I don't know of any other book like it."--Wayne Proudfoot, Columbia University "This is a terrific book. -/- The essence of religion was once widely thought to be a unique form of experience that could not be explained in neurological, psychological, or sociological terms. In recent decades scholars have questioned the privileging of the idea of religiousexperience in the study of religion, an approach that effectively isolated the study of religion from the social and natural sciences. (...)ReligiousExperience Reconsidered lays out a framework for research into religious phenomena that reclaims experience as a central concept while bridging the divide between religious studies and the sciences.Ann Taves shifts the focus from "religiousexperience," conceived as a fixed and stable thing, to an examination of the processes by which people attribute meaning to their experiences. She proposes a new approach that unites the study of religion with fields as diverse as neuroscience, anthropology, sociology, and psychology to better understand how these processes are incorporated into the broader cultural formations we think of as religious or spiritual. Taves addresses a series of key questions: how can we set up studies without obscuring contestations over meaning and value? What is the relationship between experience and consciousness? How can research into consciousness help us access and interpret the experiences of others? Why do people individually or collectively explain their experiences in religious terms? How can we set up studies that allow us to compare experiences across times and cultures?ReligiousExperience Reconsidered demonstrates how methods from the sciences can be combined with those from the humanities to advance a naturalistic understanding of the experiences that people deem religious. (shrink)
The Gifford Lectures were established in 1885 at the universities of St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh to promote the discussion of 'Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term - in other words, the knowledge of God', and some of the world's most influential thinkers have delivered them. The 1901–2 lectures given in Edinburgh by American philosopher William James are considered by many to be the greatest in the series. The lectures were published in book form in 1902 (...) and have been reprinted many times. James, who was educated in the United States and Europe, and spent much of his career teaching philosophy at Harvard, was very influential in the development of modern psychology, and in these twenty lectures he explores the personal experience of religion. Some of the topics include religion and neurology, 'the sick soul', saintliness, and mysticism. (shrink)
Transformative experiences are epistemically and personally transformative: prior to having the experience, agents cannot predict the value of the experience and cannot anticipate how it will change their core values and preferences. Paul argues that these experiences pose a puzzle for standard decision-making procedures because values cannot be assigned to outcomes involving transformative experience. Responding philosophers are quick to point out that decision procedures are built to handle uncertainty, including the uncertainty generated by transformative experience. My (...) paper enters here and contributes two points. First, religious experiences are transformative experiences that are especially resistant to these responses. Second, a procedure that appeals to voluntarist reasons—reasons arising from an act of the will—can allow an agent to rationally decide to undergo or avoid an outcome involving transformative experience. Combining these two points results in some interesting implications with respect to practical aspects of religion. (shrink)
I discuss Richard Swinburne’s account of religiousexperience in his probabilistic case for theism. I argue, pace Swinburne, that even if cosmological considerations render theism not too improbable, religiousexperience does not render it more probable than not.
The enlarging domain of psychiatric intervention is frequently associated with the undue medicalization of unusual experiences. In such a climate, it becomes of utmost importance to carefully choose appropriate candidates for the psychiatric gaze. This suggests a need to draw a distinction between religious experiences (with psychotic form) and pathological psychotic experiences. As Jackson and Fulford (1997) maintain, “spiritual experiences, whether welcome or unwelcome, and whether or not they are psychotic in form, have nothing (directly) to do with medicine. (...) It would be quite wrong, then, to “treat” spiritual psychotic experiences with neuroleptic drugs, just as it is quite wrong to “treat” political .. (shrink)
Ineffability—that which cannot be explained in words—lies at the heart of the Christian mystical tradition. It has also been part of every discussion of religiousexperience since the early twentieth century. Despite this centrality, ineffability is a concept that has largely been ignored by philosophers of religion. In this book, Bennett-Hunter builds on the recent work of David E. Cooper, who argues that the meaning of life can only be understood in terms of an ineffable source on which (...) life depends, and engages with the work of continental philosophers, such as Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Karl Jaspers. This is the first book to explore the concept of ineffability within contemporary philosophy of religion and provides a starting point for further scholarly debate. It will be of interest to scholars of philosophy of religion, theology, existentialism and phenomenology. -/- 'Bennett Hunter’s book is a timely contribution to the growing theological and philosophical literature on mystery and ineffability. Written in a lucid and elegant style, the book makes a convincing case for the ineffability of religiousexperience and explores its relationship to a sense that our lives are answerable to such experience.' — David E. Cooper. -/- 'Philosophers have long concentrated on linguistic forms in a way that has isolated language from the rest of life, and this isolation has increasingly obscured for them the vast range of things that cannot be spoken. Bennett-Hunter is not the first philosopher to try and map this distracted field, but he is remarkable in the width and sympathy of his approach to the highly various thinkers whom he invokes to illuminate it.' — Mary Midgley. (shrink)
