Postgraduate Course: Mind, Matter, and Spirit (Online) (THET11055)
|School||School of Divinity
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
|Course type||Online Distance Learning
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||The relationship between mind and matter is one of the key questions in the science-and-religion discussion. This course explores the various dynamics of this relationship by engaging with the relevant scientific, philosophical, and religious concepts involved. Students will gain an understanding of what is at stake for theology and religious traditions, philosophy, and the scientific disciplines when addressing the relationship between mind, matter, and possible spiritual realities, but students are not expected to have specialized knowledge of these disciplines. Attention is paid to particular concepts and approaches relevant to the mind/matter question, such as: naturalism, physicalism, the question of the soul, panpsychism, quantum theology, and evolutionary pneumatology. The goal is to provide a clear understanding of the conceptual challenges and possibilities for both science and religion when considering the relationship between mentality and the material world.
The relationship between mind and matter gets to the heart of some of the central questions in the science and religion discussion, and, indeed, to the central questions about fundamental reality. What is mind, and how does it relate to physical matter? How does mind relate to religious conceptions of God, who is often considered to be relational, conscious, and spiritual? Are there limits to what science can tell us about consciousness (both human and divine)? Addressing such questions is an inherently interdisciplinary task, and requires engagement with such fields as philosophy of mind, metaphysics, neurobiology, psychology, and theology. This level 11 course introduces students to the complex questions involved, emphasizing theological and philosophical challenges to scientific approaches to mentality, but also scientific challenges to religious claims about the mind. The course will enable students to engage and critically evaluate perspectives from a variety of disciplines on the relationship between mind and matter, and to do so in a manner that prioritizes interdisciplinary dialogue.
A week-by-week account of the course is included later in this proposal. The course will cover concepts and approaches surrounding the relationship between mind and matter, including:
- The metaphysical and philosophical positions most relevant to debates about mind and matter, including naturalism and physicalism
- The question of the causal joint, or how spiritual realities might interact with the physical world
- Theological models of the God-world relationship, with particular emphasis on panentheism (the idea that the universe exists within God, but God is more than the world), and pneumatology (an account of the Spirit's relationship to the physical world)
- The question of the soul, in conversation with neurobiology, philosophy, and theology
- Theological and scientific perspectives on panpsychism (the idea that all physical reality has mentality, in some way)
- The 'Hard Problem of Consciousness', and the question of whether the human mind can ever be explained with the language and tools of contemporary science
- Quantum theology and the Tao of physics (questions of physical reality raised by quantum mechanics, and their implications for religious belief)
- Certain key thinkers in science and religion will also be featured, such as Wolfhart Pannenberg (with emphasis on his integration of the Spirit and field theory) and Arthur Eddington (with emphasis on his integration of physics and mind)
Student Learning Experience Information:
The course will be taught through one online lecture per week, and weekly discussion board participation focussed on set texts. There will also be four live seminars, led by instructors and teaching assistants. Students will be assessed by means of an essay, as well as through participation in the online discussion board. Through these pieces of assessment, students will demonstrate their achievement of the intended learning outcomes.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|Pre-requisites||This is a self-contained and stand-alone course, and it provides a good opportunity for visiting students to survey a key area of modern controversy.
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1)
|Course Start Date
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 11,
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 11,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||15% - Discussion board participation: Each student will participate in the online discussion board, which will be assessed for four pre-assigned weeks throughout the semester. On non-assessed weeks, the discussion boards offer students a space for peer-to-peer discussion and collaboration. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in online live seminars, which allow for more direct contact with other peers and course instructors.
85% - Essay: Each student will submit an essay of 3000 words on a topic related to, or within, the scope of the course.
||Students will have the opportunity to submit and receive feedback on an essay plan two weeks in advance of the essay deadline.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Demonstrate an understanding of key scientific, philosophical, and religious approaches to the relationship between mind and matter.
- Demonstrate the ability to engage in interdisciplinary analysis of given aspects of the mind/matter relationship, bringing science and religion into constructive conversation with each other.
