[NB] Similarity and Contagion

So way back in the early twentieth century, James Frazer drew a distinction between two sorts of ‘spurious’ causality that animated magical thought. Interestingly, despite Frazer’s clear argument that these forms of causality are spurious, the concepts were broadly adopted by the mid-twentieth century revival of magic in Europe, inflecting the theory of magic.

I want to revisit Frazer’s use of these distinctions and think through them a bit. I want to keep in sight his underlying presupposition that he is describing superstition (i.e., a special kind of cognitive error), but I obviously don’t plan to ignore the potential utility of these concepts to genuine occult work.

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