In the natural sciences and industrial arts it never occurs to anyone to try to refute opinions by showing up their authors neurotic constitution. Opinions here are invariably tested by logic and by experiment, no matter what may be their authors neurological type. It should be no otherwise with religious opinions. Their value can only be ascertained by spiritual judgments directly passed upon them, judgments based on our own immediate feeling primarily; and secondarily on what we can ascertain of their experiential relations to our moral needs and to the rest of what we hold as true. Immediate luminousness, in short, philosophical reasonableness, and moral helpfulness are the only available criteria.
Since assuming editorship of Zygon three years ago, I have wrestled conceptually with a basic problem dealt with in our pages: What is the religion in religion and science? Several answers suggest themselves. Just as one can speak of the many natural and social sciences making up the science side of the religion and science dialogue, so one might speak of many religious traditions making up the other side. Similarly, as I myself often have done, one can speak of religion as pursuing fundamental questions concerning the meaning of human life and show how these questions can be answered with a general viewpoint about our place in the scheme of things that uses knowledge from the contemporary sciences. Further, one can approach religion in terms of the ways in which religious ideas are established as true and compare these with the methodologies of the various sciences. Finally, one might look at the moral aspect of religion and thereby treat religion as the values side of the fact/value distinction. These approaches are helpful, but none to my mind fully offers a complete description as to what constitutes religion.
Comparing the experiences of mystics and victims of delusion we find very similar states of conditions: an experience of abnormal significance, pseudohallucinations, the sense of mission, the suspension of time, extremes of mood, and the sudden and passive appearance. Only the subsequent course of life of those having the experiences makes it possible to distinguish between belief and delusion. The criteria are simple: we find hope and doubt only in relation to mystical experience whereas in delusion we find a paralyzed belief; human freedom increases in belief but is lost in delusion; and belief allows the interaction between the person and society while the person who is deluded has no effectiveness in society.
Hermann Lenz is professor of psychiatry at the University of Vienna, Austria and chief doctor (emeritus) of the Barmherzige Brüder Hospital. His address is A-4020 Linz, Landstrasse 32, Austria.
Experience and Conceptualization in Mystical Knowledge by Richard H. Jones
The purpose of this article is to explore certain parallels and divergencies between contemporary philosophy of science and the comparative study of mysticism. Two types of mystical experiences, depth-mystical and nature-mystical, are first differentiated. Next, the role of both experience and doctrine in the development and justification of mystical knowledge is defended. Finally, the issue of whether one mystical system can be established as superior to others is discussed.
Richard H. Jones is a law student at the University of California at Berkeley. He has a Ph.D. in religion from Columbia University. His permanent address is 339 Private Road, East Patchogue, New York 11772.
We can usefully draw an analogy between ethics and science, despite the significant differences between them. We can then see the ways in which moral theories can indeed be tested, not by empirical experience but by moral experience. This can be expected to lead to rival moral theories, but in science also we have rival theories. I argue that we should demand more than coherence of our moral theories, as we do of our scientific theories. I try to show how the testing of moral theories can be carried out and how this can allow us to accept some moral theories as valid.
Virginia Held is professor of philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate School, 33 West 42 Street, New York, New York 10036 and at Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Critical Questions for the Psychological Foundations of Value Theory by Marion Steininger
In the September 1982 issue of Zygon, William A. Rottschaefer explores the thesis that our best scientific theories about persons and their behavior provide the best indicators we have of what is humanly valuable and why it is so.¹ Like Rottschaefer, I am sometimes rendered uncomfortable by moral relativism, but I cannot agree that Skinners psychology provides a way out of this difficulty because it deals with operant conditioning and/or species-specific reinforcers.
Most fundamental is the point that descriptions of behavior as well as statements about relationships between behavior and environment and/or behavior and its consequences are not sufficient bases for making morally relevant choices. We know that it is species specific for humans to have two feet, and we also know what sorts of conditions foster what sorts of foot development. Unfortunately, this does not help us to decide whether the binding of girls feet is good or bad, humanly valuable or not; nor whether the mutilation of female sex organs is good or bad; nor even whether survival itself is good or bad. Individuals sometimes choose not to survive; furthermore, one can commit oneself to the survival of humankind, be indifferent to it, or even, perhaps, argue against it. No amount of description of behavior or knowledge about its genetic and environmental causes forces us on rational grounds to support mutilation or nonmutilation, human survival or extinction. …
¹ W. A. Rottschaefer, Psychological Foundations of Value Theory: B. F. Skinners Science of Values, Zygon 17 (1982): 299.
Marion Steininger is associate professor of psychology, Rutgers University, Camden, New Jersey 08102.
The Limitations of Ethical Theory by William A. Rottschaefer
Marion Steininger argues that scientific psychology in general and B. F. Skinners science of behavior in particular cannot provide a way to avoid moral relativism because the descriptions they provide of behaviors are not sufficient for making moral choices nor settling moral conflicts.¹
Before I address these challenges let me mention that I agree with Steininger that moral values contribute to the way psychologists do psychology.² (The emphasis is Steiningers.) My contention on this score is that rejection of the value-neutrality of science does not necessarily imply a loss of either substantive or methodological objectivity.³ Second, it is clear that radical behaviorists do not give the usual account of the role of moral judgments in ethical choice and behavior. I believe this is a deficiency in their approach.⁴ But it is not the case, as Steininger seems to imply, that they do not provide an explanation of the role of moral judgment in ethical behavior, although such an explanation indeed may not be satisfactory to Steininger. …
¹ Marion Steininger, Critical Questions for the Psychological Foundations of Value Theory, in this issue, p. 183.
² Ibid., p. 185.
³ William A. Rottschaefer, Psychological Foundations of Value Theory: B. F. Skinners Science of Values, Zygon 17 (September 1982): 293-94.
⁴ Ibid., pp. 296 and 300, n. 16; pp. 298 and 301, n. 29.
William A. Rottschaefer is associate professor of philosophy, Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon 97219.
Genes, Mind and Culture by Charles J. Lumsden, reviewed by Jeffrey S. Wicken
Robert R. N. Ross; Professor of Philosophy; Bradford College
Faith, Science and the Future edited by Paul Abrecht; Faith and Science in an Unjust World, vol. 1 edited by Roger L. Shinn; and Faith and Science in an Unjust World, vol. 2 edited by Paul Abrecht, reviewed by Duane A. Priebe