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Title: Ancient Mesopotamian divination : anxiety and methods of decision-making
Author: Daneshmand, Mohammad
ISNI:       0000 0004 7971 630X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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This study concerns the role of ancient Mesopotamian divination in decision-making. I argue that ancient Mesopotamian divination is a praxis, reflecting the historicity of decisions taken by people in different historical periods of ancient Mesopotamia. From this standpoint, I argue that divination is a response to anxiety stemming from freedom of choice. Freedom of choice (i.e. choosing between different options) leads to the state of anxiety because the outcome of any possible choice is a matter of question, that is, decision-making becomes much complicated under uncertainty. To address this objective, I utilise existential, psychological and sociological theories, with a view to integrate them in a synthetic approach. I also look at the theory of heuristics in judgment and decision-making to underline the biases inherent in predictions and the process of decision-making, that helps to discuss the nature of communication between diviners and their clients. I discuss how divination gives consensus and legitimation to decisions taken by people in difficult and uncertain situations. Although every decision-making process, even though pre-reflective, involves a degree of anxiety, I focus on decisions taken consciously and reflectively for high risk situations, justifying the practice of expensive sessions of divinatory consultations. Previous studies of ancient Mesopotamian divination have not addressed the emotional and anxiety-reassurance function of divination for decisions that cannot be taken easily. To fill this gap, my research is a historical and social analysis of divination in the second millennium BC, which seeks to historicize divination.
Supervisor: Dahl, Jacob L. Sponsor: Wolfson College ; Soudavar Award ; Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available