John of the Cross and the Cognitive Value of Mysticism

John of the Cross and the Cognitive Value of Mysticism : An Analysis of Sanjuanist Teaching and its Philosophical Implications for Contemporary Discussions of Mystical Experience

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Among Anglo-American philosophers, interest in mysticism has typically been limited to the question of whether or not mystical and religious experi- ences provide evidence for, or knowledge of, the existence and nature of God. Most authors conclude that they do not, because such experiences lack certain qualities needed in order to be counted as cognitive. In this study I examine some current philosophical opinions about mysticism and objec- tions to its epistemic significance in the context of a detailed study of the writings of a single mystical author, the Spanish Carmelite Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591). I argue that from his works one can draw a coherent theory of what takes place in the Christian mystical life, and will indicate how acceptance of this theory might be defended as rational through a type of inference often referred to as the "Argument to the Best Explanation. " In this way I hope to show that mysticism still has a significant bearing on the justification of religious faith even if it cannot be used to "prove" the exis- tence of God. The nature and advantages of my own somewhat unusual approach to mysticism can perhaps best be explained by contrasting it with the way other authors have dealt with the subject. One of the most striking develop- ments in recent decades has been the growing fascination with mysticism, meditation, and the experiential aspects of religion.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 246 pages
  • 163.6 x 240.8 x 24.1mm | 589.68g
  • Springer
  • Dordrecht, Netherlands
  • English
  • 1990 ed.
  • XX, 246 p.
  • 0792307070
  • 9780792307075

Review quote

'This book is a significant contribution to the literature on mysticism and the epistemology thereof. It is recommended to all those interested in the mystics and in the question of the cognitive value of mysticism.' Review of Metaphysics March 1992
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Table of contents

One / John of the Cross.- 1.1. Preliminary Remarks.- 1.2. The Man.- 1.3. The Texts.- Two / The Doctrine of St. John of the Cross: The Structure of the Human Person.- 2.1. The Sensory Part of the Soul.- 2.1.1. The Body.- 2.1.2. The Exterior Senses.- 2.1.3. The Interior Senses.- 2.2. The "Spiritual Part" of the Soul.- 2.2.1. The Intellect.- 2.2.2. The Will.- 2.2.3. The Memory.- 2.2.4. "Spiritual Senses" and "The Substance of the Soul".- Three / The Doctrine of St. John of the Cross: The Dynamics of Spiritual Development.- 3.1. The Starting Point: Human Existence as "Fallen".- 3.2. The Stages and Means of Spiritual Growth.- 3.2.1. Beginners and the Passive Night of Sense.- 3.2.2. Proficients, the Passive Night of Spirit, and Spiritual Espousal.- 3.2.3. "Perfect" Souls, Spiritual Marriage, and the Unitive Way.- 3.3. The Goal of Religious Development.- Four / Some Transitional Observations on the Nature of Christian Mysticism and the Data to Be Explained.- 4.1. Toward a More Adequate Characterization of Christian Mysticism.- 4.2. The Data to Be Explained.- Five / Some Objections Considered.- 5.1 Objections Based on the Problem of Inter-Subjective Agreement.- 5.1.1. Disagreement Between Mystics and Non-Mystics.- 5.1.2. Disagreement Among Mystics Themselves.- 5.1.3. The Role of the Mystics' Prior Beliefs in Shaping Their Experiences.- 5.2. Objections Based on the Issue of Testability.- 5.3. Other Objections.- Six / Mysticism and the Explanatory Mode of Inference.- 6.1. Explanations and the Explanatory Mode of Inference.- 6.2. Competing Explanations of Mysticism.- 6.2.1. The Hypothesis that Mysticism is a Cognitive Mode of Experience.- 6.2.2. Reductive Psychoanalytical Accounts of Mysticism.- 6.2.3. Reductive Psychological Accounts of Mysticism.- 6.2.4. Reductive Physiological Accounts of Mysticism.- 6.2.5. Reductive Sociological or Anthropological Accounts of Mysticism.- 6.3. The Reasonableness of Accepting Mysticism as a Cognitive Mode of Experience.- Seven / Conclusions.- Index of Names.- Index of Subjects.
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