Skip to main content

Fascinating Interview with Eric Steinhart...

...at Prosblogion. I found his description of his religious experiences particularly fascinating. It's worth quoting at some length:
Much of my interest in philosophy of religion has been driven by a series of religious or mystical experiences. I have had five or six of these. Of them, three have been overpowering, ego-shattering experiences, while three have been gentler. But all have been profoundly moving. None of them have involved God. Other philosophers, such as Wittgenstein, Hick, and Plantinga have reported their own mystical experiences. So it’s worth thinking more about how such experiences inspire philosophies. 
I would not say that I really gained much new knowledge during these experiences. The content of my experiences was shaped by what I had already studied and found interesting in philosophy, theology, and mathematics. I already thought that reality was a certain way, but my thoughts were merely very abstract outlines of that way. During my mystical experiences, I saw with intense vividness that reality is this way. Much of what I have written philosophically is an effort to verbally express the content of these visions. I regard all these efforts as failures. The vision really is ineffable. 
To some, the term “vision” might suggest hallucination. But I would not say that I have hallucinated. Rather, my visions are more purely mathematical. During one, which came close to the violence of a seizure, I saw the iterative hierarchy of pure sets. I had been studying a lot of set theory; but then I saw it. Along with this vision there was an extreme flood of joy, as well as a kind of pain that comes from being cognitively broken up. Another vision involved something like the totality of recursive functions on the ordinal number line, and the recognition that these functions are the meanings which produce reality as they generate themselves. The forest dissolved into a network of computations. I had already experienced something like this while reading Josiah Royce. This vision was again extremely joyous, and I knew that death is nothing. 
On the basis of these experiences, as well as plenty of discursive reasoning, I identify myself as a religious naturalist. However, I do not take this naturalism to entail simply materialism or logical positivism.   Unfortunately, religious naturalism today is mostly intellectual, and has little in the way of social practice. So I am primarily interested in developing social practices for religious naturalism.   Rather than my practices driving my beliefs, my beliefs are driving my search for practices. And much of my search is for practices which cohere with my mystical experiences.
On a related note, if you haven't already, you should really read his fascinating paper, "On the Plurality of Gods" (Religious Studies 49 (2013), 289-312.) And of course you know about his book, Your Digital Afterlives.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Notes on Mackie's "Evil and Omnipotence"

0. Introduction
0.1 Mackie argues that the problem of evil proves that either no god exists, or at least that the god of Orthodox Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, does not exist. His argument is roughly the same version of the problem of evil that we’ve been considering.
0.2 Mackie thinks that one can avoid the conclusion that God does not exist only if one admits that either God is not omnipotent (i.e., not all-powerful), or that God is not perfectly good. 0.3 However, he thinks that hardly anyone will be willing to take this route. For doing so leaves one with a conception of a god that isn’t worthy of worship, and therefore not religiously significant.
0.4 After his brief discussion of his version of the problem of evil, he considers most of the main responses to the problem of evil, and concludes that none of them work.

1. First Response and Mackie's Reply
1.1 Response: Good can’t exist without evil; evil is a necessary counterpart to good.
1.2 Mackie’s reply:
1.2.1 this see…

Notes on Swinburne, "On Why God Allows Evil"

Notes on Swinburne’s “Why God Allows Evil”

1. The kinds of goods a theistic god would provide: deeper goods than just “thrills of pleasure and times of contentment” (p. 90). For example:
1.1 Significant freedom and responsibility
1.1.1 for ourselves
1.1.2 for others
1.1.3 for the world in which they live
1.2 Valuable lives
1.2.1 being of significant use to ourselves
1.2.2 being of significant use to each other

2. Kinds of evil
2.1 Moral evil: all the evil caused or permitted by human beings, whether intentionally or through negligence (e.g., murder, theft, etc.)
2.2 Natural evil: all the rest: evil not caused or permitted by human beings (e.g., suffering caused by hurricanes, forest fires, diseases, animal suffering, etc.)

3. The gist of Swinburne’s answer to the problem of evil: God cannot – logically cannot -- give us the goods of significant freedom, responsibility and usefulness without thereby allowing for the possibility of lots of moral and natural evil. This is why he has al…