Transcendence and Happiness: New Perspectives from Religion and Philosophy

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Humanities/Philosophies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 May 2023) | Viewed by 11349

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
School of Philosophy, Humanities Faculty, North-West University, Potchefstroom 2520, South Africa
Interests: philosophy of religion; metaphysics; systematic theology, philosophy of happiness; philosophy of Paul Ricoeur; transcendence; transformation of higher education
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue of Religions aims to stimulate and revive scholarly interest in the relationship between transcendence and happiness, specifically from religious and philosophical perspectives. Happiness is often conceptualised (e.g., in analytic philosophy and positive psychology) in three broad ways. Firstly, happiness is understood as psychological happiness, denoting a state of mind; prudential happiness, denoting a type of well-being and a successful or flourishing life; or perfectionist happiness, denoting a life that is good in all respects, including morally good. Within these understandings of happiness, there is mostly no (or little) room for transcendence.

In contrast, happiness is generally transcendentally defined in religious terms by, for example, referring to God or a transcendent being. Aquinas, for example, identifies happiness with God as “at once real and ideal”. This definition means happiness (shalom, makarios) without God is at least lacking, if not nearly impossible, since “maximal happiness” is found with or within God alone. The relationship between happiness and transcendence is, thus, crucial within religious conceptualisations of happiness. However, questions quickly arise in this context about the role that luck (and unluck) plays, the receiving of happiness from a transcendental source versus striving for happiness, whether one should have a stoic acceptance of unhappiness, etc.

The relation between transcendence and happiness is further complicated when happiness is understood in a broader and more multifaceted sense, for example, to include meaning, fulfilment, purpose in life, the possible absence of pain, ethics (eudaimonia), chance (happiness as a by-product), our interrelatedness with nature, and unhappiness (happiness as an impossibility). The relationship between the affirmation of life, and transcendence and happiness, also comes into play with this broader understanding of happiness.

Contributions on these understandings of happiness and transcendence from religious and/or philosophical perspectives are welcome, particularly articles that focus on their application in different cultural contexts.

We request that, prior to submitting a manuscript, interested authors initially submit a proposed title and an abstract of 400–600 words summarizing their intended contribution. Please send it to the Guest Editor (anne.verhoef@nwu.ac.za) or to the Religions Editorial Office (relgions@mdpi.com). Abstracts will be reviewed by the Guest Editor for the purpose of ensuring the proper fit within the scope of the Special Issue. Full manuscripts will undergo a double-blind peer review.

Prof. Dr. Anné Hendrik Verhoef
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • transcendence
  • happiness
  • immanence
  • meaning
  • fulfilment
  • unhappiness
  • flourishing
  • luck
  • eudaimonia
  • chance
  • affirmation
  • blessedness
  • meaning

Published Papers (7 papers)

