Friday, October 09, 2015

Enlightenment Faith

"Reason, as used by Voltaire, is a complex of sentiments and ideas. The fundamental sentiment is the intraworldly faith in a society which finds its coherence through compassion and humanity. Humanity is a general disposition in man arising out of his biological structure. Negatively, the reasonable attitude is characterized by the absence of immediate spiritual experiences. As a consequence of this deficiency, the symbolic expressions of spiritual experiences become opaque and are misunderstood as depending for their validity on their resistance to rational critique." -- Eric Voegelin, From Enlightenment to Revolution, p. 29

The declaration that spiritual experiences as "irrational" is based on no more than:

1) Their absence in the person declaring them so; and
2) His reluctance to admit that this might be a deficiency; no, those who claim to have had such experiences must be deluded!


  1. Number one is plausible. Number two is speculative. Why would they have felt threatened by not having a spiritual experience.

    1. If these are experiences are real, and, as those who have them often claim, the most important experiences in life, someone could feel a little... inferior... for not having had this important experience!

    2. It's definitely a rather novel interpretation of things. I'm not so sure I ever heard this point come up with religious conservatives.

    3. No, not particularly novel.

  2. One of the most awesome things about ethical intuitionism is its justification for experiencing non-spatial things (goodness, for example). But once you can argue for the legitimacy of having cognitive access to the good (which is transcendent to the physical world), you then swing a huge door open: if we can have cognitive access to things that aren't reducible to the physical world, and are transcendent, then we can have cognitive access to 'other' things - like God.


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