Symposium Introduction


Alexandra Romanyshyn
Renée Köhler-Ryan
Felix Ó Murchadha
Neal DeRoo
Mara Brecht
Mark Novak



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.


Awards, Reviews, and Endorsements

College Theology Society Best Book Award, 2021

“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

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