Lecture II: Overview

At the end of Lecture I, Iqbal summarizes the gist of his conclusion, as follows:

Religious experience… is essentially a state of feeling with a cognitive aspect, the content of which cannot be communicated to others, except in the form of a judgment.

Muhammad Iqbal. The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, p. 21.

If this is so, Iqbal asks, how can those who haven’t had the same experience decide whether or not the said judgment is true? Iqbal suggests two different tests for this purpose—the intellectual or philosophical test, and the pragmatic test. Lecture II is Iqbal’s attempt to apply the former. While doing so, Iqbal also presents his understanding of the qur’anic view of Reality, which in his mind is identical with the qur’anic view of God. Taken as a whole, Lecture II is about establishing that what is revealed through religious experience is the same Reality that we know through other types of experience.

The Philosophical Test
of the Revelations of Religious Experience

The following outline depicts the second lecture as consisting of two main sections. The first section argues that scholastic arguments for the existence of God are inadequate and unconvincing on philosophical grounds. The second section is the heart of the lecture, which presents Iqbal’s preferred alternative to the scholastic approach, i.e., a philosophical analysis (or “criticism”) of experience at the levels of matter, life, and mind, in order to show that the content of what is revealed through physics, biology, and psychology is in agreement with what is revealed through religious experience.

I. The Poverty of Scholasticism [1–3]

A. Cosmological Argument [2]
B. Teleological Argument [2]
C. Ontological Argument [3]
D. Dualism of Thought and Being [3]

II. Philosophical Analysis of Experience [4–22]

A. Experience at the Level of Matter [4–8]
  1. Scientific Critique of Classical Materialism in Physics [4–6]
    • Classical View of Matter
    • Whitehead’s Contribution
      • Philosophical Implications
  2. The Nature of Space [6–7]
    • Zeno’s Paradox (based on Divisionism)
    • Ash’arite Solution (based on Atomism)
    • Bergson’s Solution (not discussed in detail)
    • Russell’s Solution (based on Cantor’s Theory)
    • Iqbal’s Response
  3. Einstein’s Theory of Space [8]
    • Philosophical Implications
  4. Einstein’s Theory of Time [8]
    • Unreality of Time
    • Ouspensky’s Theory
B. Experience at the Levels of Life and Consciousnesses [9–22]
  1. General Comments [9]
    • What is Consciousness?
    • Mechanistic Interpretations
    • Nature of Science
    • Science vs. Religion
    • Causality vs. Teleology
  2. Scientific Critique of the Mechanistic View of Life [9–10]
    • J. S. Haldane
    • Hans Driesch
    • Wildon Carr
  3. Philosophical Inquiry into Conscious Experience [11–14]
    • Efficient Self vs. Appreciative Self
    • Serial Time vs. Real Time
    • Limits of Biology
  4. Nature of Reality as Revealed in Conscious Experience [15–19]
    • Freedom
    • Creativity
    • Purpose
    • Selfhood
  5. Reality of Time [20–22]
    • McTaggart’s Error
    • Change and the Ultimate Ego
C. Summary [23]

Step 4 of analytical reading requires us to discern the question(s) to which the author is responding. Based on my current understanding of Lecture II, it seems to me that Iqbal is trying to answer the following questions:

  • What has been the standard philosophical approach for proving the existence of God?
  • What are the shortcomings in the standard approach that render it ineffective?
  • What causes the apparent opposition between scientific knowledge and religious faith?
  • Why must we carry out a philosophical analysis (or “criticism”) of experience?
  • Which developments in twenty-first century science are most relevant to religion?
  • What do we know about Reality based on our experience of matter, life, and consciousness?
  • In what ways does our experience of the world match the qur’anic depictions of Reality?

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