What Has History to Do with Philosophy? Insights from the Medieval Contemplative Tradition

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This paper highlights the corrective and complementary role that historically informed philosophy can play in contemporary discussions. What it takes for an experience to count as genuinely mystical has been the source of significant controversy; most current philosophical definitions of ‘mystical experience’ exclude embodied, non-unitive states -- but, in so doing, they exclude the majority of reported mystical experiences. I use a re- examination of the full range of reported medieval mystical experiences (both in the apophatic tradition, which excludes or denigrates embodied states, and in the affective tradition, which treats such states as fully mystical) to demonstrate how a better understanding of the historical medieval mystic tradition can serve as a valuable complement to ongoing philosophical discussions of religious and mystical experience.
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Archival date: 2018-06-01
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