Roczniki Filozoficzne

Volume 71, Issue 4, 2023

Justyna HerdaOrcid-ID
Pages 25-42

The Neurocognitive Foundations of Prayer: A Critical Analysis

In recent decades, there has been a significant increase in the interest taken by experimental researchers in issues that have traditionally belonged to the sphere of interest of the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of cognition, and even the theology of spirituality. The availability of new research methods, as well as the increase in the knowledge of the world, has opened another door to the reality in which we live. By studying the functioning of the human brain in specific laboratory conditions, scientists are looking for the answers to questions that have been troubling us for centuries: what consciousness is, how do we recognize intentions, and what are spiritual experiences? This article deals with the topic of prayer as a specific religious experience in the context of neurocognitive research. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the frequency of such studies has increased significantly; for example, through the experiments of Nina Azari, Mario Beauregard, and Andrew B. Newberg. Selected experiments in the field of the neuroscience of spirituality and their results are discussed. Important philosophical questions about how we define prayer and other spiritual experiences in the context of the above research, the interdisciplinary nature of the research, as well as emerging problems and implications, e.g., the risk of reducing these phenomena to their biological base, the explanations of religious practices and experiences in cognitive science of religion have also been raised.