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I attached the instructions and the reading chapter 4 just incase you need it 

Part ONE


In one important sense, science, as a (supposedly) consistent body of knowledge about the natural or physical world, is about coherent laws that describe the natural order of things. These physical principles define reality for us; they define what is known using reason and the five senses of sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch.

In contrast, mystical experience is about a direct experience with reality that is beyond the intellect and sensory perception. Seeking a “deeper” insight into the nature of reality, mystical experience may contradict the natural order of things. And if something contradicts the natural order of things, then it presents conflicts with a great deal of what we know about reality. But if something does not cohere with what is known, then it is not a good source of (factual) knowledge.

Action Items

Using the following deductive argument, substitute some mystical experience (that you, a family member, or friend has lived) for the variable x and analyze and evaluate the resulting argument (i.e., use Critical Thinking).

(1) If x conflicts with a great deal of what we know about (an area or field of) science, then x is not a good source of (factual) knowledge.
(2) x conflicts with a great deal of what we know about (an area or field of) science.
(3) Thus, x is not a good source of (factual) knowledge.
Complete this in a Microsoft Word document. Your detailed response must include the following core ideas of Critical Thinking:

ANALYSIS: Examine the structure of the argument in detail and symbolize this structure or component parts.

EVALUATION: Is the deductive argument valid? Is it sound (= valid + true premises)? If sound, tell why the premises are true.


Respond to the following items:

What is the relationship between science and philosophy?

Explain how one hypothesis explains the evidence and accounts for it better than another.

What is the difference between direct knowledge and indirect knowledge?

Describe why factual knowledge (also known as propositional knowledge, descriptive knowledge, or declarative knowledge) is important.

What besides true belief do you need in order to have knowledge?

When are you justified in believing a proposition to be true?

When do you have good reason for doubting that a proposition is True?

What are the sources of knowledge?

Is faith a source of knowledge?


Perception has traditionally been considered our most reliable guide to the truth. That perception is considered a source of knowledge should not surprise us, for most of our information about the world comes to us through our senses. If our senses weren’t reliable, we could not have survived as long as we have. But even though senses are reliable, they’re not infallible. The existence of illusions and hallu- cinations demonstrates that our senses can’t always be trusted.

Illusions and hallucinations occur only under certain circum- stances, however. Only when we, our tools, or our environment are in a state that impedes the accurate flow of information do our senses lead us astray. For example, if we are injured, anxious, or drugged; if our glasses are cracked, our hearing aid broken, or our measuring devices malfunctioning; or if it is dark, noisy, or foggy, then our obser- vations may be mistaken. But if we have good reason to believe that no such impediments to accurate perception are present, then we have good reason to believe what we perceive.

Just as perception is considered a source of knowledge about the external world, introspection is considered a source of knowledge about the internal world, that is, about our mental states. Some peo- ple have considered this source of knowledge to be infallible. We may be mistaken about many things, they argue, but we cannot be mis- taken about the contents of our own minds. We may be mistaken, for example, about whether we see a tree, but we cannot be mistaken about whether we seem to see a tree. But we must be careful here. While we may infallibly know what our experience is like, we may not infallibly know that it is of a certain sort. In other words, we may mis- categorize or misdescribe what we experience. Infatuation, for example, may be mistaken for love, jealousy for envy, rage for anger. So the beliefs we form through introspection about our current expe- rience are not infallible.

Similarly, the beliefs we form through introspection about our dispositional mental states are not infallible. There are certain mental states (like believing, wanting, hoping, fearing, and so on) that we may be in even though we are not currently feeling or doing anything in particular. Such states are called dispositional because to be in them is to have a tendency to feel or do certain things under certain conditions. For example, if you are afraid of snakes, you will normally have a tendency to feel fear and run away when you see one. Unfor- tunately, we can deceive ourselves about our dispositional mental states. We may believe, for example, that we are in love when we really aren’t. Or we may believe that we don’t have a certain desire when we really do. Since introspection is not error free, it is not an infallible source of knowledge about our mental states.

Though introspection is fallible, it can still be trusted. Our beliefs about our mental states are about as certain as they come. We rarely misdescribe our current mental states, and when we do, the fault often lies not with our faculty of introspection but with our carelessness or inattentiveness.20 While mistakes regarding our dispositional mental states are more common, they, too, can often be traced to our being in an abnormal state. Normally, then, beliefs arrived at through intro- spection are justified. As long as we have no reason to doubt what our introspection tells us, we are justified in believing it.

