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Unit information: Philosophical Approaches to Religious Experience and Mysticism in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Philosophical Approaches to Religious Experience and Mysticism
Unit code THRS20218
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. David Leech
Open unit status Not open
Pre-requisites

None

Co-requisites

None

School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description

In this unit students will examine some of the core literature on the philosophical discussion of religious experience and mysticism from James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience to the present. We will critically discuss the key philosophical issues which arise in connection with these discussions, including whether such experiences might best be regarded as veridical or illusory, the perennialist (‘common core’) versus constructivist debate, and naturalistic interpretations of religious experience. We will also examine some prominent recent philosophical defences of the argument from religious experience, including Alston’s ‘doxastic practices’ defence and Swinburne’s appeal to the principle of credulity. Students will practise their oral presentation skills by giving a 10-minute individual or 15-minute group presentation.

Aims:

  • To familiarise students with some of the central literature on and concepts in the philosophical discussion of religious experience and mysticism;
  • To provide an overview of the major types of religious/mystical experience;
  • To develop students’ ability to offer their own assessment of the key philosophical issues to which these discussions give rise;
  • To develop skills in philosophical reading, writing and argumentation.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of some of the core literature on the philosophical discussion of religious experience and mysticism from James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience to the present
  2. Critically discuss and evaluate key philosophical issues which arise in connection with these discussions and the debates to which they gave rise
  3. Construct articulate, concise and persuasive philosophical arguments in written essays
  4. Demonstrate skills in the research, reading and presentation (orally and in writing) of complex materials on these discussions, appropriate to level 1/5

Teaching details

1 x two hour lecture plus 1 x one hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

One 1000-word summative portfolio (20%) [ILOs 1, 4], consisting of two 500-word ‘think’ pieces on a topic explored in class.

One 3000-word summative portfolio consisting of one 500-word essay plan and one 2500-word essay (80%) [ILOs 1–4].

Reading and References

  • Alston, William 1991, Perceiving God, The Epistemology of Religious Experience, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. (BL51 ALS)
  • Katz, Steven T., ed., Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. (BL625 MYS )
  • Gellman, Jerome, 2001, Mystical Experience of God: A Philosophical Enquiry, Aldershot: Ashgate. (BL625 GEL)
  • Swinburne, Richard, 1991, The Existence of God, Revised Edition, Oxford: Clarendon Press. [online access]
  • Wainwright, William J., 1981, Mysticism, A Study of its Nature, Cognitive Value, and Moral Implications, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. (BL625 WAI)

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