A Metaphysics of Spiritual Experience

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Abstract

A discussion of the metaphysics of spiritual experience requires that we are clear about the nature of metaphysics, and I am going to take as my starting-point the ‘transcendent metaphysics’ described and supposedly eliminated by A.J. Ayer. Most analytic philosophers agree with Ayer (and Kant) that transcendent metaphysics in the relevant sense is deeply problematic, and they associate it with platonism, theism, and religious thinking more generally. Assuming then that spiritual experience takes us into religious territory, and this territory is forbidden, a metaphysics of spiritual experience is going to involve transcendent metaphysics, and it will be similarly problematic. Ayer’s conception of transcendent reality is itself deeply problematic, and I shall argue that his metaphysical framework helps to motivate atheistic spirituality by ruling out the possibility of an empirically grounded and hence defensible religious alternative. I shall challenge this framework, set out an alternative with the help of Arthur Schopenhauer, and spell out the implications for a metaphysics of spiritual experience.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReligious Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 29 Dec 2022

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