Can beliefs to the effect that god is manifesting himself in a certain way to the believer ("m-beliefs") be justified by its seeming to the believer that he experiences god doing that? the issue is discussed in the context of several concepts of justification. on a "normative" concept of justification the answer will depend on what one's intellectual obligations are vis-a-vis practices of belief formation. on a rigorous view of such obligations one is justified in forming a m-belief on the (...) basis of experience only if one has adequate reasons for taking that practice to be reliable. on a more permissive view of such obligations, one is justified only if one lacks adequate reasons for taking the practice to be unreliable. it is suggested that neither this practice nor, e.g., the practice of forming perceptual beliefs on the basis of sense perception passes the stronger test, but that they both pass the weaker test. (shrink)
This chapter begins with a review of recent philosophical literature on religiousexperience, which has generally been concerned with experiences that focus on God or some other supernatural ‘thing’, and then considers other kinds of religiousexperience which should be of some interest for natural theology. It suggests that these kinds of religiousexperience invite a certain conception of God, namely, as an overarching meaning, rather than as a supernatural ‘object’, and also a correlative (...) epistemology, one which gives due acknowledgement to the sense-making capacities of the human body and of affective responses in particular. (shrink)
This book addresses a fundamental question in the philosophy of religion. Can religiousexperience provide evidence for religious belief? If so, how? Keith Yandell argues against the notion that religiousexperience is ineffable, while advocating the view that strong numinous experience provides some evidence that God exists. An attractive feature of the book is that it does not confine its attention to any one religious cultural tradition, but tracks the nature of religious (...)experience across different traditions in both the East and the West. (shrink)
Does religious thinking stand in opposition to postmodernity? Does the existence of God present the ultimate challenge to metaphysics? Strands of continental thought, especially those running from Kant, Husserl, and Heidegger, focus on individual consciousness as the horizon for all meaning and provide modern philosophy of religion with much of its present ferment. In ReligiousExperience and the End of Metaphysics, 11 influential continental philosophers share the conviction that religious thinking cannot afford to disengage from the (...) challenges of modern European philosophy. Together they provide a rich and intriguing set of answers to questions surrounding the meaning of religiousexperience. Topics include subjectivity, selfhood, and rationality; language, community, and ethics; the influence of Jewish and eastern religions on religiousexperience; God as phenomenology; and religion in the postmodern age. These lucid and arresting essays bring together many of the leading voices in the contemporary continental debate on God and religion. (shrink)
This article provides a critical examination of a controversial issue that has theoretical and practical importance to a broad range of academic disciplines: Are religious experiences localized within the brain? Research into the neuroscience of religious experiences is reviewed and conceptual and methodological challenges accompanying the neurotheology project of localizing religious experiences within the brain are discussed. An alternative theory to current reductive and mechanistic explanations of observed mind–brain correlations is proposed — a mediation theory of cerebral (...) action — that has the potential for addressing what Chalmers called the “hard problem” of consciousness. (shrink)
After completing his monumental work, The Principles of Psychology, William James turned his attention to serious consideration of such important religious and philosophical questions as the nature and existence of God, immortality of the soul, and free will and determinism. His interest in these questions found expression in various works, including The Varieties of ReligiousExperience, his classic study of spirituality. Based on the prestigious Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion he gave at the University of Edinburgh in (...) 1901 and 1902, the book--studded with richly concrete examples--documents and discusses various religious states of consciousness and covers such topics as the meaning of the term "divine," the reality of the unseen, the religion of healthy-mindedness, the sick soul, the divided self and the process of its unification, conversion, saintliness, and mysticism. One of the author's most popular works, The Varieties of ReligiousExperience remains one of the great books on the subject, especially noteworthy for the evidence it gives for religiousexperience as a unique phenomenon. This Dover edition will be the least expensive one in print. Unabridged republication of the second edition of The Varieties of ReligiousExperience: A Study in Human Nature, originally published by Longmans, Green and Co., New York, 1902. Index. (shrink)
This chapter discusses wide and narrow definitions of “mystical experience” and of “religiousexperience”; categories and attributes of mystical experience; perennialism vs. constructivism; on the possibility of experiencing God; epistemology: The doxastic practice approach and the argument from perception; criticisms of the doxastic practice approach and the argument from perception; religious diversity; naturalistic explanations; and mysticism, religiousexperience, and gender.
