New Books in Anthropology

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Eric Dietrich, “Excellent Beauty: The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of the World” (Columbia UP, )

Although there are many deep criticisms of a scientific view of humanity and the world, a persistent theme is that the scientific worldview eliminates mystery, and in particular, the wonders and mysteries of the world’s religions. In Excellent Beauty: The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of the World (Columbia University Press), Eric Dietrich argues that the human thirst for mystery would still be slated even if we explain away the mysteries of religion in scientific, specifically evolutionary, terms. Among the strange “excellent beauties”, he claims, are consciousness and infinity. Dietrich, professor of philosophy at Binghamton University, describes the structure of spiritual journeys, the social-bonding role of religious belief and our ineliminably “Janus-faced” nature as creatures who dislike open-ended mysteries but love magical thinking.


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