Ritual artifacts are produced by individuals and/or small groups, left over-there, in the environment, perceivable, sharable, and more or less available. Artifacts of this type can be considered cognitive mediators, insofar as they are collective memory stores of related habits, in the sense that they mediate and make available the story of their origin and the actions related to it, which can be learnt and/or re-activated when needed. Indeed, symbolic habits embedded in rites can also be seen as memory mediators which maximize abducibility, which is the human capacity to guess hypotheses, because they maximize recoverability of already stored cognitive contents. In sum, once suitable representations are externalized in a ritual artifact, they can be sensorially picked up and manipulated to re-internalize them when humans attend the rite: the externalization can be seen as the fruit of the so-called “disembodiment of the mind” as a significant cognitive perspective, able to show some basic features of what I called manipulative abduction, which I will describe in my presentation. When analyzing artifacts and habits in ritual settings, it is important to remember that interesting cases of creative meaning formation are also at play. Actually, we can distinguish two kinds of habits that are at play in rites: (a) a knowledge-based kind of habit, for the analysis of which the concept of “affordance” is useful, which also plays a pivotal role in the justification of the agent’s own beliefs; and (b) an ignorance-based kind of habit, which will be proved as necessary for the beginning of thought, and which is at the base of the ampliative abductive reasoning.
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