Gambling and divining are not similar but “neighboring practices”

Frédéric Laugrand


In a paper published in 1926, Lévy-Bruhl suggests a close affinity between the mentality of the gambler and the diviner, putting forward the role of the unseen. Such a comparison is made too quickly as gambling and divining are not that similar but subject to a great variation depending on the contexts. Techniques involved are many, and almost everywhere human beings but also plants and animals anticipate and influence future events in different ways. If some connections can be made between gambling and divining, lumping all divination practices leads nowhere. Moreover, nor the idea of a “mysterious power” nor the sense of superiority or depression of the gambler can be found in Inuit and Ibaloy divination. Deceased, spirits and other beings, including God, play a part that is acknowledged, and people never feel abandoned. Lévy-Bruhl is caught in a mysticism that is not empirically based.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/709808