Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and by Mary Douglas

By Mary Douglas

In Purity and Danger, Mary Douglas identifies the worry for purity as a key subject matter on the middle of each society. In energetic and lucid prose she explains its relevance for each reader via revealing its wide-ranging influence on our attitudes to society, values, cosmology and information. The e-book has been highly influential in lots of parts of discussion - from faith to social thought. yet probably its most crucial position is to provide each one reader a brand new clarification of why humans behave within the manner they do.

Originally booklet: 1966

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Extra resources for Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo

Example text

One was the assumption that ethical refinement is a mark of advanced civilisation. Another, the assumption that magic has nothing to do with morals or religion. On this basis he constructed the image of our early ancestors, their thinking dominated by magic. For them the universe was moved by impersonal, mechanistic principles. Fumbling for the right formula for controlling it, they stumbled on some sound principles, but just as often their confused state of mind led them to think that words and signs could be used as instruments.

And since the moral loftiness of Israel’s religious concepts was above dispute, and since these had given way in the course of history to the ideals of Christianity and these in turn had moved from Catholic to Protestant forms, the evolutionary movement was clear. Science was thus not opposed but deftly harnessed to the Christian’s task. From this point onwards the anthropologists have been saddled with an intractable problem. For magic is defined for them in residual, evolutionary terms. In the first place it is ritual which is not part of the cult of the community’s god.

Frazer’s evolutionary scheme was only based on some unquestioning ritual uncleanness assumptions taken over from the common talk of his day. One was the assumption that ethical refinement is a mark of advanced civilisation. Another, the assumption that magic has nothing to do with morals or religion. On this basis he constructed the image of our early ancestors, their thinking dominated by magic. For them the universe was moved by impersonal, mechanistic principles. Fumbling for the right formula for controlling it, they stumbled on some sound principles, but just as often their confused state of mind led them to think that words and signs could be used as instruments.

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