Although much of what we know originates in introspection and perception, we have to rely on our memory to preserve and retrieve that information. So memory is also a source of knowledge, not in the sense of generating it, but in the sense of transmitting it. Normally, memory performs its functions without error. But, as we’ll see in Chapter 5, situations can arise in which the information entrusted to memory is mishandled. We may forget certain details of events we’ve experienced, or we may embellish them with imaginative flourishes. We may even seem to remember events that never happened. Psychologist Jean Piaget had a vivid memory of his nurse fighting off a kidnapper on the Champs-Elysées when he was only two. Years later, his nurse confessed in a letter to his parents that she made up the whole story about that event. Even though our memory is fallible, it’s not totally unreliable. If we seem to clearly remember something, then, as long as we have no good reason to doubt it, we are justified in believing it.

Reason has also been considered a source of knowledge, for it too can reveal how things are. Consider the proposition “Whatever has a shape has a size.” We know that it’s true, but we don’t have to perform any experiments or gather any data to see that it is. Through the use of reason alone we can see that these concepts necessarily go together. Reason is the ability we have to discern the logical rela- tionships between concepts and propositions. Reason shows us, for example, that if A is bigger than B, and B is bigger than C, then A is bigger than C.

Some people think that reason, like introspection, is an infalli- ble guide to the truth. History has taught us otherwise, however. Many propositions once thought to be self-evident are now known to be false. That every event has a cause, that every property deter- mines a class, that every true mathematical theorem has a proof were all thought, at one time, to be self-evident. We now know that they’re not. Even the clear light of reason does not shine only on the truth.

But most of the time, reason is not wrong. What seems to be self- evident usually is. Self-evident propositions are ones whose denial is unthinkable, like “Whatever has a shape has a size.” To understand a self-evident proposition is to believe that it’s true. If someone denies a self-evident proposition, the burden of proof is on them to provide a counterexample. If they can’t, their denial is groundless. So in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, we are justified in believing what reason reveals.

The traditional sources of knowledge—perception, introspec- tion, memory, and reason—are not infallible guides to the truth, for our interpretation of them can be negatively affected by all sorts of conditions, many beyond our control. But if we have no reason to believe that such conditions are present, then we have no reason to doubt what these sources of knowledge tell us. The principle that emerges from these considerations is this:

If we have no reason to doubt what’s disclosed to us through perception, introspection, memory, or reason, then we’re justified in believing it.

In other words, the traditional sources of knowledge are innocent until proven guilty. Only if we have good reason for believing that they are not functioning properly should we doubt them.


Faith, as it is ordinarily understood, is “belief that does not rest on log- ical proof or material evidence.”21 To believe something on faith is to believe it in spite of, or even because of, the fact that we have insuffi- cient evidence for it. No one has expressed this cavalier attitude toward evidence better than Tertullian: “It is to be believed,” he said, “because it is absurd.”23 Saint Thomas Aquinas considered faith to be superior to opinion because it is free from doubt, but inferior to knowledge because it lacks rational justification. In the case of faith, the gap between belief and evidence is filled by an act of will—we choose to believe something even though that belief isn’t warranted by the evidence. Can such a belief be a source of knowledge? No, for we cannot make something true by believing it to be true. The fact that we believe something doesn’t justify our believing it. Faith, in the sense we are considering, is unquestioning, unjustified belief, and unjustified belief cannot constitute knowledge.

The problem with the appeal to faith is that it is unenlightening; it may tell us something about the person making the appeal, but it tells us nothing about the proposition in question. Suppose someone presses you about why you believe something and you say, “My belief is based on faith.” Does this answer help us evaluate the truth of your belief? No. To say that you believe something on faith is not to offer any justification for it; in fact, you are admitting that you have no justification. Since believing something on faith doesn’t help us determine the plausibility of a proposition, faith can’t be a source of knowledge.


Intuition is sometimes claimed to be a source of knowledge. “How did you know that they would get married?” we might ask. “I knew by intuition,” might be the reply. But what sort of thing is this intuition? Is it a sixth sense? Are those who claim to know by intuition claim- ing to have extrasensory perception? Perhaps they are, but to take such a claim seriously, we would need evidence showing that there is such a thing as ESP and that it is a reliable guide to the truth. With- out such evidence, intuition in this sense can’t be considered a source of knowledge.

But the claim to know by intuition need not be construed as a claim to possess ESP. It can instead be construed as a claim to possess what might be called HSP—hyper sensory perception. Some people, like the fictional Sherlock Holmes, are much more perceptive than others. They notice things that others don’t and consequently make infer- ences that others may think are unwarranted but really aren’t—they are simply based on data that most people aren’t aware of. To know by intuition that a couple will get married, for example, you need not have read their minds. You need only to have noticed them exhibit- ing some of those subtle behaviors that indicate true love.

