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Introduction: comparative perspectives on divination and ontology

Matthews, William ORCID: 0000-0002-1614-1428 (2021) Introduction: comparative perspectives on divination and ontology. Social Analysis, 65 (2). 1 - 18. ISSN 0155-977X

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Identification Number: 10.3167/sa.2021.650201


Many divination systems are epistemologically justified accord-ing to an explicit ontology: results are attributed to the work of an agent (gods, spirits) or to a cosmic principle (as in the Chinese concept qi). Analytically, we can thus distinguish between divination based on ‘agen-tive ontology’, which raises the possibility of deception by gods or spirits, and ‘calculatory ontology’, which understands verdicts as calculations based on fixed principles. The relationship between explicit ontology and epistemic affordance, including the circumstances under which divination is subject to ontological explanation, suggests large-scale comparative questions concerning the wider socio-political and economic correlates of agentive and calculatory systems. These are exemplified in this special issue by the divergences between divination systems in the Greco-Roman world, in Han China, and among the Nuosu.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2021 14:45
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 15:24

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