Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Dimensions of Religious Experience (A)

(Originally written February 27, 2007)

Philosophy of Religion
Norman Geisler and Winfried Corduan

Part 3 The Dimensions of Religious Experience

Through commitment to the ultimate Transcendent Other a person is able to transcend himself.

Religious transcendence has been backward, upward, outward, forward, inward, downward and in a circle.

Transcending Toward the Beginning

Transcending backward to the Origin of religious aspirations has been a characteristic feature of the primitive religious experience.

Eliade's Myth of Origins:

By ritually repeating the original act of the gods one can recall the original time of the act.

Eliade holds that "religion is the paradigmatic solution for every existential crisis not only because it can be indefinitely repeated, but also because it is believed to have a transcendent origin; thus enabling a human being to transcend personal situations and finally gain access to the world of spirit" (42).

The limitations of transcending backward

Eliade describes a retrospective kind of religious transcendence.

Transcending toward the Highest

Plato's cave is an example of transcending upwards.

Plotinus believed that all things proceed from the One and all things return to it.

The further one is from the One the less reality it possess. To purify one's self of evil (non-reality) one must transcend up to the One.

Transcendence for Plotinus was not retrospective, but vertical towards unity.

Plotinus saw transcendence as natural, not supernatural. Neo-Platonic Christians have difficulty with reconciling natural transcendence with divine grace.

The Characteristics of Religious Experience

(Originally written February 27, 2007)

Philosophy of Religion 2nd Edition
Norman Geisler & Winfried Corduan

Part 2 The Characteristics of Religious Experience

In order for an experience to be a religious experience it must:
1) Involve awareness of the Transcendent
2) Involve a person making an ultimate commitment to the Transcendent

Religious Experience Involves an Awareness of the Transcendent

Whatever the description or name for the Transcendent, there is something, real or unreal, which goes beyond the individual in which or by which he transcends his finite conditions.

Some Paradigms for the Meaning of Transcendence

Paul M. van Buren believed that all language used as God-language or its equivalent is a dead language.

Ian T. Ramsey holds that metaphors and odd words have a power of disclosure. These odd phrases, metaphors and tautologies have deeper meanings than can be linguistically expressed.

The need for self-transcendence

"Religious experience involves the need to transcend the unalterable displeasures of life" (30).

Peter Koëstenbaum's description of religion: "man's effort to do something about the desperate condition of his own finitude" (30-31).

Sigmund Freud depicted religion as the human search for a cosmic father.

Rudolf Bultmann defined religion as a human longing to escape this world by discovering a sphere above this world.

Walter Kaufmann - Religion is rooted in man's goal to transcend himself. Man is the ape that wants to be god and man is the God-intoxicated ape.

Jean-Paul Sartre believed man's project is to become God.

A human being is that which needs self-transcendence.

Koëstenbaum held that love is an "a priori category by which the religious person unifies his world and overcomes the opposing otherness and attains self-fulfillment" (31).

Religious experience characteristically involves some means by which a person can self-transcend or "go beyond his own frustrating limitations" (32)

Chris Linehan: Then would not a failure to transcend one's self be a failed religious experience, but a religious experience nonetheless?

The Necessity of the Transcendent Other in Religious Experience

In order to have a religious experience one must believe that a Transcendent thing exists outside of one's self.

Religion is an "I-Thou" relationship, not an "I-I" relationship.

The Unity of Meaning of the Transcendent

Friedrich Schleiermacher argued that multiplicity of content of experience and expression is necessary for the complete manifestation of religion.

William James held that this plurality is necessary to fit the plurality of human needs.

William James argued that all religions have three common characteristics:
1) That the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe
2) that union with that higher universe is our end
3) prayer is a process wherein work is done and spiritual energy flows in and produces effects within the phenomenal world

James held that the basic cognitive content of all religions have:
1) an awareness that there is something wrong with us as we naturally are
2) an awareness that we are saved from this wrongness by making proper connection with higher powers

Religion and the transcendent

Religious experience implies a dimension that is called the Transcendent

The transcendent is with whom religious experience happens. The transcendent is many things and not limited to any conceptualizations of a personal or impersonal God.

Religious experience always involves a transcendent dimension.

Religious experience involves both self-transcendence and a transcendent realm.

