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Unit information: Philosophical Approaches to Religious Experience and Mysticism in 2021/22

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

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Details

1 x 2000 words portfolio (formative) [ILOs 1-4]

1 x 2500-word summative essay (100%) [ILOs 1-4]

Resources

If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. THRS20218).

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