Existenz Menu
An International Journal in Philosophy, Religion, Politics, and the Arts
ISSN 1932-1066

Volume 12, No.2, Fall 2017

Mysticism and Transcendence in Philosophy


Index and Editor's Introduction

Wonder and Tugendhat's Mysticism
Alexei Procyshyn | Sun Yat-sen University, Zhuhai, China

Ernst Tugendhat has recently argued that mystical experiences are prompted by a specific sense of wonder or awe. This sense of wonder, he contends, promises to alleviate the existential stresses that follow from the kinds of concerns our propositional language engenders. In this essay, I outline Tugendhat's account of mysticism, focusing on the role wonder plays in it, and expressing a few perplexities about his position. Specifically, I question whether Tugendhat is committed to a disjunctivist theory of experience (with an epistemic or mystical orientation to the contents of experience) and whether this implicit disjunction hinges on a difference between the skilled environmental coping usually associated with a non-propositionally structured form of know-how and a propositionally structured form of knowing-that. I then consider whether Tugendhat's conception of mysticism involves a form of skilled coping that he had previously rejected in his discussion of human language use. The potential re-emergence of skilled coping in mystical practices, I conclude, indicates a tension in Tugendhat's account of mysticism and its relation to wonder.

Keywords: Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Jaspers, Karl; Kierkegaard, Søren; Foundationalism; mysticism; receptivity; transcendence.


Intuition, Worlds, and Transcendence: The Eroding Foundations of Spiritual Experience
Stephen A. Erickson | Pomona College

Is it possible that the foundations and thus the grounding of the life of the human spirit are eroding? There are at least two ways in which this might happen. Both are said to have grown in strength over the last few centuries. One is epistemological. It advances through influential and self-reinforcing claims to the effect that human cognition cannot reach and therefore could not explore such foundations. Kant can be taken as a pivotal representative of this strategy. His strategy is perhaps best labeled "agnostic." The other mode of denial of the mystical as foundational is far more metaphysical. It advances through scientific and especially psychologically driven claims regarding the "nature of reality." This form of denial purports to trace the sources through which human reality is erroneously inflated in the direction of something that human reality neither is nor has valid reason to believe exists anywhere else. In so tracing such purported sources of the mystical this approach is perhaps best labeled reductive and, from most spiritual points of view, nihilistic. But might there be modes of mediated human self-encountering that offer potential avenues of liberation from each of these prevalent contemporary culs-de-sac?

Keywords: Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Jaspers, Karl; Kierkegaard, Søren; Foundationalism; mysticism; receptivity; transcendence.


Wisdom in Aristotle and Aquinas
Edmond Eh | University of Saint Joseph, Macau, China

This essay contains an attempt to trace the evolution of the concept of wisdom as found in the thought of Aristotle and Aquinas in terms of how the philosophical concept of wisdom as an intellectual virtue is understood and used to express the theological concept of wisdom as a gift of the Holy Spirit. The main aim is to understand how Aquinas derived the concept of wisdom from Aristotle's metaphysics and developed it in his mysticism. This research is based on a close study of Book Six of Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, the corresponding sections of Aquinas' Sententia libri Ethicorum and question forty-five of the second part of the second part of Aquinas' Summa Theologiae. The insights gained from the study are then used to decipher the theoretical meaning of Augustine's famous saying: "love and do what thou wilt" and to expound on the practical value of wisdom for religious leaders.

Keywords: Aristotle; Augustine of Hippo; Aquinas, Thomas; wisdom; metaphysics; mysticism; intellectual virtue; gift of the Holy Spirit; leadership.


Three Modes of Recovering Mysticism: Responses to Procyshyn, Erickson, and Eh
Mario Wenning | University of Macau, China

Philosophical mysticism is in the process of being rediscovered. In contrast to mysticism's traditional formulations, recent articulations of it emphasize the rational potentials of coming to terms with human finitude. By way of engaging the three mystical perspectives opened up by the contributions of Edmond Eh, Stephen Erickson and Alexei Procyshyn, the essay addresses a specifically modern sense of mystical wisdom: mysticism consists in decentering oneself in light of inner-worldly experiences of wonder.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Tugendhat, Ernst; existentialism; limits of language; limits of reason; mysticism; rationality; wonder; wisdom; gift; sublime.


Interpreting Karl Jaspers' "Phenomenological" Plato: Transcending the Bounds of the Doctrinal Scholarly Tradition
James M. Magrini | College of DuPage

Focusing on Karl Jaspers' important reading of Plato, I make the case for the re-conceptualization of Plato as a non-doctrinal philosopher, by means of phenomenological-existential readings of his dialogues related to contemporary Continental thought. The essay builds upon Jaspers' largely overlooked phenomenological-existential readings of both Plato and Socrates in relation to Platonic scholarship emerging from the contemporary phenomenological tradition. I focus on a speculative interpretation of Jaspers' non-doctrinal Plato by analyzing four components of his prescient reading, which is an invaluable historical and philosophical document of Platonic scholarship that precedes contemporary Continental phenomenological approaches to Platonic interpretation by a span of more than three decades. The unacknowledged presence of Jaspers' phenomenological understanding of Plato reverberates in the contemporary phenomenological and hermeneutic scholarship focused on understanding Plato's non-doctrinal philosophical project. Ultimately, I read Jaspers' unique analysis of Plato in its relation to the contemporary non-doctrinal Platonic scholarship that is focused on questioning traditional analytic and doctrinal readings of Plato in order to learn how Jaspers' work might contribute to future phenomenological analyses of Plato while upholding Jaspers' deserved recognition as a philosophical pioneer in the field of phenomenological Plato scholarship.

Keywords: Jaspers' Plato; hermeneutics; phenomenology; Platonic dialogues; non-doctrinal Platonic readings; philosophieren; fundamental knowledge; dialectic-as-dialogue.


The Myth of Er as a Rationalizing Recording Device
Michael Weinman| Bard College Berlin, Germany

This essay introduces the idea of a rationalizing recording device, a mechanism by which the thoughts and actions of one or more persons are both preserved and made more accessible to reason. Plato's Myth of Er is depicted as being such a device, since its story is cinematic in the contemporary sense. Just as films can affect viewers by making one aware of thoughts that cannot be carried in the medium of the moving image itself, so too does Plato express his thoughts about the telos of the cosmos and the moral judgment one must make when confronted with  choosing how to live through the external medium of a moving image.

Keywords: Plato; Er; myth; dialectic; poetry; narrative; film-philosophy; representation.


Truth, Reality, and Fiction in the Documentary of Errol Morris: Refiguring Platonism in Epistemology and Aesthetics
Shai Biderman| Tel Aviv University and Beit-Berl College, Israel

This essay contests the status of Plato as a decisive commentator at the intersection of epistemology and philosophical aesthetics, and questions to what extent Plato's positions and practices align with that is generally called Platonism in contemporary philosophical discussions. Current discussions on the philosophical relevance of film often ignore the particular features of documentary in the genre of film-philosophy, in particular the idea that films are philosophical with regard to an ethical domain. The case of Errol Morris is discussed at some length, demonstrating the ways in which a reconsideration of truth and image, in relation to production and representation through Plato and Platonism demand a deeper engagement with documentary.

Keywords: Platonism; cinema; documentary; truth; self-representation; performativity; facticity; film-philosophy.



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