I’m newish here (six months or so) so if this comment takes things in a bad direction or is otherwise inappropriate please delete it. It might also be too long.
With that clearing of the throat, I would like to suggest the following:
that the atheistic perspectives become more informed about the actual nature of the philosophical/ theological tradition, especially within the dominant (Thomist) tradition of Western Christianity. If this site is seeking to become ‘less wrong’ through exploration and respectful dialogue then please hear a representative of that tradition when they say ‘the existence of God is not an empirical question’ and ‘God is not a supernatural agent’. I suppose this is a way of saying ‘don’t assume that pre-Enlightenment thinkers were stupid’, which is good advice whether what I am specifically saying here is true or not. Denys Turner (top philosophical/theological professor ex-Cambridge UK) put it like this: atheists (the atheists who make such arguments) haven’t even reached the ‘theologically necessary level of denial’ - it’s not that the specific claim being made by the atheist is incorrect, it’s that the implication that is believed to follow does not actually follow. (Turner paper is available here if anyone wants to read it https://www.jstor.org/stable/43249944?seq=1 )
that an aspect of spirituality (or ‘wisdom traditions’) that is missed in that otherwise estimable list is that it involves techniques to enable a closer appropriation of the truth. That is, in order to discern the truth correctly, it is necessary to address internal questions involving matters of character and will. This requires time spent in reflection and most especially it involves the cultivation of the virtue of apatheia or detachment (I believe there to be a significant overlap across different wisdom traditions on this point). Most especially the edifice of modern science remains dependent upon the practice of spiritual virtues of this sort in a way that is less denied, more ignored. The edifice of scientific research depends on things like the honesty of the researchers, and therefore upon the institutional cultivation of such honesty. In so far as institutions succeed in cultivating such honesty then they are operating as spiritual bodies. I would personally argue that the edifice of science that we presently have is structurally dependent on that Thomistic tradition I mentioned above, and that it could not exist separately from that tradition, but that’s an argument that might be distracting as it is very contentious
lastly, that an important form of spirituality that is also massively understood in contemporary culture, although it is of major historical significance in the West, is that of magic. Rightly understood, this is not about Harry Potter-esque actions that violate natural law but about ‘change of consciousness in accordance with will’ - in other words, it is about the training of the intellect in ways of seeing. (Some of the ways of seeing can be bonkers of course.)
So—apologies if this is not the sort of thing desired here (or if it has been engaged with elsewhere on the site—as I said, I’m newish) but I hope it might contribute to the conversation.
Isn’t this what Scott Adams talks about in ‘How to fail....’? ie the importance of developing stacks of skills with flexible application to respond to circumstances, rather than fixating on a single specific end-point?
It is interesting that you talk about Buddhist understandings of this, and then the Greek, yet you do not here engage with the Christian tradition on this point (which gathered the Aristotelean threads). The different religious traditions are ways of educating our desires, and the dominant one in the West is the Thomist system. If anyone is interested in this, Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue is where to begin.
Thank you for this post, and indeed the whole sequence. I’ll go back to lurking now.