"In order to go beyond, there must be a Beyond (real or imagined) toward which as in which the religious experience moves" (35).

The Transcendent discloses itself and evokes a response from the individual experiencing the Transcendent.

Religious Experience involves a total commitment

Religious experience involves an a awareness of the Transcendent and an awareness of it as ultimate and as demanding an ultimate commitment.

In religion, individuals give a total commitment to the whole universe.

Experience is religious in nature if it involves ultimate commitment to the Ultimate.

Religious experience involves at least two fundamental factors:
1) An awareness of the Transcendent
2) a total commitment to it as the ultimate

"Religious experience is universal. It involves two basic elements: an awareness of the Transcendent and a total commitment to the Transcendent" (39).

The Transcendent is necessary to the fulfillment of man's fundamental drive to transcend.

God and Experience

(Originally written February 27, 2007)

Philosophy of Religion 2nd Edition
Norman Geisler & Winfried Corduan
Wipf and Stock Publishers
Eugene, OR 2003

Part 1 - God and Experience

1. The Nature of Religious Experience

"Religion is an experiential issue, not a merely intellectual one" (Geisler, 13).

The Meaning of Experience

Experience is the awareness of a subject that individuals have.

Experience can be viewed two ways:
1) Generally
2) Specifically

General experience is the totality of consciousness.

Specific experience is the experience of a certain event in one's life.

Experience in general is the basis for particular experiences.

Primary awareness is the most basic level of experience. It's the basic unreflective consciousness of an individual.

Secondary awareness is the consciousness of being conscious. Remembering, reflecting, relating and reasoning occur in secondary awareness.

Secondary awareness presupposes primary and awareness.

The Meaning of Religion

Religion is difficult to define in a universally accepted way.

By using Wittgenstein's notion of "family resemblance", philosophers of religion can state that no two religions have identical characteristics, but all religions exhibit typical characteristics to some degree.

Awareness of the Transcendent is usually included in most definitions of religion.

There are at least two senses in which religious experience involves transcendence:
1) Self-Transcendence: the process of overcoming the conditions of one's finitude
2) The Transcendent: the object of religious experience

The Christian God is one form of the Transcendent. The two terms are not equivalent.

Transcendent means two things:
1) Going beyond one's immediate consciousness while is somehow always known to be there.
2) Religious transcendent is the ultimate, that which is Beyond beyond where no more beyonds can be sought for.

Religious Experience Distinguished from other experiences

Religious experience is often closely associated with three other types of experience:
1) Moral
2) Aesthetic
3) Secular

Religious experience in contrast to moral experience

Some equate religious experience and moral experience. Kant defined religion as "the recognition of all duties as divine commands".

Soren Kierkegaard drew the sharpest distinction between a moral duty and a religious duty. Moral duties express one's universal duty, but that religious duties hold the individual as a particular as higher than the universal. Basically Kierkegaard claimed that a moral experience responds to a moral law, whereas a religious experience responds to the moral Law-giver.

Morality is a responsibility to the world; religion is a responsibility to beyond the world. "Morality tells a person what he ought to do; religion can help him do it" (20).

A religious experience has a broader scope of commitment, the commitment is different in kind, the object is higher, and its object has the power to overcome and unify.

"Morality is a matter of duty; religion is a matter also of desire" (21).

Moral mistakes can be overcome by religious experience.

Religious Experience in contrast to Aesthetic Experience

Schleiermacher states that science is speculative, art is practical and religion is intuitive.

Kierkegaard views the aesthetic, moral and religious as three dimensions of one's life:
Aesthetic - level of feeling
Ethical - level of deciding
Religious - level of existing

Aesthetic is simply knowing, religion is what one chooses to live.

"Aesthetics involves a sense of wonder and amazement; religion involves a sense of worship and adoration" (24).

The religious experience experiences what is ultimate; the aesthetic experience, regardless of how profound, is not ultimate.

Religious Experience in contrast to purely secular experience

There is a difference between humanistic and secular experience.

Humanistic experience can still be an experience of that which is transcendent.

"The fact that purely secular experiences are difficult to find is testimony to how incurably religious man is" (25).

That which is unable or unwilling to transcend in any direction is non-religious.

The transcendent is difficult to find, so some have given up the search. Others are completely unwilling to search for it.

