Secular Spirituality and the Hermeneutics of Ontological Gratitude

Sophia 52 (1):27-43 (2013)

Richard Colledge
Australian Catholic University
In his 2010 article, ‘Secular Spirituality and the Logic of Giving Thanks’, John Bishop recalls a striking theme in a recent address by Richard Dawkins in which he appeared to enthusiastically endorse the appropriateness of a ‘naturalised spirituality’ that involved ‘existential gratitude’, and this led him to investigate the notion of a naturalised or secular spirituality with particular reference to Robert Solomon’s Spirituality for the Skeptic (2002). This essay looks to pick up on Bishop’s engagements with both Dawkins and Solomon, but to extend the conversation well beyond them in order to defend the credibility and integrity of secular spirituality in its movement of ontological gratitude. In this way it looks to offer a first sketch of what might be termed a ‘hermeneutics of ontological gratitude’. To this end – and via a distinction between gratitude for existence and life – the essay considers Dawkins’ argument and Solomon’s work in further detail, before turning to consider various other perspectives on the problem including Kenneth Schmitz’s existential Thomist notion of ontological contingency, Hannah Arendt’s concept of primary natality, and Emmanuel Levinas’ sketch of the self in its interiority and economy. My claim is that any serious naturalistic spirituality needs to take into account not only a gratitude for one’s existence per se, but for the whole context of individual and collective being
Keywords Secular spirituality  Ontological gratitude  Robert C. Solomon  Richard Dawkins  Hannah Arendt  William Desmond  Emmanuel Levinas
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11841-013-0358-0
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 46,425
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Totality and Infinity.Emmanuel Levinas - 1961/1969 - Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.
The Denial of Death.Ernest Becker - 1973 - New York: Free Press.
The Life of the Mind.Hannah Arendt - 1978 - Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

View all 16 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Propositional Gratitude.Sean McAleer - 2012 - American Philosophical Quarterly 49 (1):55-66.
Secular Schools, Spirituality and Maori Values.Deborah Fraser * - 2004 - Journal of Moral Education 33 (1):87-95.
Gratitude, Citizenship and Education.Patricia White - 1999 - Studies in Philosophy and Education 18 (1):43-52.
Duties of Gratitude.Samuel V. Bruton - 2003 - Philosophy in the Contemporary World 10 (1):11-15.
Virtue as a Benchmark for Spirituality in Business.Gerald F. Cavanagh & Mark R. Bandsuch - 2002 - Journal of Business Ethics 38 (1-2):109 - 117.
The Moral Significance of Gratitude in Kant's Ethics.Houston Smit & Mark Timmons - 2011 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (4):295-320.
Spirituality, Ethics, and Care.Simon Robinson - 2007 - Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Ethics and Secular Spirituality.M. M. Agrawal - 1998 - Indian Institute of Advanced Study.


Added to PP index

Total views
28 ( #332,232 of 2,286,384 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #853,841 of 2,286,384 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature