public revenue casinos and legitimate sales locations would be solutions to the economic redevelopment of impoverished areas To some degree we already have formally introduced these things with government lotteries gambling centers and medicinal marijuana sales centers such as found across California and several other US states What do you think and feel Do we need to push toward more tolerance or less tolerance Are we currently at an optimal balance over these issues or do we need to let the metaphorical pendulum swing further or swing back For further reading on this see Lears Jackson 2004 Something for Nothing Luck in America Penguin Books Sullivan R J Hagen E H 2002 Psychotropic substanceseeking evolutiona pathology or adaptation In Addiction Special Issue Evolutionary psychobiological approaches to addiction 974389400 April Read Religion Explained Chapters 4 S amp 6 4 why gods and spirits 5 why do gods and spirits matter 6 why is religion about death Why Gods and Spirits Religion is practical Q According to Boyer what are the special qualities of God gods spirits ancestors and what strong emotions do they evoke Q According to Boyer how is religion practical Q According to Boyer how do people interact with the agents that are their God gods spirits ancestors Q What is precise and imprecise give details for each about people s explanations of qualities and powers of supernatural agents Q Why might the Kwaio be a little more imprecise in their explanations of religioussupematural agents than modern Western religious people Q What matters is not so much the powers of the supernatural agents but instead the powers that are relevant to practical concerns According to Justin Barrett s studies of the Godconcept when people pray for God s assistance if they can ask for intervention in a psychological physical or biological process which are they more like to pray to God for and why Gods and Spirits as Persons Q What does Stewart Guthrie means when he makes the claim that there is an anthropomorphic tendency in visual perception Q What is meant by the term agency Q How does Justin Barrett claim our agency detection system is biased and what evolutionary reason does he give for this design characteristic Are gods really like predators Q What is the connection between our agency hyperdetection and predation concerns from the EEA hint predatoravoidance and preydetection subsystems Q Decoupled inferences about imaginary characters are always being made by humans minds How are they practical Q What three differences are there between how people deal with supernatural agents and imaginary friends Relevance in cultural transmission Q What intuitive taxonomy did Scott Atran s studies reveal Q What is the importance of relevance in cultural transmission and how does relevance help explain which cultural concepts are more likely to be acquired and transmitted Q What is the social implication and consequence of having a religion based around full access agents that makes it important to also know how other people represent the supernatural agents Why do gods and spirits matter Q What is the goals as legislators story Q What is meant by and what are examples of goals as paragon exemplars Q In the Dominant moral philosophy that Boyer says guides religious thinking he says that people expect their gods to have interest in their decisions 7 though they may not be able to clearly represent why ie How do the vagaries of a functional morality fit along with the interested party model of gods Moral reasoning and moral feeling Q What is the moral reasoning model and what is the moral feeling moalel Q In what two ways does Boyer say psychologists have attempted to explain the acquisition of morality Q In general when in human development does it appear that moral reasoning ie being able to tell what is right and what is wrong is developed Does humans ability to morally assess situations change with maturity of other abilities such as to take another s perspective Dispositions for cooperation Q What three evolutionary routes to sel ess behavior are identi ed by Boyer explain each Q According to Boyer what is the function of guilt gratefulriess and pride Full access agents and moral intuitions Q What does Boyer mean when he concludes that to some extent religious concepts are parasitic upon moral intuitions Witches and intuitions Q According to Boyer how do anthropologists de ne witchcraft Evil eyes and angry gods Q What is the phenomenon of the evil eye and how do people recognize that they can bring it upon themselves Misfortune as a social thing Q What relationship does Boyer tie between the concept of superstition and our intuitive statistical abilities Does he conclude that superstitious thinkers either neglect or don t 39 39 and 39 39 39 39 causes ofthese events 1 Causes and reasons of misfortune Q In discussing natural questions about unfortunate events Boyer says that people should be concerned with reasons why something bad happened as well as an understanding of how and in which way that unfortunate thing happened Only by knowing how and why should people be able to avoid the misfortune in the future How is it that people s ways of talking about misfortune do not seem to correspond to predictions of the model based on these natural questions Misfortune as social interaction Q How can your understanding of the welfaretradeoff ratio variables affecting inequality aversion and the inequality that exists in the equilibrium of equity help explain why a jealous villager might cast the evil eye on her peasant neighbor but not the well dressed and rich local landowner Supernatural agents as exchange partners Q How does Boyer explain that supernatural agents ie evil spirits angered ancestors evileye givers and witches fit into our intuitive model of exchange partners Why is religion about death Q Are burials or death rituals recent human phenomenon Displaced terror and cold comfort Q When humans are made to be more aware of impending mortality how does their social behavior become affected Q Do humans really fear mortality in general Death rituals something must be done Q Are religious representations really about what happens after death Q What are all the rituals that various cultures use following death about according to Boyer also more on this in the next subsection The body as the issue Q How does a human mind represent a dead person The body as the issue Q What relationship does Boyer identify between corpses and the human contagion system Death predation and intuition What is a person Q How does the mind differentiate between the dead and the living When different systems are not in harmony Corpses induce dissociation Q Why does the human mind have trouble dealing with relatives who are recently dead