There is a lot of interest in the doctrine of heaven among philosophers of religion at the moment – particularly questions about what heaven would actually be like. This project focuses on one aspect of this in particular: the temporal (or atemporal) experience.
Its primary question is: Is it possible to construct a coherent model of the experience of time in heaven?
The answer to the question is not obvious, because there are constraints on any model of heavenly experience. Heaven should, among other things, be God-focused, as blissful as is humanly possible, and (in some sense) eternal. What is at issue is whether it is coherent to suppose that people be in these states and experience time, and if so, what that experience would be like and how it would differ from our own now.
A key element of this project would involve analysing the ordinary experience of time. How do we experience time, and what features does this experience have? In what ways can this experience vary, particularly during religious experiences? As such, the project will overlap to some degree with psychology of religion and questions about the psychology of time perception.
Sub-questions would therefore include:
• How does our experience of time function normally? What is involved in experiencing time?
• In what ways can our experience of time vary?
• Are there changes in our experience of time associated with particular kinds of religious experience?
• Is it possible to have no experience of time? What would that be like?
• Does the experience of time change over long periods?
• How does the experience of time relate to happiness?
• How does the experience of time relate to boredom?
The methodology would be that of analytic philosophy. We will analyse literature on these topics, especially where it is not yet connected to the question of the coherence of heaven, and consider the above questions in the light of the existing psychological research and philosophical reflection on that research. There should not be any significant travel requirements, with the possible exception of travel to consult other research libraries e.g. in Oxford or London.
This research would suit somebody looking to work on philosophy of religion or philosophical theology, with particular emphasis on philosophical questions arising from doctrines of life after death. It would also suit somebody with a background in psychology looking to work on a philosophical or religious topic that would use that background in an interdisciplinary way.
For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor, Dr Jonathan Hill: [email protected]