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The in-an-unusual-sense-Assistant for this class is Tim Knepper. I have asked him to provide a quick introduction to himself here.

Tim Knepper (

Ok, life as an academic dilettante isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So from a veritable host of religious and philosophical interests, I have narrowed my focus of study to issues at the juncture of philosophy of language and mysticism.

In particular, four questions currently occupy my attention. Firstly, assuming languages possess some sort of syntactic and semantic family resemblances, how do mystics (of the apophatic or negative persuasion) bend and/or break ordinary linguistic rules in order to indicate either the nature of the ultimate or an experience of the ultimate? Secondly, how do these syntactic and semantic violations compare cross-culturally? Thirdly, do such violations constitute a grammatical structure in their own right, linguistic rules by which mystics must play the game of negation? And lastly, can mystics (and others for that matter) negate without at the same time affirming? (Or to use the terminology of John Searle: What linguistic and epistemic status does illocutionary force negation (of an assertion) have? And are such negations by mystics any different from the illocutionary force negations of skeptics (or agnostics?)

I look forward to exploring questions of this nature as well as many, many other questions and issues pertaining to languages of religion, theology and mysticism during the course of the semester.

Office Hours

Prof. Wildman during Spring Semester, 2003: office hours are posted on the door of his office, STH 335 (sign up for appointments using sheet on door).


The chief product of the seminar should be an original piece of research, presented in the form of a paper of about 4,000 words. This paper will earn half of the grade (50%). A one-page précis of the proposed research project must be submitted by the beginning of class on February 27, 2003. The research project needs to be submitted at STH 335 by 9am on May 6, 2003. There is a penalty for lateness. Do not plagiarize.

The remainder of the grade (50%) is based on quality of participation (including attendance and punctuality), seminar presentations and contributions to discussion, and additional written work in the form of book reviews and annotated web links.

Incompletes are not given except in the case of medical emergencies. The STH Registrar requires paperwork for an incomplete.


This course makes extensive use of web support. Every student is provided with free access to the web and email. You can also have access to these services from your home computer using a modem to dial in to the university. Participation in web-based course activities helps students learn the course material at their own pace and more effectively. Web involvement is also an important aspect of the participation portion of the course grade.

To reach the WebCT site (for students enrolled in the course), click here.

Course Texts

Course books are available at the Boston University Bookstore in Kenmore Square.

Please note: this list is tentative, given the nature of the seminar, but you can't go wrong reading the lot of them.

Required books are available at the Boston University Bookstore in Kenmore Square. Note that this list is tentative, given the dynamic nature of the seminar, but you can't go wrong reading the lot of them.

Required Books

Alfred Jules Ayer, Language, Truth, Logic (Dover, 1946; 0486200108)

Peter L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967; 0385073054)  

Terrence Deacon, The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain (W. W. Norton & Co., 1998; 0393317544)

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought (Basic Books, 1999; 0465056741)

Geroge Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (Philadephia: The Westminster Press, 1984; 0664246184)

Robert C. Neville, The Truth of Broken Symbols (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994; 0791427420)

Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1994; reprinted with HarperCollins, 1995; 0-06-097651-9)

Paul Ricoeur, Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning (Forth Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1976; 0912646594)

John Searle, Speech Acts (New York and Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1970; 052109626X)

John Searle, Expression and Meaning (New York and Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1975; 0521313937)

Michael A. Sells, Mystical Languages of Unsaying (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994; 0226747875)

Recommended Books

John L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, 2nd ed. (Cambridge; Harvard University Press, 1975; 0674411528)

Deborah Cameron, ed., The Feminist Critique of Language: A Reader (New York: Routledge, 1998; 0415164001)

Umberto Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language (Indiana University Press, 1986; 0253203988)

Bernard McGinn, Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism (Crossroad Publishing Company); vol. 1: The Foundations of Mysticism: Origins to the Fifth Century (1994; 0824514041); vol. 2: The Growth of Mysticism: Gregory the Great through the 12th Century (1996; 0824516281); vol. 3: The Flowering of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism (1200-1350) (1998; 0824516281)

Psudo-Dionysius, Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works (New York: Paulist Press, 1987; 0809128381)

Ferdinand De Saussure, Course in General Linguistics (Open Court Publishing Company, 1988; 0070165246)

Readings on Reserve in the School of Theology Library

Austin, J. L. How to Do Things with Words.

Ayer, Alfred Jules. Language, Truth, and Logic.

Berger, Peter L. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion.

Berger, Peter L.; Luckman, Thomas. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge.

Berlin, Brent; Paul Kay. Basic Color Terms.

Cameron, Deborah, ed. The Feminist Critique of Language.

Comrie, Bernard. Language Universals and Linguistic Typology: Syntax and Morphology, 2nd ed.

Daly, Mary; Caputi, Jane. Webster’s First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language.

Deacon, Terrence. The Symbolic Species.

Diamond, Malcolm. The Logic of God: Theology and Verification.

Eco, Umberto. Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language.

Fairclough, Norman. Critical Discourse Analysis.

Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge.

Fowler, Roger; Hodge, Bob; Kress, Gunther; Trew, Tony, eds. Language and Control.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Truth and Method.

Greenberg, Joseph H., ed. Universals of Language, 2nd ed.

Hagoort, Peter. "The Uniquely Human Capacity for Language Communication: From POPE to [po:p] in Half a Second", in Robert J. Russell, ed., Neuroscience and the Person: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action. Vatican City State: Vatican Observatory Publications; Berkeley: Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. 1999.

Lakoff, George; Mark Johnson. Philosophy in the Flesh.

Lindbeck, George. The Nature of Doctrine.

Mueller-Vollmer, Kurt. The Hermeneutics Reader.

Neville, Robert Cummings. "Contextualization and the Non-Obvious meaning of Religious Symbols."

Neville, Robert Cummings. "Religion in Late Modernity."

Neville, Robert Cummings. The Truth of Broken Symbols.

Nichols, Johanna. Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time.

Pinker, Steven. The Language Instinct.

Ricoeur, Paul. Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning.

Saussure, Ferdinand. Course on General Linguistics.

Searle, John. Expression and Meaning.

Searle, John. Intentionality.

Searle, John. Speech Acts.

Sells, Michael A. Mystical Languages of Unsaying.

Shopen, Timothy, ed. Language Typology and Syntactic Description, vol. 1: Clause Structure.

Varela, Francisco J., et al. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience.

Whorf, Benjamin Lee. Language, Thought, and Reality.

Wierzbicka, Anna. Lingua Mentalis: The Semantics of Natural Language.

Wierzbicka, Anna. Semantics, Culture, and Cognition: Human Concepts in Culture-Specific Configurations.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations.

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