Introduction to Part V
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Introduction to Part V book
Therefore, Stewart dismisses Baird's disputation against the category of syncretism, because he finds that it is convenient as a descriptive term from the point of view of social science and shows the efficiency of discursive processes. In reference to what he names "circumlocution," Stewart understands the impact that the term syncretism has on forming folk theories of culture and "directing the invention of traditions." It is in this recognition of the enduring problem of the notion that he points to how "syncretism" is socially related to power. This is a fact, which speaks for including a social level of inquiry into the larger frame of theory of syncretism. But, still more can be said on how to describe the phenomenon of syncretism. Stewart expresses doubt as to whether syncretism refers to stable conditions or to ongoing processes. It is, as he points out, the dilemma, or tension, between "structure" and "process." In noting this tension between what seems to be two incompatible poles in the nature of syncretism, Stewart confesses that the dilemma is a problem of social-science enquiry in general; in other words, the continuing debate over the relation between theory and practice. Despite his attempt to grasp the nature of the phenomenon Stewart admits to its fluidity and describes it, more or less in accordance with Michael Pye's definition of the syncretistic process, as a "momentary state of mixture ... in a
Introduction to Part V
or "symbolic system" through the process of socialization. Thus it is argued that culture is the product of the human mind; contrary to historians' traditional assumption when they refer to culture as the product of historical and haphazard contingency. Accordingly, religious ideas involve or contain innate cognitive structures that may reveal to us their "learnability" and the causes for their acquisition. Consequently, Martin establishes that syncretistic formations in cultural constructions may be explained from their founding in cognitive constraints. Analogous to language, Martin suggests, syncretistic formations are constrained by selectivity and combinatorial systems that do not (con)fuse or mix their semantics. Turning to the studies of how the brain works, Martin succeeds in refuting the classical assumption of syncretism as simply the "mishmash of religions"—not everything goes.