“[T]his is a study about sets of ideas, their component elements and how these elements interlock and lead on from one another. Griffiths contends that the most effective way to understand belief systems—irrespective of their content or nature—is through a method he calls ‘descriptive logic’. [...] Here, below, is an illustration of it with regard to alternative historiography, where the proposition A could range, for instance, from the view that Giza is really modelled on Orion’s Belt [...] to the view that the moon is really an artificial construction:
‘1. Official knowledge is dry, conformist, monolithic, and an obstacle to the free exercise of the imagination and of the sense of wonder.
2. Therefore, official knowledge should be refuted.
3. Official knowledge is incompatible with the proposition that A,
4. and yet some evidence can be assembled which does tend to show that A.
5. Therefore, A.
6. Therefore, official knowledge is wrong.
7. Therefore, we are once again free to imagine for ourselves and to feel wonder’ (pp. 123-4).
Griffiths has developed his descriptive logical method in a way that is underpinned by the Marxist materialist conception of history [...].
In style, the book verges from the wry and whimsical at times to the difficult—it is, after all, a theoretical work and one which is academically rigorous. Griffiths is also exceptionally well read and the text is illustrated by references that range from the pronouncements of the North Korean state to quotations from ancient poetry.
The general method and standpoint [...] is not incompatible with our own. [...]
Edmund Griffiths has produced a very useful and informative book that represents a significant contribution to the study of belief systems, both ancient and modern.”
— review by ‘D. A. P.’, in the Socialist Standard for June 2015
“His reconstructions of the rational and emotional content of belief systems as widely divergent as Charles Wesley’s Methodism, tales of alien abduction and the ‘conspiracy theories’ surrounding the September 11 2001 terror attacks make fascinating reading.
Star readers might be particularly struck by his consideration of the explosion of [...] ‘esoteric’ or hidden-truth beliefs in post-Soviet Russia [...]
The work is suffused with a light and humorous touch.
Beliefs are never mocked, but pretensions may be gently ribbed—as when he quotes the old Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary’s definition of freedom of worship (‘the inalienable right of every man to worship God according to the teaching of the Catholic church’) or notes, following a review of Juche definitions from North Korea, that that belief system’s ‘relevant material is extensive, but not notably unrepetitive.’
[... A] serious attempt to respect and understand beliefs that may be radically different from our own is certainly welcome, and may be of use in challenging the often lazy assumptions of Western liberalism and the ‘there is no alternative’ propaganda of the market-worshipping ruling class.
The fact that Towards a Science of Belief Systems is a joy to read is an added bonus.”
— review by Ben Chacko, in the Morning Star for 5 January 2015
pre-publication interview with Oxford student radio
(audio currently unavailable)