Irrationality and insecurity in premodern societies. Living a life under the rule of preoperational stage structures

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Oesterdiekhoff G.W.
F. Fürstenberg

Abstract

Historians of mentality have described that ancient and medieval humans were characterized by different forms of mind and consciousness as modern humans are. They were more emotional, passionate, impulsive, irrational and superstitious. Therefore, their biographies include more chaos and disorder, turbulence and conflict than modern biographies usually do. Especially Huizinga and Febvre emphasize that the amount of absurdity and irrationality medieval biographies reveal is incredible, in comparison to modern life courses. The article shows that leading a life in a society wherein all members stay on preoperational and concrete operational stages is frequently very uncomfortable and dangerous. Only the exposure of people to magical accusations poisons life and security in a way modern social scientists have no idea of. Not only medieval descriptions but also ethnological ones (Evans-Pritchard 1978 and Fortune 1963) show that accusations over sorcery penetrate the everyday life of premodern people to a rate often underestimated by social scientists. Belief in sorcery is, however, only one manifestation of the preoperational stage. There are many forms of irrationality and absurdity originating in the preoperational stage, many forms of superstition, violence, and fanaticism that poison the life of people. Conversely, the steady rise of civilization during the past few centuries, having brought more security and order in the life of people, originates in the development of the adolescent stage of formal operations.

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How to Cite
Oesterdiekhoff, G., & FürstenbergF. (2020). Irrationality and insecurity in premodern societies. Living a life under the rule of preoperational stage structures. Human Evolution , 35(1-2), 83-99. https://doi.org/10.14673/HE2020121067
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Articles
Author Biographies

Oesterdiekhoff G.W., Department of Sociology Karlsruhe Institute for Technology Karlsruhe

Oesterdiekhoff G.W.
Department of Sociology
Karlsruhe Institute for Technology
Karlsruhe, Germany.

E-mail: Oesterdiekhoff@t-online.de

F. Fürstenberg, Department of Sociology University of Bonn

Fürstenberg F.
Department of Sociology
University of Bonn, Germany.