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4 pages, 165 KiB  
Editorial
Introduction of the Special Issue “Transcendence and Happiness: New Perspectives from Religion and Philosophy”
by Anné H. Verhoef
Religions 2024, 15(4), 475; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040475 - 11 Apr 2024
Viewed by 731
Abstract
This Special Issue aimed to stimulate and revive scholarly interest in the relationship between transcendence and happiness, specifically from religious and philosophical perspectives [...] Full article
9 pages, 225 KiB  
Article
Happiness and Being Human: The Tension between Immanence and Transcendence in Religion/Spirituality
by Wessel Bentley
Religions 2023, 14(7), 877; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14070877 - 5 Jul 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2339
Abstract
What is the happiness that we strive for and what does it mean for our understanding of being human? As we pursue happiness, we find that happiness is complex, in many ways subjective to the experiences and contexts of individuals or groups. Happiness [...] Read more.
What is the happiness that we strive for and what does it mean for our understanding of being human? As we pursue happiness, we find that happiness is complex, in many ways subjective to the experiences and contexts of individuals or groups. Happiness also can be found in attaining greater self-awareness and a sense of meaning/purpose. This article argues that religion/spirituality has a role to play in facilitating well-being/happiness in terms of the tension held in their understanding of immanence and transcendence. This will be done, using a science and religion discourse. Full article
20 pages, 383 KiB  
Article
Transcendental Happiness in the Thought of Ibn Sīnā and Ibn ‘Arabī
by Ismail Lala and Reham Alwazzan
Religions 2023, 14(6), 729; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060729 - 31 May 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1361
Abstract
This article explores the concept of transcendental happiness in the philosophies of arguably the two most important figures in Islamic intellectual thought, Abū ‘Alī ibn Sīnā (d. 428/1037) and Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn ‘Arabī (d. 638/1240). The most striking parallels between the philosophy of [...] Read more.
This article explores the concept of transcendental happiness in the philosophies of arguably the two most important figures in Islamic intellectual thought, Abū ‘Alī ibn Sīnā (d. 428/1037) and Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn ‘Arabī (d. 638/1240). The most striking parallels between the philosophy of Ibn Sīnā and that of Ibn ‘Arabī is in their agreement on the Aristotelian principle of transcendental happiness as the comprehension of God, combined with their emanationist cosmologies. Based on Neoplatonist emanationism, especially as it is put forth by Plotinus, Ibn Sīnā and Ibn ‘Arabī argue that there is a necessary emanation from God that results in the existence of the universe. As corollaries of the divine emanative process, those endowed with rationality seek to return to the divine in a reciprocal upward motion that aims to ‘reverse’ the downward motion of the original divine descent. The impetus for the two-way process incorporating divine descent through emanation and the longing for ascent found in humans is love. Despite these points of confluence, there are others of divergence. Ibn ‘Arabī disagrees with his predecessor that transcendental happiness is found in absolute annihilation in the divine, while still maintaining that annihilation of the self is a necessary first step in the attainment of transcendental happiness. Transcendental happiness, argues Ibn ‘Arabī, is ultimately the realization of human potentiality to become a complete locus of divine manifestation. This is carried out through the body for Ibn ‘Arabī, whereas for Ibn Sīnā, transcendental happiness requires the divestment of materiality. Full article
11 pages, 254 KiB  
Article
Happiness and Transcendence: Heavenly or Earthly—Augustine and Bonhoeffer
by Wessel Stoker
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1198; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091198 - 19 Sep 2023
Viewed by 1274
Abstract
This article explores two views of happiness in Christianity. According to one view, happiness is heavenly, something that is attained only in eternal life. In the other view, happiness can be experienced on earth. Augustine (354–430) advocated the first view, in which life [...] Read more.
This article explores two views of happiness in Christianity. According to one view, happiness is heavenly, something that is attained only in eternal life. In the other view, happiness can be experienced on earth. Augustine (354–430) advocated the first view, in which life on earth is viewed as full of misery. The conception of happiness as earthly is articulated by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) in his Letters and Papers from Prison. This article clarifies both views by pointing to the use of different types of content regarding transcendence. The focus is on the comparison between the two views and their impact on daily life. Full article
19 pages, 319 KiB  
Article
Keeping Up with Caputo: Of Specters and Spooks—Transcendence and Happiness in Caputo’s Radical Theology
by Joeri Schrijvers
Religions 2023, 14(4), 550; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040550 - 19 Apr 2023
Viewed by 1498
Abstract
This essay serves two purposes. First, it wants to introduce readers to John D. Caputo’s Radical Theology by way of his recent Specters of God (2022) in which his radical theology truly comes to fruition. The essay provides in this introduction through elucidating [...] Read more.
This essay serves two purposes. First, it wants to introduce readers to John D. Caputo’s Radical Theology by way of his recent Specters of God (2022) in which his radical theology truly comes to fruition. The essay provides in this introduction through elucidating this recent work and by pointing to earlier discussions of similar themes and figures in Caputo’s corpus. It will be shown that Caputo’s work is a genuine contemporary search for transcendence, asking all the right questions at the right time. Recently, for instance, Caputo is asking what becomes of the human search for meaning if this entire cosmos is destined to fade away in a Big Crunch. Second, this essay wants to critically address some remaining unclarities in this radical theology. It is to be noted, for instance, that at crucial stages Caputo repeats some aspects of the thought of divinity in theism that he nonetheless says he wants to overcome; at these stages, then, ‘God’ is allowed to be an exception to the worries of the world after all. This essay, too, wants to investigate Caputo’s rather enigmatic insistence of the possibility of joy and happiness in a mortal, finite world that would celebrate only a finite, mortal God. That finitude, instead of lasting and eternal salvation, serves as the very condition of possibility of true joy is an unexamined axiom running through Caputo’s recent works. In this regard, this essay wants to point to both the beauty but also the frailty of this thought. Full article
15 pages, 267 KiB  
Article
The Profane Land of the Happy: On the Messianic Promise in the Work of Giorgio Agamben
by Ype De Boer
Religions 2023, 14(6), 808; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060808 - 19 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1942
Abstract
This paper provides an interpretation of the enigmatic concept of ‘happy life’ in the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben. It departs from a recognition of the ambivalence in Agamben’s use of sacred and profane terminology that informs this concept. In a decidedly Benjaminian frame, [...] Read more.
This paper provides an interpretation of the enigmatic concept of ‘happy life’ in the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben. It departs from a recognition of the ambivalence in Agamben’s use of sacred and profane terminology that informs this concept. In a decidedly Benjaminian frame, and with the help of esoteric religious images, happy life is described by Agamben as a messianic life and a blessed life, while he, at the same time, explicitly defines it as a perfectly profane life. Reading Agamben’s philosophy as aspiring to a radical transformation of our mode of being in the world, I argue that the consistency in his idiosyncratic attitude toward the sacred and profane can be shown, and new light can be shed on the nature of happy life. Beyond prevailing negative characterizations that describe what happy life is not to be, the interpretation developed in this paper argues that it positively entails an ethos of love and a practice of use. As such, the paper aims to contribute to recent attempts at analyzing the curative and promissory aspects of Agamben’s philosophy over and above its critical potential, and provide a basic outline of happy life that allows for comparative analysis with other contemporary authors on the notion of happiness. Full article
10 pages, 230 KiB  
Article
“We Know a New Happiness…” from Heidegger’s Happy Event to Nietzsche’s Hysterical Salvation
by Erik Meganck
Religions 2023, 14(6), 738; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060738 - 2 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1201
Abstract
This article explores Heidegger’s Er-eignis and Nietzsche’s messianism to carve out an understanding of transcendence that allows a connection with happiness in an ontological sense. I will, however, need two more important ‘figures’ from Nietzsche’s work, namely ‘artist’ and ‘woman’—the latter as understood [...] Read more.
This article explores Heidegger’s Er-eignis and Nietzsche’s messianism to carve out an understanding of transcendence that allows a connection with happiness in an ontological sense. I will, however, need two more important ‘figures’ from Nietzsche’s work, namely ‘artist’ and ‘woman’—the latter as understood by Derrida. Using a ‘de-Freuding’ of the term ‘hysteria’ into a philosopheme, I can finally connect happiness with the end of metaphysics. First, I prepare for the most suitable philosophical approach. Then, I turn to Heidegger to look for a connection between freedom and authenticity that hides in the unthought. This opens the door to Nietzsche’s most surprising insertion of theological virtues into the core of philosophical reflection. Then, finally, I introduce the metaphors ‘artist’ and ‘woman’ to arrive at an articulation of hysteria as a philosophical name for a perspective on happiness. Full article
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