Spiritual Exercises for a Secular Age
Desmond and the Quest for God
- College Theology Society Best Book Award
In A Secular Age, Charles Taylor, faced with contemporary challenges to belief, issues a call for “new and unprecedented itineraries” that might be capable of leading seekers to encounter God. In Spiritual Exercises for a Secular Age, Ryan G. Duns demonstrates that William Desmond’s philosophy has the resources to offer a compelling response to Taylor. To show how, Duns makes use of the work of Pierre Hadot. In Hadot’s view, the point of philosophy is “not to inform but to form”—that is, not to provide abstract answers to abstruse questions but rather to form the human being such that she can approach reality as such in a new way. Drawing on Hadot, Duns frames Desmond’s metaphysical thought as a form of spiritual exercise. So framed, Duns argues, Desmond’s metaphysics attunes its readers to perceive disclosure of the divine in the everyday. Approached in this way, studying Desmond’s metaphysics can transform how readers behold reality itself by attuning them to discern the presence of God, who can be sought, and disclosed through, all things in the world.
Spiritual Exercises for a Secular Age offers a readable and engaging introduction to the thought of Charles Taylor and William Desmond, and demonstrates how practicing metaphysics can be understood as a form of spiritual exercise that renews in its practitioners an attentiveness to God in all things. As a unique contribution at the crossroads of theology and philosophy, it will appeal to readers in continental philosophy, theology, and religious studies broadly.
“Ryan Duns rightfully reads William Desmond as not only giving us ideas for consideration but ways of being in the world that open cracks if not breakthroughs onto a wider and deeper reality.” —Christopher Ben Simpson, editor of The William Desmond Reader
“This book offers a penetrating, yet entirely accessible, account of not only William Desmond’s metaxological metaphysics but more importantly how Desmond’s metaphysics serves to heal those forms of theological discourse that have become malnourished by the neglect of the practice of spiritual exercising.” —Brendan Sammon, co-editor of William Desmond and Contemporary Theology
"Ryan Duns, S.J. shows how Desmond’s metaphysics complements Taylor’s genealogy in Spiritual Exercises for a Secular Age: Desmond and the Quest for God, which recently received the College Theology Society's Best Book Award." —Genealogies of Modernity
I found Ryan Duns’s new book Spiritual Exercises for a Secular Age: Desmond and the Quest for God enjoyable on several levels. He shows great skill in writing—even singing at times—about a number of key ideas. He also adeptly exposits the meandering thinking of (especially) Charles Taylor and William Desmond and builds on their thought by suggesting new avenues and roads that we may follow today as we continue to wrestle with the question of God. -Mark Novak in Syndicate symposium
"Lamenting the divorce between ‘academic’ and ‘spiritual’ theology has become commonplace, as has citing Karl Rahner's prophetic counsel regarding the necessity of a catholicized mysticism for the Church's survival. Heeding these summonses, though, by proffering a genuinely novel formative and informative text intending the reader's transformative performance is a noteworthy achievement, and such is precisely what Ryan G. Duns, SJ, accomplishes in Spiritual Exercises for a Secular Age: Desmond and the Quest for God." —New Blackfriars