Friday, October 6, 2017

Numinous experience and instinct - the meaning of the meaning of life

Shinto sacralizes places where people have a sense of the awe of nature. Various pieces of music, e.g., Agnus Dei from Faure's Requiem or Vaughan Williams' Theme from Thomas Tallis, are evocative of an unearthly majesty. Abraham Maslow spoke of peak experiences - experiences that are not the result of biological need fulfillment (which include safety and belonging in his account) such as aesthetic experiences or spiritual experiences. Biological drivers he called extrinsic motivation, motivation by a lack or need. The kind that give rise to numinous experience such as scientific curiosity/discovery for its own sake rather than the prestige or big pharma payout, the joy of creating or experiencing music or art or writing that is not politically motivated but just beautiful, this is intrinsic motivation. The joy of understanding, learning or appreciating something new for no other reason. Apes experience this at waterfalls (Goodall).
Is it conceivable to explain these numinous experiences 
  • in naturalistic terms
  • while conserving the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation ?
If not, is all naturalism essentially reductionist by design?

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