On religious practices as multiscale active inference: certainties emerging from recurrent interactions within and across individuals and groups

Inês Hipólito, Casper Hesp

Research output: Working paperPreprint

Abstract

This chapter takes inspiration from Wittgenstein’s thinking to formulate a non-reductive toolbox associated with generative modelling, specifically as applied in complex adaptive systems theory. It converges on a communal perspective on religion as multiscale active inference that contrasts starkly with common “straw person” perspectives on religion that aim to reduce it to “erroneous” metaphysical theorising motivated by spiritual experiences “generated by the brain”. In contrast, religious practices both enable and require the emergence of implicit (or “ineffable”) meanings that are experienced both individually (i.e., one’s personal faith) and collectively (“the faith”), with only partial commensurability cast under Wittgenstein’s notions of ‘rule-following’ and ‘language games’. We show how the collective and perspectival aspects of religion in enculturation with morals, doctrines, rituals, and expressions can be formalised in terms of deep active inference in multi-agent systems. This approach describes how religions are incommensurable with the scientific method due to the epistemic separation between the different kinds of language games of religious and scientific practices. Touchpoints between these different kinds of language games tend to give rise to perpetual confusion and unproductive discussions. As a particularly impactful example, we discuss ethical considerations in policy-making, which demonstrates how our account can help shed light on complex societal challenges that have emerged at the touchpoints between religion and science.
Original languageEnglish
DOIs
Publication statusSubmitted - 1 Jul 2022

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NamePsyArXiv Preprints

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