One of the most remarkable examples of HSP comes from the animal kingdom. In 1904, a retired Berlin schoolteacher, Wilhelm von Osten, claimed that his horse—who came to be known as “Clever Hans”—possessed an intelligence equivalent to humans. He seemed to be able to correctly answer arithmetic problems, tell time, and cor- rectly recognize photographs of people he had met, among other things. Clever Hans would answer the questions put to him by tap- ping his hoof. He had learned the alphabet, and when he was asked a word problem, he would spell out the answer in German by tapping once for “A,” twice for “B,” and so on. A panel of thirteen of the best scientists in Germany rigorously tested Clever Hans to determine whether his master was somehow communicating the answers to him. Since he performed almost as well without his master as with him, they concluded in their report that Clever Hans was a genuine phe- nomenon worthy of the most serious scientific consideration

One of those assisting in this investigation, however, remained skeptical. Oskar Pfungst couldn’t believe that a horse possessed such extraordinary intellectual powers. What made him skeptical was the fact that Clever Hans would not get the right answer when the answer was unknown to any of those present or when he was unable to see those who did know the right answer. Pfungst concluded that the horse needed some sort of visual aid. The remarkable thing was, the aid did not have to be given intentionally.24

It turns out that Hans would get the right answer by attending to very subtle changes in people’s posture—some of those changes were by less than one-fifth of a millimeter. Those who knew the answer, for example, would unconsciously tense their muscles until Hans pro- duced it. Hans perceived this tension and used it as a cue. Pfungst learned to consciously make the same body movements that were unconsciously made by Hans’s examiners and was thus able to elicit from Hans all of his various reactions without asking him any ques- tions or giving him any commands.25 Pfungst’s experiment showed beyond a reasonable doubt that Clever Hans’s cleverness lay not in his intellectual prowess but in his perceptual acuity

Our ability to perceive subtle behavioral cues is no less remarkable than Clever Hans’s. Psychologist Robert Rosenthal has studied this abil- ity in depth. In an attempt to determine the extent to which psycho- logical experimenters can nonverbally influence their subjects, he devised the following experiment. Student subjects were asked to look at photographs of ten people and rate them in terms of their success or failure. The scale ranged from +10 (extreme success) to –10 (extreme failure). The photographs used had been independently determined to elicit a success rating of close to 0 from most people. The experimenters were told that their task was to replicate the results achieved in previ- ous experiments. They were paid one dollar an hour for conducting the experiment, but were promised two dollars an hour if they achieved the desired results. One group of experimenters was told that the people in the photographs had received an average rating of 5 in previous experiments, while the other group was told that they had received an average rating of 5. The experimenters were not allowed to talk to their subjects; they could read the experimental instructions to them but could say nothing else. Without telling their subjects how to eval- uate the people in the photographs, the experimenters who expected high scores nevertheless received higher scores than any of those who expected low ones.26 This result has been repeated in other, similar experiments.27 How did the subjects know what ratings the experi- menters wanted? By attending to subtle behavioral cues. Call it intuition if you will, but it is really nothing more than acute sensory perception.

Researchers investigating ESP must be particularly wary of these sorts of experimenter effects. Any experiment that does not eliminate them cannot provide evidence for ESP, for the results obtained could be due to experimenter signaling. Early telepathy experiments did not take these effects into account, and consequently their results are unconvincing. Simon Newcomb, first president of the American Soci- ety for Psychical Research and a distinguished astronomer, describes one of these early experiments: “When the agent drew cards from a pack one by one, and at each drawing the percipient named a card at random, it was found that the proportion of correct guesses was much greater than it should have been as the result of chance, which would, of course, be 1 out of 52.”28 If the percipient could see the agent, however, the success of the experiment could be due to hypersensory perception rather than extrasensory perception. These experimental results thus do not provide evidence for ESP. An experiment can pro- vide evidence for extraordinary abilities only if its results can’t be accounted for in terms of ordinary abilities.


Beyond the senses, beyond the intellect, beyond these mundane means we use to acquire knowledge lies a more direct path to truth: mystical experience. So say many people who claim that mystical experience bypasses our normal modes of cognition and yields a “deeper” insight into the nature of reality. According to the physicist Fritjof Capra, author of the best-selling The Tao of Physics, “What the Eastern mystics are concerned with is a direct experience of reality which transcends not only intellectual thinking but also sensory per- ception.”29 Attaining such an experience, however, often requires years of preparation and involves practices that are both mentally and physically taxing. Because such practices are known to induce altered states of consciousness, many people dismiss mystical experience as nothing more than delusion or hallucination. As Bertrand Russell put it: “From a scientific point of view we can make no distinction between the man who eats little and sees heaven and the man who drinks much and sees snakes. Each is an abnormal physical condition, and therefore has abnormal perception.”30

