Université d'Erfurt

Christopher David Shaw

Gast-Kollegiat am Max-Weber-Kolleg
von August 2013 bis August 2014

Dissertationsprojekt: "Engaging Mysticism in a Secular Context. A Hermeneutical Study in Post-Kantian Thought"



Shaw's areas of interest and expertise are in modern German Philosophy of Religion (especially Kant, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger, and Gadamer), Christian Mysticism, Neo-Platonism, Greek and Latin Patrology, Dominican Scholasticism, Martin Luther and the Reformation, Medieval Beguine and Late Baroque Women's Theology, and Comparative Religions. 

Shaw's principle vocational interests are in teaching and student mentorship. He also has a strong proclivity towards management and he is continually developing his repertoire in administrative work. In respect to publishing and research, Shaw has a natural ability for writing and the dissemination of ideas. His aim is to continue producing books at regular intervals. Shaw's first book appeared in 2012 and he is scheduled to have his second book completed and published by 2016.

Shaw is also interested in pedagogical theories relating to university experience and curriculum adaptations for the 21st century. He is developing a "Formation" program that is based upon Wilhelm von Humboldt's "Bildung" and the spiritual formation practices within the Order of St. Augustine.


DPhil (candidate) Theology and Religious Studies
University of Oxford – Regent’s Park College

MA (magna cum laude) Philosophy
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven- Higher Institute of Philosophy (Hoger Instituut voor Wijsbegeerte)

MA Theology and Religious Studies
Villanova University

BA Religious Studies (minors in Philosophy and Anthropology)
University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire


Universität Erfut – Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies
Visiting Researcher, 2013-Present

Regent’s Park College, Oxford – Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture
Graduate Fellow, 2011-Present

St. Olaf College – Howard V. and Edna H. Hong Kierkegaard Library
Summer Fellow, 2012

Research Project:

Engaging Mysticism in a Secular Context: A Hermeneutical Study in Post-Kantian Thought

The aim of this thesis is to define, develop, and defend a Post-Kantian interpretation of mystical theology from within a secular context. From this interpretation, I will develop the groundwork for, and argue for the legitimacy of a mystical theology that is expressed in secular terms, i.e., a secular-mysticism. My central argument will then be the following: Secular-mysticism is a viable and potent theological perspective that emerges from, and functions as a reconciliatory synthesis between the otherwise opposed categories of the religious and the secular. And, moreover, secular-mysticism is a relevant and compelling approach to understanding the human/divine relationship in the contemporary world that we now inhabit. To carry out the overall aim of this project, the medieval thought and mystical writings of Meister Eckhart will provide the basic subject matter that will be interpreted in light of Post-Kantian thought and the secular conditions of the present age.

The overall aim of this thesis will be developed and supported over four successive parts. In the first part, I will define and situate the key terms that will be used to engage the pre-modern theology of Meister Eckhart in a modern philosophical and secular context. The second part of the thesis will support the first by introducing the hermeneutic theories that will be applied in order to exhibit the methodological approach that will facilitate my central argument. The third part of the thesis will proceed to define the Post-Kantian philosophical terms and themes that will be used to interpret Eckhart’s medieval mystical theology. The fourth, and final part will then bring together the previous three parts by presenting the full case for my central argument. In this part, the mystical theology of Meister Eckhart will be re-presented for a modern audience. The re-presentation of Eckhart’s theology will be defined and developed according to the key terms and themes that affect the hermeneutical perspective of the modern interpreter. That is to say, the interpreter who aims to engage with, and formulate an understanding of a mystical theology that has relevance within, and meaning for the secular world that he or she inhabits. The result of this study will be the construction and defense of a secular-mysticism as a unique and unconventional Post-Kantian interpretation of Eckhartian mysticism.

This project should be read as a distinctive attempt to offer a reconciliatory point of common interest that, in my belief, can emerge between serious religious thought and the secular culture that defines the present age. The rhetoric in this thesis seeks to gain the attention of, and speak to both the confessional theologian and the secular thinker. In doing so, I consider this project to be, at once, both a work of heterodox theological apologetics as well as a statement of respectful dissidence toward conventional, religious orthodoxies and modi operandi. Above all, this thesis should be read and interpreted as a scholarly and constructive effort to critique the binary opposition that has historically persisted between the broadly defined categories of the religious and the secular by bringing into view an alternative approach to theology. In other words, this thesis aims to critically engage with religious content, and in particular mystical theology, in order to offer a Post-Kantian interpretation of this content in secular terms.

Selected Publications:

  • On Exceeding Determination and the Ideal of Reason: Immanuel Kant, William Desmond, and the Noumenological Principle (CSP, 2012)

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