Some refuse to commit to the Transcendent because they wish to honor themselves as the ultimate.

There are two ways in which a person can be irreligious or purely humanistic:
1) He is unable to see the Transcendent
2) He is unwilling to submit to it

The universality and reality of religious experience

Few, if any, have attained a state of complete secularism. "Most secular experience is quasi religious" (26)

Human kind as a whole has been religious. "To be human means to reach toward God" (27).

"The mere universality of religious experience is by no means a guarantee of its reality or a sure indication of its unreality" (27).

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ontological Argument: Anselm & Modal Logic

(Originally written February 22, 2007)

Arguments on behalf of the Ontological argument

1) It is conceivable that a being could exist in all possible worlds; If God didn't, he wouldn't be God.
2) Existence is predicated in the definition of God
3) There must be a cause for everything's existence or non-existence, so there is no reason why a necessary being couldn't exist.
4) Simpler hypothesis for God to exist in either all possible worlds or none
5) If God exists in all possible worlds, there is an answer to the question of why something exists rather than nothing. This is best answered by a necessary being.
6) If God can exist, he has to exist, or he wouldn't be God.
7) If we have any idea of perfection, there must be actual perfection, which is God.

The Ontological Argument

Anselm of Canterbury (1033 - 1109)

1) God is, by definition, that which nothing greater can be conceived.


Objection 1: It does not follow that what exists in the mind exists in reality.
Objection 2: The mental formulation of the most perfect being is impossible.
Objection 3: If the ontological argument is valid then the existence of a perfect island can be inferred.

Latin word for being? Does it imply essence or existence? Does have multiple uses for the word as the word "being" does in English?

"Absolutely perfect" - refers to the essence of something.

Anselm: by definition all great-making qualities is in the absolutely perfect. All intrinsically great-making properties, not extrinsically.

The ontological argument is supposed to be completely a priori. But, you cannot have the ontological argument without presupposing the cosmological argument.

Modal Logic

If something is necessary it must be true in all logically possible worlds.

If something is possible, then it is true in at least one possible world.

If something is necessarily true it must be true in the actual world.

If something is possibly true then it may or may not be true in the actual world.

If it is possible that God exists, He necessarily does.

Can we demonstrate the existence of God?

(Originally written February 20, 2007)

Can we demonstrate the existence of God?


1) Can never demonstrate an infinite cause from a finite effect.
2) God's existence is known through faith. Reason cannot prove matters of faith.
3) Even a demonstration that's logically valid may not correspond to reality.
4) We are limited by being enclosed in a finite universe, which we cannot escape. God exists outside of the universe, thus we cannot demonstrate his existence or non-existence.
5) Every argument for the existence of God must first assume His existence, thus all arguments are circular.
6) No argument for the existence of God is ever going to convince who doesn't already believe.
7) God's essence is the middle term, but we cannot comprehend God's essence.

Explanation of 7)

All birds are egg layers (major premise)
All penguins are birds (minor premise)
Therefore, all penguins are egg layers (conclusion)

"Birds" - the middle term
"egglayers" - major term, always the predicate of the conclusion
penguins - minor term, always the subject of the conclusion

The essence of God must function as the middle term, but we do not have any comprehension of the essence of God, so it cannot function that way.

8) There is no such thing as metaphysical knowledge. All knowledge is limited to experience.
9) God cannot be proven by scientific experiments.
10) The term 'God' is meaningless.

Can we demonstrate the existence of God?
Based on Summa Theologic 1, q. 2a.2

Objections revisited

1. A priori objections
2. A posteriori objections

A priori objection #1

Religious language is meaningless
- Ayer, Wittgenstein, logical positivists
- In order to be a meaningful a statement must be, in principle, verifiable

A priori objection #2
- We cannot validate religious experience empirically
- Flew

A priori objection #3
- What is rational, needn't be true
- post modernism
All dragons have wings
All monsters are dragons
Therefore, all monsters have wings

A posteriori objection #1
-Knowledge of God can only be based on faith
- Kierkegaard

A posteriori objection #2
- We cannot apprehend God's essence

A posteriori objection #3
- The finite can never extend to the infinite
- Alfred North Whitehead

A posteriori objection #4
- Presuppositionalism: Since God is first in Being, we must begin with God
- Kierkegaard, Van Til

Transcendental argumentation

Ways to draw valid logical inferences
1) Deduction - formal inferences from premises
2) Induction - probable conclusions from observations

We know there is a world
- What are the conditions that are necessary for there to be a world?
- We cannot look outside o the world to find God
- If there is a God, there could be evidence for a God in the world.

