Experience transcending the straitjacket of rationalism

I had the strong sense that I was the object of a very powerful love. I suddenly had the feeling that I was being loved by someone. Unfortunately, my analytic mind went to work on the experience and it soon subsided. This is why, when the gifts of meditation arrive, one must surrender to them in utter passivity, something that intellectual types will find it very hard to do.

The typical intellectual suffers from hypertrophy of the critical faculty, and in consequence, he suffers the blockage of the channels of intuition. He hones his intellect on the whetstone of discursivity, and if he is not careful, he may hone it away to nothing, or else perfect the power of slicing while losing the power of splicing…

Suppose a skeptic pipes up: “What you experienced was not the love of Christ, you gullible fool, but a random electrochemical discharge in your brain.” But of course, that would be wrong, indeed absurd. The experience was certainly not of that. The experience had a definite and describable phenomenological content, a content not describable in electrochemical or neural terms.

My two cents

Oh man, this quote is great. I love these five elements in it:

  1. pointing out hypertrophy of the critical faculty
  2. contrasting it with channels of intuition
  3. the risks of honing away one’s critical faculty without realising it
  4. pointing out the difference between mental slicing versus mental splicing
  5. showing that phenomena can go beyond a reductive or mechanical description in electrochemical or neural terms.

I never quite had words for those five concepts, but this quote lays them out well.

I like how it bodes poorly for scientism, falsifiability, and evidentialism, but well for Christianity and supernatural experience. Now I am starting to see how rationalism can put limits on knowledge—like a voluntary straitjacket.

While rationalism has been helpful to society in some ways, it sounds like wishful thinking to assume it can grapple onto an exhaustive view of reality and experience. To borrow the wording of someone who corresponded with me recently, the world needs desperately to move on from the mindset of straitjacketed rationalists and their ilk.

Quote source

Vallicella, B. (2013). Unusual Experiences and the Problem of Overbelief and Underbelief. Available: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2013/07/unusual-experiences-and-the-problem-of-overbelief.html. Last accessed 22nd Dec 2013.


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