Ancient and Modern Approaches to the Representation of Supernatural Beings: Dio Chrysostom (Oration 12) and Dan Sperber (Explaining Culture) Compared
Chasing Down Religion - In the Sights of History and the Cognitive Sciences - Panayotis Pachis
Roger Beck [+]
University of Toronto
Roger Beck, an Emeritus Professor at the University of Toronto, is among the world’s foremost authorities on such ancient Roman mystery cults as Mithraism.
In Oration 12, composed for the Olympic games of 97, 101 or 105 CE, Dio Chrysostom treats religion in terms of the formation and transmission of representations, both private or mental and public. His approach is in ways analogous to modern cognitivist approaches, especially to Dan Sperber's theory of religions as 'epidemics' of mental and public representations. Dio also anticipates (as do other ancient sources) the modern cognitivist premise of the naturalness of religion: that is, the assumption that the representation of supernatural beings is a normal function of the human mind/brain to be studied and explained as such.