Any attempt to simply close the option of there being theistic proofs are purely arbitrary.

Can the finite attain infinity?

Georg Cantor's set theory

{1, 2, 3, 4 ... infinity}
{1, 2, 3, 4

but the set of real numbers, which is infinite is longer than the set of integers, which is also infinite.

Metaphysical infinity is more than mathematical infinite.

Important considerations

- Distinction between that something exists and comprehending its essence.

Distinction between ontology and epistemology.
-Ontology (being)
-Epistemology (knowing)

Ontologically, God exists or he doesn't.

Theistic proofs deal with the epistemological question: "Can one know that God exists".

Ontology - God exists
Epistemology - Ascertaining the ontology

Arguing in a circle.

God exists
Therefore, he has shown his effects
Therefore, he has ...
Therefore, he has ...
Therefore, God exists.

Believing the ontological statement that "God exists" and then providing an epistemological proof is not circular, so long as one does not assume it in the actual argument.

Assignment: argue for the ontological argument.

Aquinas and the Disputatio method

(Originally Written February 15, 2007)

Philosophy of Religion
Class Notes

Class Methodology: Disputatio

St. Thomas Aquinas
- born in Aquino, Italy around 1225 AD
- sent to a Benedictine Monastery at age 5
- Aquinas' life is marked by a number of historically significant events: the papacy struggles, the Crusades, political instability, Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire, the Mongol invasions of Eastern Europe, the rediscovery of Aristotle
- kidnapped from the monastery by his brothers to stop him from joining the Dominican Order
- Aquinas went to the University of Naples to study Aristotle and joined the Dominican Order
- Studied then at Paris and then at Cologne under Albertus Magnus (Albert the Great)
- He and his friend Boniface were asked to teach at the University of Paris but were too young. They had to get special papal permission.
- Left Paris and taught at a high school and wrote an "easy" textbook for children: The Summa Theologica
- Returned to Paris to find turmoil over the Aristotelianism in the University of Paris
- Thomas Aquinas' handwriting was utterly illegible
- Wrote for the reunification of the Eastern and Western Churches that was supposed to happen at the Council of Leon in 1274. But prior to this happening he had his mystical experience and declared that compared to this experience all he had written was as straw. He died and never wrote again.

Two main ways of teaching in Medieval Europe:
1) Master read and students were expected to listen and memorize.
2) Disputatio


Master's topic: Whether we can prove the existence of God?

Bachelor: States yes.
Class: Brings up all possible objections to 'yes'
objection 1
objection 2
objection 3...

Bachelor: repeat each objection in such a way so as to show he understands the objection thoroughly. Then give his response(s).

Master: give the definitive answer and give responses to the objection and responses to the responses to the objection.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Plato on Art (Class Notes)

(Originally written February 8, 2007)

Class Notes

Plato's cave analogy

1. Eternal forms are most real
2) The physical world is a representation of eternal forms
3) Art is a representation of the physical world, thus art is representation of a representation

Plato sees art as a necessarily subversive field in seeking true knowledge.

Plato's Ion

Ion is a raphsode, an expert on Homer.

Socrates does not believe Ion's skill of raphsode of Homer is in fact a skill or knowledge. If it were a trained skill then Ion would be skillful in all poets, not just Homer. Socrates believes that rhapsodes are interpreters of interpreters (poets).

Poets interpret the gods that possess them. Raphsodes interpret the interpreters (poet). Both possess neither skill nor knowledge, only divine inspiration. Artists are similar to prophets in their religiosity and ecstatic nature.

Three key differences between reason and inspiration.

1) Reason deals with nous (mind). Inspiration deals with madness.
2) Reason deals with possession of knowledge. Inspiration deals with possession by God.
3) Reason deals with human skill. Inspiration deals with divine power.


Does God or any other supernatural being inspire artists? If so, does he/it inspire all artists or some better artists?

Does sin block artistic inspiration?

Does moral struggle aid divine inspiration or mature such divine inspiration?

If artistic inspiration opposes technique why do artists study?