Essays in Philosophy

Volume 23, Issue 1/2, January/July 2022

Analytic Philosophy and the Islamic Tradition

Alireza Mazarian
Pages 60-82

Objective Representation and Non-Physical Entities

What can we learn about the existence of non-physical entities (or a particular non-physical entity) from close inquiry into special kinds of experiences? Contemporary analytic philosophy has sometimes studied mystic experiences as evidence for the existence of such entities (for example, see: Broad 1939; Swinburne 2004; Plantinga 1981; Alston 1991). The article is organized as follows: first, I discuss several distinctions that seem to me to play substantive roles in philosophizing about such experiences. I will then offer and criticize two arguments that support the significance of the experiences. The arguments do not show whether a non-physical entity does or does not exist; they highlight a philosophical (and not theological) framework that can be beneficial to a variety of different approaches. Based on a heuristic strategy, the arguments will focus on the possibility/impossibility of objective representation of non-physical entities. They invite the reader (opponent, proponent, or neutral) to reflect on deeper philosophical grounds necessary for evaluating any positive or negative claims about the significance/insignificance of such experiences. The first argument rests on contemporary theories and assumptions. The second argument will use notions that drive from Classic Arabic-Persian Philosophy.