Friday, July 22, 2011

Corbin Nall ’12 studies philosophical, religious connections in Summer Research

Corbin Nall ’12 spent the summer delving into deep ideas about medieval Christian mystics and Zen Buddhists.

The religious studies major participated in Randolph College’s 2011 Summer Research Program to investigate apophasis—a discourse method that defines religious or philosophical ideas by saying what they are not, rather than what they are. Gordon Steffey, a professor of religious studies, advised him in his research.

After delving into the topic, Nall discovered that apophasis was just a small part of a larger connection between the thoughts and methods of the writers he studied. Both seem to approach an understanding of truth by ridding the mind of habits and preconceived mindsets.

“I still have a long way to go to find out exactly what that kinship is,” Nall said. He plans to continue reading about Zen Buddhism to gain a better grasp on that philosophy and discover its connection to the writings of Christian mystics.

Nall’s Summer Research project helped him develop a deeper understanding of philosophy as a practice rather than just an academic exercise. “For these people, religion and philosophy were a way of life,” he said.