But Capra argues that the mystics’ claim to knowledge can’t be so easily dismissed because their vision of reality agrees with that of modern physics. “The principal theories and models of modern physics,” he says, “lead to a view of the world which is internally con- sistent and in perfect harmony with the views of Eastern Mysticism.”31 Mystics, like scientists, are seekers after truth. But whereas scientists use their senses to explore nature’s mysteries, mystics use only their intuition. What is remarkable, contends Capra, is that the reality revealed by these two types of experience appears to be the same. Psychologist Lawrence LeShan agrees:

The physicist and the mystic follow different paths: they have differ- ent technical goals in view; they use different tools and methods; their attitudes are not the same. However, in the world-picture they are led to by these different roads they perceive the same basic structure, the same reality.32

According to Capra and LeShan, although the mystic and the scien- tist have traveled different paths, they have arrived at the same desti- nation. Consequently, they claim, mystical experience must be considered a privileged source of knowledge.33

But is there really such a royal road to the truth? Has modern physics vindicated the visions of the mystics? To find out, we’ll have to take a closer look at what the mystics tell us about the nature of reality.

Mystical experiences are ecstatic, awesome, extraordinary experi- ences in which you seem to enter into a mysterious union with the source and ground of being. During this encounter, it seems as if the deepest secrets of the universe are revealed to you. What you for- merly took to be real seems nothing more than an illusion. You become convinced that now, as never before, you understand the true nature of reality. The Christian mystic, Saint John of the Cross, described the experience this way:

The end I have in view is the divine Embracing, the union of the soul with the divine Substance. In this loving, obscure knowledge God unites Himself with the soul eminently and divinely. . . . This knowl- edge consists in a certain contact of the soul with the Divinity, and it is God Himself Who is then felt and tasted, though not manifestly and distinctly, as it will be in glory. But this touch of knowledge and of sweetness is so deep and so profound that it penetrates into the in- most substance of the soul. This knowledge savors in some measure of the divine Essence and of everlasting life.34

For some, the union appears to be almost a sexual one. Saint Theresa, another Christian mystic, writes:

I saw an angel close by me, on my left side, in bodily form. . . . I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God.

The God of which Saint John and Saint Theresa speak is the God of the Bible: a personal being with thoughts, feelings, and desires. For them, mystical experiences are the result of entering into a peculiarly intimate relationship with Him. But in their view, even though you unite with God, you don’t become God. You may be deeply moved— even transformed—by the experience, but you’re not annihilated by it. Through it all, you retain your personal identity.

Not all mystics describe their experience this way, however. Hin- dus of the Advaita Vedanta school, for example, do not believe that mystical union is a relationship between two persons, for, in their view, the world does not contain two persons. According to them, there is only one thing in the universe—Brahman—and mystical experience reveals that we are identical to it. As the founder of this school, Shankara (A.D. 686–718), relates: “Through his transcenden- tal vision he [the mystic] has realized that there is no difference between man and Brahman, or between Brahman and the universe— for he sees that Brahman is all.”36 In the mystical state, according to Shankara, all individuality, all distinctions, all boundaries disappear. Reality is experienced as a seamless, indivisible whole. No line can be drawn between the self and the nonself, for the self is all. You are God.

Shankara holds that Brahman, the one and only true reality, is unchanging and eternal. The Buddha (563–483 B.C.E.), another East- ern mystic and teacher, maintains that reality is constantly changing and ephemeral. As he remarked to one of his followers, “The world is in continuous flux and is impermanent.”37 The Buddha, then, denies the existence of Shankara’s Brahman. As theologian John Hick notes, “This notion of an immutable atman [soul], without beginning or end, which each of us ultimately is, is explicitly rejected by the Buddha’s anatta [no soul] doctrine.”38

Capra can’t claim that modern physics vindicates the worldview of Eastern mystics in general because the Eastern mystics don’t share a common worldview. Hindus and Buddhists have radically different conceptions of the nature of reality. In fact, mystical worldviews seem to be at least as various as mystical traditions themselves. Mystics, even Eastern ones, do not speak with a single voice. Consequently, it can’t coherently be maintained that modern physics confirms their view of things.

Even the more limited claim that modern physics vindicates the worldview of one particular group of mystics is problematic, for if one group of mystics is right, the others must be wrong. How, then, would we account for the fact that Christian mystics were mistaken? Is the answer that their experiences weren’t really mystical? But how would we distinguish real mystical experiences from false ones? Is the answer that the Christians didn’t interpret their experiences correctly? But how would we distinguish correct interpretations from incorrect ones? Once we admit that only certain mystical experiences are reve- latory, we have abandoned the claim that all mystical experience yields knowledge

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