- Develop an ability to critically engage key texts within an interdisciplinary context.
- Engage in constructive and critical debate with peers.
- Demonstrate an ability to identify what is at stake (scientifically and theologically) in various approaches to the course themes.
Ian G. Barbour, Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (HarperOne, 1997).
Stephen Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (University of Notre Dame Press, 2006).
Justin Barrett, Cognitive Science, Religion and Theology: From Human Minds to Divine Minds (Templeton, 2011).
Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained (Vintage 2002).
John Hedley Brooke and Geoffrey Cantor, Reconstructing Nature: the Engagement of Science and Religion (T&T Clark, 1998).
John Hedley Brooke and Ronald Numbers, Science and Religion around the world (OUP, 2011).
David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (OUP, 1997).
Philip Clayton, Mind and Emergence (OUP, 2004).
Philip Clayton and Arthur Peacocke, eds., In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God's Presence in a Scientific World (Eerdmans, 2004).
Philip Clayton and Zachary Simpson, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science (OUP, 2006).
Paul Davies, God and the New Physics (Simon and Schuster, 1983).
Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (Penguin, 2006).
Thomas Dixon, Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2008).
Willem B. Drees, Religion and Science in Context: A Guide to the Debates (Routledge, 2010).
Arthur Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World: The Gifford Lectures of 1927 (Macmillan, 1930).
Denis Edwards, Breath of Life: A Theology of the Creator Spirit (Orbis Books, 2004).
Denis Edwards, Partaking of God: Trinity, Evolution, and Ecology (Michael Glazier, 2014).
Peter Harrison, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion (CUP, 2010).
Peter Harrison, The Territories of Science and Religion (University of Chicago Press, 2015).
Noreen L. Herzfeld, In Our Image: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Spirit (Fortress, 2002).
John Hick, The New Frontier of Religion and Science: Religious Experience, Neuroscience and the Transcendent. (Palgrave MacMillan, 2006).
Peter E. Hodgson, Theology and Modern Physics (Ashgate, 2005).
Christopher C. Knight, The God of Nature: Incarnation and Contemporary Science (Fortress Press, 2007).
Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain the Making of the Western World (Yale University Press, 2009).
Mary Midgley, The Solitary Self; Darwin and the Selfish Gene (Routledge, 2014).
Mary Midgley, Are You an Illusion? (Routledge, 2014).
Nancey Murphy, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies (CUP, 2006).
Nancey Murphy and Warren S. Brown, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will (OUP, 2007).
Thomas Nagel, 'Panpsychism', in Mortal Questions (CUP, 1979).
Wolfhart Pannenberg, 'The Doctrine of Creation and Modern Science,' Zygon 23:1 (1988).
Wolfhart Pannenberg, 'Theological Questions to Scientists', Zygon 16:1 (1981).
Arthur Peacocke, Theology for a Scientific Age (SCM Press, 1993).
John Polkinghorne, One World: The Interaction of Science and Theology (SPCK, 1986).
John Polkinghorne, Science and Christian Belief: Theological Reflections of a Bottom-Up Thinker (SPCK, 1994).
Jonathan Shear, ed., Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem (MIT Press, 1999).
Christian Smith, Moral Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture (OUP, 2009).
Christopher Southgate, ed., God, Humanity and the Cosmos (T&T Clark, 3rd edition 2011).
Galen Strawson, 'Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism', Journal of Consciousness Studies, 13:3-31 (2006).
J. B. Stump and Alan Padgett, eds., The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).
Keith Ward, The Big Questions in Science and Religion (Templeton, 2008).
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||- Ability to engage in inter-disciplinary dialogue
- Ability to read diverse texts critically (primary and secondary sources), and discern material of central and peripheral importance
- Ability to think constructively and systematically
- Ability to express ideas clearly and coherently in both written in spoken English
- Ability to conduct independent research in preparing essays
- Ability to articulate key theological concepts and perspectives
|Course organiser||Rev Michael Fuller
Tel: (0131 6)50 8963
|Course secretary||Miss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227