Trickster and Cain: An Allegory of Musical and Linguistic Anthropology

Author Information

Pavlos Kavouras,
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

DOI: 10.47298/comela22.1-1
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in the Mediterranean and Europe 2022


In this talk, I will juxtapose the mythological figure of trickster with the biblical figure of Cain. In doing so, my purpose is to shed light on the dynamics of human thinking. Trickster is a potent symbol of humanity. It is found in the oral literatures of tribal peoples worldwide, in the context of which his mode of thinking and acting is amply demonstrated. Trickster became widely known to the Western world as a unique expression of humanity, mainly through the works of the anthropologist Paul Radin and the psychologist Carl Jung. Trickstering is a unique human quality which concerns a one-way logic of being in the world. Trickster’s flow of consciousness moves from a center or point of departure outwards, having no destination, and is defined by the lack of any subject / object differentiation. Trickster stands ideally for abductive logic, to use the philosopher Charles Saunders Peirce’s terminology, as opposed to the other two Peircean kinds of logic, inductive and deductive, which I take to represent together the logic of Cain. In the case of Cain, human thinking is characterized by the subject / object divide, which introduces an epistemological and, eventually, a reflexive dualism, with serious, moral, and ethical implications. Cain’s logic flows from the particular to the whole and vice versa, inductively or deductively, as it is defined and determined by the mental law of ‘Two’ in the thinker’s or actor’s reflexive relationship with the world – his or her physical, social, and spiritual cosmos.
After setting the stage for a critical encountering between the primitive trickster and the biblical Cain, I will interpret their exchanges and incompatible expressions regarding their non-reflexive and reflexive ways of being in the world, respectively. Finally, I will turn to music and allegory, attempting to blend these two fundamental components of humanity with the archetypal characters of trickster and Cain. It is in the context of such a dialogue that trickster’s encounter with Cain acquires its musical and allegorical momentum, and sheds light through its abductive othering to the question of interpretation and human consciousness.

Keywords: Peirce, Young, Radin, Frith, Pattison, Trickster, Cain, Cainism, Pantheism, Linguistic Anthropology, Allegory, Performative Dialogics, Parallel Thinking, Othering


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