Knowing something and believing it
Roberto Limentani (EHESS)
Paper short abstract:
The contribution I am submitting concerns the relationship between belief and doubt within the theory of Magic developed by Frazer in chapter III of The Golden Bough. If the author surpasses his doubts here, is only because he makes no further distinction between knowing something and believing it.
Paper long abstract:
The contribution I am submitting concerns the relationship between belief and doubt within anthropological theory. My case study is the theory of Magic developed by Frazer in chapter III of The Golden Bough. Within it is condensed the theoretical core of his work. I approach his theory as an apparatus oriented towards capturing the magician's identity. The capture is chimeric in nature, and the apparatus as a whole acts as the base of the author's belief. Frazer believes himself to be apprehending the magician's point of view, from a system of inference itself constituting his theory in its coherence. In addition, within the text, as much as in correspondence, we find clues coherent with this understanding of his theory. Theory appears here as the author's double, and we witness him doubting the well-foundedness of the artefact. Finally, in a passage towards the end of The Golden Bough, Frazer manages to resolve his hesitations in a specific manner: he affirms that exteriority is nothing more than a "phantasmagoria of thoughts". He then surpasses his doubts, but only because he makes no further distinction between knowing something and believing it. In order to manage his way out, he does not broach the basis of the theory, a concept of belief, bur rather withdraws to the relationship to knowledge, a position characteristic of the turn of the XXth century: this solipsism as a device describes the author's relationship with a theory that he was a master of, but finds himself prey to.
What happens when we stop believing in/believing that?