Edmund Griffiths

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Towards a Science of Belief Systems

Palgrave Macmillan, 2014

Towards a Science of Belief Systems -- 'fascinating... a joy to read' (Morning Star)

People believe in a great many things: the New Age and the new atheism, astrology and the Juche Idea, the marginal utility theory and a God in three persons. Yet most of us know almost nothing about why other people believe the things they do – or indeed about how it feels to believe them. This book presents an objective method for understanding and comparing belief systems, irrespective of their subject matter and of whether or not the investigator happens to agree with them. The method, descriptive logic, is illustrated through analyses of various phenomena, including Zoroastrianism, Dawkinsism, Fabianism, 9/11 Truth, ‘alternative’ Egyptology, Gnosticism, flying saucer sightings, and the hymns of Charles Wesley. Special attention is given to beliefs that are not supposed to be wholly believed, and to how descriptive logic relates to the materialist conception of history. The book also outlines a new theory of superstition.


       ‘Fascinating... a joy to read’ — Morning Star

       ‘Very useful and informative... a significant contribution’ — Socialist Standard


Towards a Science of Belief Systems on the Palgrave website

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Can Aleksandr Dugin be called a religious thinker? (audio)

Some remarks on the etymology of literary Martian

An anonymous translation of the last few lines of the Bacchae

Six poems — read all six on one page, or separately:
        Neolithic Revolution
        ‘Perhaps I should have...’
        The summer of 1990
        My poems are not real poems

Just another COBOL program

For educational purposes: learn the rudiments of how computers work by programming a minimal computer in a browser window.

Programming degree zero: a course for beginners, using Computer/zero

SAL BER YON ROSH: Nikolai Marr and the dream of a new linguistics (audio)

JsSSEM: a browser-based Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine emulator

Rough notes towards The Modern Discorsi
        Some criteria for assessing how democratic a system is
        Seven potential problems with sortition

Vocabulary drills: for learners of some less commonly-studied languages

Why doesn’t Robert Temple think the Dogon were ever visited by aliens?


T a b l e   o f   C o n t e n t s

Introduction. The Idea of a Science of Belief Systems

1. You Don’t Know What It’s Like!

2. A Descriptive Science of Logic

3. Some Notes on Affect

Elements of Comparative Method

5. Belief Systems and the Materialist Conception of History

6. Beliefs That Are Not Supposed To Be Wholly Believed

7. A Theory of Superstition, in Thirteen Paragraphs

8. Believing in Fictional Beings

Instead of a Conclusion

Appendix. The Use of Symbolic Notation in Descriptive Logic