Volume 33, Numbers 1 and 2, Winter and Spring

Toward an Existential and Transpersonal Understanding of Christianity: Commonalities Between Phenomenologies of Consciousness, Psychologies of Mysticism, and Early Gospel Accounts, and Their Significance for the Nature of Religion

The existential–phenomenological approach of the early Heidegger and Max Scheler to religion as an amplified empirical phenomenology of the human condition, combined with Heidegger’s specific derivation of his Daseins-analysis from the Christianity of Eckart, Paul, and Kierkegaard, is shown to be broadly congruent with the contemporary transpersonal psychology of higher states of consciousness, largely based on Eastern meditative traditions. This descriptive transpersonal psychology of a mystical core to all religions based on the direct experience of presence or Being, as developed by Rudolf Otto and elaborated by Laski, Almaas, and others, is then applied to selected gospel narratives as a further step, past its beginnings in the early Heidegger and Rudolf Bultmann, toward a re-construction of specific numinous states in early Christianity. This derivation of facets of the numinous from their presumed doctrinal schematizations and/or amplifications places Christianity closer to the goals of the meditative traditions, and allows a more directly experiential understanding of doctrines of Christian redemption, loving compassion, and eternal life as amplifications of the phenomenology of the inner forms of ordinary here and now consciousness, within which they are already foreshadowed.

Correspondance concerning this article should be addressed to H. Hunt, Professor Emeritus, Deptartment of Psychology, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada L2S 3A1. Email: hhunt@brocku.ca

Computers, Persons, and the Chinese Room. Part 1: The Human Computer

Detractors of Searle’s Chinese Room Argument have arrived at a virtual consensus that the mental properties of the Man performing the computations stipulated by the argument are irrelevant to whether computational cognitive science is true. This paper challenges this virtual consensus to argue for the first of the two main theses of the persons reply, namely, that the mental properties of the Man are what matter. It does this by challenging many of the arguments and conceptions put forth by the systems and logical replies to the Chinese Room, either reducing them to absurdity or showing how they lead, on the contrary, to conclusions the persons reply endorses. The paper bases its position on the Chinese Room Argument on additional philosophical considerations, the foundations of the theory of computation, and theoretical and experimental psychology. The paper purports to show how all these dimensions tend to support the proposed thesis of the persons reply.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Ricardo Restrepo, Ph.D., Escuela de Constitucionalismo y Derecho, Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales, Av. Amazonas 37-271 y Villalengua, Quito, Ecuador. Email: ricardo.restrepo@iaen.edu.ec or ricardo.restrepo28@yahoo.co.nz

An Evolutionary Perspective on Happiness and Mental Health

The purpose of this article is to present a model of well-being based on current research in neurobiology and psychology, integrated in an evolutionary perspective of the human mind. Briefly, the primary purpose of nervous systems is to direct an animal toward behavior should be conducive to survival and procreation, and as a rule of thumb this implies either approach or avoidance. While behavior originally was based on reflexes, in humans the brain contains a system of negative and positive affect. Although an array of functions has evolved that employ emotions in order to handle various pursuits, recent studies suggest that they converge on shared neural circuits involved in mood, that is, they converge on circuits designed to generate reward and punishment. Happiness can be construed as the net output of these brain modules. Neural circuits tend to gain in strength and influence upon frequent activation, which suggests a strategy for improving happiness and mental health: to avoid excessive stimulation of negative modules, to use cognitive interference to enhance the “turn off” function of these modules, and to exercise modules involved in positive feelings.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Bjørn Grinde, Division of Mental Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, PO Box 4404 Nydalen, 0403 Oslo, Norway. Email: bjgr@fhi.no

Meditation on a Mousetrap: On Consciousness and Cognition, Evolution, and Time

Evolutionary theory has yet to offer a detailed model of the complex transitions from a living system of one design to another of more advanced, or simply different, design. Hidden within the writings of evolution’s expositors is an implicit appeal to AI-like processes operating within the “cosmic machine” that has hitherto been evolving the plethora of functional living systems we observe. In these writings, there is disturbingly little understanding of the deep problems involved, resting as they do in the very heart of AI. The end-state requirements for a system, device, or “machine” with intelligence capable of design are examined. The representational power must be sufficient to support analogical thought, an operation demanding transformations of events in imagery, in turn a function of perception, both dependent on a non-differentiable flow of time. The operational dynamics of the device must inherit this fundamental property of the dynamically transforming matter-field. Whether the evolutionary mechanisms or algorithmics thus far envisioned by biology or AI are coordinate with such requirements is left seriously in doubt.

Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Stephen E. Robbins, Ph.D., 2750 Church Road, Jackson, Wisconsin 53037. Email: serobbins27@wildblue.net

Teleology and the Meaning of Life

The “units of selection” debate in philosophy of biology addresses which entity benefits from natural selection. Nanay has tried to explain why we are obsessed with the question about the meaning of life, using the notion of group selection, although he is skeptical about answering the question from a biological point of view. The aim of this paper is to give a biological explanation to the meaning of life. I argue that the meaning of life is survival and reproduction, appealing to the teleological notion of function in philosophy of biology.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Osamu Kiritani, Ph.D., New England Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Studies, University of New England, Biddeford, Maine 04005. Email: osamu.kiritani@gmail.com

Consistent Nihilism

Nihilism poses grave problems for those who seek directives to lead their lives. In this article, the three most important ways to deal with nihilism are inquired, with an emphasis on their credibility. Both nihilism from a metaphysical perspective and the emphasis on pleasure from nihilistic considerations are given attention. The acceptance of nihilism can have far-reaching consequences, which are evaluated at various points. Nietzsche’s approach must also be considered. He accepts what he calls a sort of nihilism, but as a means to “new” values. This alternative to nihilism is examined no less critically than the other two stances.

Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Jasper Doomen, P.O. Box 9520, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands. Email: jasperdoomen@yahoo.com

Book Reviews

Islam and Science: The Intellectual Career of Nizam al-Din al-Nisaburi
Book Author: Robert G. Morrison. Culture and Civilization in the Middle East Series. London and New York: Routledge, 2007 [softcover published December 2011], viii + 301 pages, $168.00 hardcover, $44.95 softcover.

Reviewed by John Walbridge, Indiana University

Nizam al-Din al-Nisaburi… is not exactly a household name, even for those involved with the history of Islamic science or Islamic thought in general. He was born around 1270 C.E. in Nishapur, at that time a major city in northeastern Iran, and died around 1330. He was probably a Shi’ite, though not aggressively so, to judge from his writings. Like most medieval Islamic scholars, he wrote in several fields. Works of his survive on astronomy, Qur’an commentary, and rhetoric, but this understates his breadth, since his works on astronomy also drew on philosophy, other branches of science, and astrology, while the Qur’an commentary tapped the whole range of religious and secular sciences. His particular fame, such as it was, was based on two of his works on astronomy that were used as textbooks and his Qur’an commentary.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to John Walbridge, Ph.D., Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Indiana University, 1011 East Third Street, Bloomington, Indiana 47405. Email: jwalbrid@indiana.edu