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Mysticism and Philosophy Paperback – February 1, 1987

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 349 pages
  • Publisher: Jeremy P. Tarcher; First Paperback Edition edition (February 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874774160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874774160
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.9 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,408,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
While Stace's analysis on mysticism is somewhat dated, it remains an invaluable critical examination of the claims of mystics from a philosophical perspective.

In the past century, organised religion has undergone something of a decline in the West, leading for people to seek alternative forms of experiencing the transcendant besides organised religion. Many have turned to 'mysticism' in order to try and fill this need, and the increase in popularity in mysticism and thinkers like Meister Eckhart has been matched by a flurry of academic interest in mysticism.

Stace however critically looks at the claims of mystics from an analytical perspective in philosophy, suspending judgement on the truth or falsity of their claims. One of Stace's most interesting arguments is that mystical experience has more in common across various religions than the members of each religion would accept. To this end Stace quotes Ruysbroeck and Eckhart quite frequently, and compares there mystical experience with the writers of the Upanishads and Buddhist scriptures.

Stace also concludes though that mystical experience is essentially subjective (in common with William James) and by itself it doesn't give us objective knowledge about the essential nature of things, nor does it prove religious doctrines such as the immortality of the soul, but it does represent an appropriate expression of the human spirit in terms of its desire for transcendance and to the holy and beautiful in life.

While Stace has somewhat under-rated the complexity of mystical thought within Christianity and also other religions, and some of his ideas have been superseded by more up to date scholarship (such as Bernard McGinn's far more accurate study of Christian mysticism for example) for Philosophers of Religion this remains a useful text for exploring claims of religion which are based on so called mystical experience.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In contrast to other philosophers who have written on the topic of religious experience, Stace is a perennialist, searching for a meaningful way to discuss the similarities between documented cases of religious experience. He begins with this assumption, which to me seems like an intuitive place to start (as opposed to Katz. See "Language, Epistemology and Mysticism") so like-minded readers may be drawn to his methods. Although this may seem like a very good place to start an inquiry into "mysticism," upon closer inspection, his method leaves much to be desired.

First and foremost, Stace makes little distinction between "experience" and "interpretation." From the philosophy of mind, thinkers who wrote a few decades after Stace, such as Levine (see "Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap"), Nagel (see "What is it Like to be a Bat?") and Jackson (see "Epiphenomenal Qualia") have presented powerful cases concerning the vast and potentially unbridgeable gap between experience and its interpretation. I won't reiterate Stace's position here, but ultimately we have to ask; "What is accomplished by defining the "universal core" of religious experience linguistically when there is such a disparity between experience and the theories we use to explain it?" Can this be casually overlooked especially considering the "ineffable" nature of the experience? I do not fault Stace for not mentioning this due to the era in which he wrote, but this is a critique that needs serious attention. Compounding this point is the fact that Stace has had no religious experience of his own making it all the more dubious that he could make that which is by definition beyond human understanding meaningful.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the finest texts written by an academic in the area of mysticism. I am an academic scholar in this area, and am familiar with most of the books and literature. Stace brings his immense knowledge and research in this area fully to this text. An absolute must read. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was in much better condition than I had expected. It's rare and usually expensive, so when this came up for under $20, I jumped at it. Turns out that it is an old library book from England and in really good condition. I couldn't be happier.
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It is always interesting to see how philosophy and mysticism would merge, even thought they don't really have to.
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