[lit-ideas] Re: Roman Superstitions

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 23 May 2014 07:05:25 -0400 (EDT)

We are considering the implicatures of 'superstitious'.
The Aztecs thought that the Conquistadores were an army of 'demons'. This  
was possibly superstitious, but on the other hand, the Conquistadores made 
the  most of the superstition. They did NOT go, "We are not the demons, just 
regular  soldiers". The Aztecs also identified the Conquistadores with their 
(the  Aztecs') divinities, which was possibly also superstitious, to the  
Conquistadores's beliefs.
To use another example (adapted from Helm): Most Ancient Romans thought  
that the Christians were superstitious (and illegal) and as a consequence, 
some  Christians adopted the religion of the Romans (which the Christians 
possibly  thought superstitious -- what, with that army of gods on Mount 
and their  interactions with humans). When Christianism was legalised, the 
ideas of  'superstition' possibly varied.
This was interesting enough for Vico when he later reflected on the Roman  
idea of 'superstition'.
Now, in a message dated 5/23/2014 1:56:58 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
I have sincere beliefs....You have odd  opinions...He has cranky 
commitments...They have irrational superstitions.
I would think that 'irrational', in 'irrational superstition', is adverbial 
 in nature, and otiose at that.
A 'sincere belief' is a different animal. 'Sincere' is also adverbial  
there. The American equivalent is 'honestly':
"Honestly, I do think it will rain tomorrow".
The belief is 'sincere' as opposed to the shepherd who cries 'Wolf!' to  
have the population THINK that he BELIEVES that there is a wolf in the  
neighbourhood. Although in this case, it is obvious that the shepherd does NOT  
hold the belief (and he is being INSINCERE in displaying behaviour _as if_ he  
had it).
An 'odd opinion' is possibly in the eye or mind of the beholder. There are  
odd opinions and there are even opinions. It is possibly 'adverbial', too:
"Oddly, he opines that Mars is inhabited."
Ditto with 'cranky'. By taking these things as adverbials or sentence  
adverbials, even, we simplify their logical form:
"Crankily, he is committed to some arcane mystic religion".
But the topic is the nature of 'superstition', and my point was whether the 
 implicature (or entailment) is: "I disagree with it" -- where 
'superstition'  amounts to some propositional content 'p'. 
By qualifying the superstition as 'irrational' we are allowing some  
superstitions to be 'rational'. Davidson would possibly say it depends on the  
meaning of 'reason'. The supersitious person may oddly believe that he has  
REASONS to hold superstitious belief 'p'. 
Omar K. challenged this when he hardly thinks (again a sentence  adverbial, 
'hardly') that the Conquistadores were professional anthropologists  (vide 
book by British philosopher, "Rationality and relativism"). For indeed,  
anthropologists are well aware, when describing a culture in what they (after  
Pike) call "-etic" terms (rather than "-emic" terms) that they have to deal 
with  'reasons' they do not share as such. It is possibly the same old 
problem that  Socrates faced when he thought he was superior to the Sophists.
The Lewis/Short Latin dictionary online is helpful here:
sŭperstĭtĭo, ōnis, f. super-sto; orig a standing still over or by a 
thing;  hence, amazement, wonder, dread, esp. of the divine or supernatural. 
Excessive  fear of the goas, unreasonable religious belief, superstition 
(different from  religio, a proper, reasonable awe of the gods; cf.: religio 
dei cultus est,  superstitio falsi, Lact. 4, 28, 11).
Helpful, that is, if we ignore their equivalence: 'superstitio',  
'superstition': I guess we KNEW that.
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