Spiritual Exercises for a Secular Age? William Desmond's Theological Achievement
Duns, Ryan Gerard. “Spiritual Exercises for a Secular Age? William Desmond's Theological Achievement”, Boston College, 2018. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:108206.
This project attempts to respond to Charles Taylor's invitation, made in A Secular Age, for "new and unprecedented itineraries" capable of guiding seekers toward an encounter with God. Today, many Westerners find belief in God difficult if not impossible. This essay begins with an overview of Taylor's secularization narrative and explores the causes and pressures that have made belief in the Transcendent problematic. To respond to Taylor's summons for new itineraries, I turn in Chapters 2-4 to the work of philosopher William Desmond. After introducing readers to Desmond and locating him on a landscape dominated by phenomenologists, I introduce Desmond's metaphysical philosophy and argue that this his thought can be approached as a form of spiritual exercise capable of reawakening a sense of the Transcendent. In Chapters 3 and 4 I engage the work of Pierre Hadot to show how Desmond's philosophy can work to transform the way one perceives the world. Read within this framework, I believe Desmond's metaxological metaphysics provides a series of spiritual exercises needed in an increasingly secular age. Read in this light, metaxology becomes less a philosophy about which one must be informed than a philosophy capable of forming readers to perceive reality anew. In Chapter 5, I draw out some of the theological implications for this interpretation of Desmond's work. In the conclusion, I survey the project and indicate what I consider to be the theological achievement of Desmond's project and potential openings for future engagement with his work.