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Title: Some philosophical refections on the "essentialist" v/s "constructivist" debate as it stands to the philosophical analysis of mystical experience
Author: Cameron, Jonathan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2704 6770
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2010
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‘Essentialism’ and ‘constructivism’ are two epistemological perspectives that have been used in the philosophical analysis of mystical experience. ‘Essentialism’ attempts to establish mystical experience as a distinct category of experience, cutting across cultural boundaries. ‘Constructivism’ attempts to establish mystical experience as unique to its various cultural contexts. The two viewpoints are variously held in opposition. ‘Constructivism’ often appears as something of an assumed perspective and is rarely, if ever, defended (in any depth) by the individuals whose views it apparently represents. Recent ‘essentialist’ thinkers (‘non-constructivists’) have taken issue with this tendency to assume ‘what is to be proved’, and have reasoned in attempts to establish ‘constructivisim’ as inappropriate to certain experiences that appear to be found recurring in reports of mystical experiences across cultures. However, those analyses have been concerned to recommend their own (‘essentialist’ / ‘non-constructivist’) position and have, therefore, operated with a certain amount of bias, despite elements of commendable intent. Indeed it is in virtue of these commendable elements i.e. by exploring the epistemological assumptions of authors who attempt to make mystical experience culture specific, that ‘essentialists’ posit and provide justification for the classification of ‘constructivism’ as a distinct philosophical approach to the data of enquiry. ‘Constructivists’ (so-called), on the other hand, tend to emphasise the importance and role of context in their discussions, and in some cases reject the classification of their views as particularly ‘constructivist’. The thesis examines the reasonable defensibility of ‘nonconstructed’ mystical experience from three perspectives: ‘essentialist’, ‘constructivist’ and ‘contextualist’ – outlining considerations for anyone approaching the material via each, and addressing the relevant issues of diversity at tension between these recognisable philosophical viewpoints.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Mysticism ; Philosophy ; Constructivism (Philosophy) ; Essentialism (Philosophy)