Posted: Dec 18, 2011 11:14 am
by Spearthrower
jlowder wrote:
What metaphysical work does the IPU or fairies perform?

Fairies, like other belief systems, account for coincidences by extrapolating agency. They are the sprites of mischief and sometimes malice. Their metaphysical function is effectively to explain coincidence. If a man runs through a forest and trips over a hidden branch, it was effected by the fairies. Now, the believer of fairies knows full well that purely physical forces account for his fall, but he explains that he has run through the forest many times and never fallen over that branch, some agency has to be brought in to account for why he should fall this particular time.

Likewise, with the Azande people's belief in witchcraft, they know full well that termites eat wood, and that a wooden stoop roof falling on someone's head is the practical means by which that person dies, but they invoke witchcraft to explain the agency they feel is lacking in explaining the coincidence of someone happening to be sitting there just as the termites' burrowings reached a sufficient point to cause the roof to fall.

The agency element is precisely why supernatural invocations exist: to explain things beyond the remit of understanding of the believer. It's an apparent absence of causation processed through a metaphysical narrative.

As such, fairies perform precisely the same role as a god. It might have been better to have left fairies out of it and stayed with just the IPU. :thumbup: