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Jacob's Ladder: Logics of Magic, Metaphor and Metaphysics

Julio Michael Stern
Sophia, 2017, pp. 1-21.

Abstract:

In this article, we discuss some issues concerning magical thinking — forms of thought and association mechanisms characteristic of early stages of mental development. We also examine good reasons for having an ambivalent attitude concerning the later permanence in life of these archaic forms of association, and the coexistence of such intuitive but informal thinking with logical and rigorous reasoning. At the one hand, magical thinking seems to serve the creative mind, working as a natural vehicle for new ideas and innovative insights, and giving form to heuristic arguments. At the other hand, it is inherently difficult to control, lacking effective mechanisms needed for rigorous manipulation. Our discussion is illustrated with many examples from the Hebrew Bible, and some final examples from modern science.

Excerpt:

The psychologist Julian Jaynes extrapolates Kielmeyer's recapitulation principle from its original scope in embryology to the field of psychology. The Recapitulation principle, also known as Biogenetic law or Embryological parallelism, states that — Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. This statement of the principle is due to Ernst Haeckel but its modern expression dates back to Karl Friedrich Kielmeyer (1793), see also Coleman (1973), Gambarotto (2014), Gould (1977), Grant (2006, p. 129), Holmes (1944), Kuijsten (2008), and Lenoir (1982, p. 49). In a similar way, Jaynes (2000) correlates main stages in the cognitive development in a human individual to characteristic stages of cultural development in human civilization. Even if we do not have enough hard evidence to corroborate Jaynes' hypotheses, his work was for me extremely insightful.