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

Sophia 59 (2):365-385 (2020)
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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.

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Julio Michael Stern
University of São Paulo


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