William James's The Varieties of ReligiousExperience is one of the world's most popular attempts to meld science and religion. Academic reviews of the book were mixed in Europe and America, however, and prominent contemporaries, unsure whether it was science or theology, struggled to interpret it. James's reliance on an inherently ambiguous understanding of the subconscious as a means of bridging between religion and science accounts for some of the interpretive difficulties, but it does not explain why his (...) overarching question was so obscure, why psychopathology and unusual experiences figured so prominently, or why he gave us so many examples and so little argument. To understand these persistent puzzles we need to do more than acknowledge James's indebtedness to Frederic Myers's conception of the subconscious. We need to read VRE in the context of the transatlantic network of experimental psychologists and psychical researchers who provided the primary intellectual inspiration for the book. Doing so not only locates and clarifies the underlying question that animated the work but also illuminates the structural and rhetorical similarities between VRE and Myers's Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death. In contrast to the individual case studies of hysterics, mediums, and mystics produced by others in this network, both Myers and James adopted a natural-history approach in which they arranged examples of automatisms to produce a rhetorical effect, thus invoking science in order to evoke a religious response. Where Myers organized his examples to make a case for human survival of death, James organized his to make a case for the involvement of higher powers in the transformation of the self. Read in this way, VRE marks a dramatic shift from a religious preoccupation with life after death to a religious preoccupation with this-worldly self-transformation. (shrink)
Recent functional neuroimaging data, acquired in studies of religiousexperience, have been used to explain and justify religion and its origins. In this paper, we critique the move from describing brain activity associated with self-reported religious states, to explaining why there is religion at all. Toward that end, first we review recent neuroimaging findings on religiousexperience, and show how those results do not necessarily support a popular notion that religion has a primitive evolutionary origin. (...) Importantly, we call into question an assumption—key to that account of religion—concerning a conceptual relation between 'religion' and 'religiousexperience'. Then, we examine the conditions that must be met in order to explain religion on the basis of brain imaging findings. Moreover, we list principled reasons to be sceptical of explanations of religion in terms of the neural underpinnings of experiences. We conclude that the data from neuroimaging studies are not suited for an explanation of religion. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to clear up the long-standing veritable mountain of misinterpretation, perpetuated from critic to critic, concerning the admittedly problematic concept of self-authenticating religiousexperience. While it may well be the case, as many have argued, that a sort of ‘experience’ about which one could not be mistaken is simply a logically impossible state of affairs, this cannot be known to be the case so long as what is under attack is a bogus (...) concept, obviously absurd, having nothing whatsoever to do with the correct interpretation of ‘self-authentication’. Hence, my mission herein is essentially that of philosophical analysis or clarification of meaning. Only upon suitable clarification of this concept will we be in a position to consider the question of its possible application, i.e. whether or not there could be an instantiation of such experience. I might point out that my central concern is somewhat more explicatory than historical, though I believe that the account developed in this paper is essentially congenial with the intent of those who have been proponents of the view that there can be self-authenticating religiousexperience. Let us begin, then, by turning to some representative criticism of the concept in question. (shrink)
In this volume of essays, Howard Wettstein explores the foundations of religious commitment. His orientation is broadly naturalistic, but not in the mode of reductionism or eliminativism. This collection explores questions of broad religious interest, but does so through a focus on the author's religious tradition, Judaism. Among the issues explored are the nature and role of awe, ritual, doctrine, religiousexperience; the distinction between belief and faith; problems of evil and suffering with special attention (...) to the Book of Job and to the Akedah, the biblical story of the binding of Isaac; the virtue of forgiveness. One of the book's highlights is its literary approach to theology that at the same time makes room for philosophical exploration of religion. Another is Wettstein's rejection of the usual picture that sees religious life as sitting atop a distinctive metaphysical foundation, one that stands in need of epistemological justification. (shrink)
Is it possible to talk about God without either misrepresentation or failing to assert anything of significance? The article begins by reviewing how, in attempting to answer this question, traditional theories of religious language have failed to sidestep both potential pitfalls adequately. After arguing that recently developed theories of metaphor seem better able to shed light on the nature of religious language, it considers the claim that huge areas of our language and, consequently, of our experience are (...) shaped by metaphors. Finally, it considers some of the more significant implications of this claim for our understanding of both religious language and religiousexperience. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that racism’s subtle and insidious reach should lead us to prefer an account of religiousexperience that is capable of reckoning with that reach, an account that, I shall argue, appears in the work of St. John of the Cross. The paper begins with an analysis of race and racism and the way in which the latter can have existential and even spiritual effects. The argument is then applied particularly to white people and (...) the deleterious effects racism has on their intellects, wills, and even memories, not merely inwardly but also as a result of what Charles Mills famously calls an epistemology of ignorance. Notably, intellect, will, and memory are the key sites for union in St. John’s discussion. In the last main section, I discuss how progress in the mystical life can be hindered by racism’s effects even while it is possible for there to be “touches of union” on the way. Another result of this inquiry is that it shows how a widely-used schema, such as St. John’s, will require spiritual aspirants to deal with racism, both in themselves and in the world. (shrink)
William Alston's Perceiving God: The Epistemology of ReligiousExperience is a most significant contribution to the philosophy of religion. The product of 50 years' reflection on its topic , this work provides a very thorough explication and defence of what Alston calls the ‘mystical perceptual practice’ – the practice of forming beliefs about the Ultimate on the basis of putative ‘direct experiential awareness’ thereof . Alston argues, in particular, for the rationality of engaging in the Christian form of (...) MP . On his view, those who participate in CMP are justified in forming beliefs as they do because their practice is ‘socially established’, has a ‘functioning overrider system’ and a ‘significant degree of self-support’; and because of the ‘lack of sufficient reasons to take the practice as unreliable’. (shrink)
In this article, I argue that foundationalist reconstructions of religiousexperience lose on all counts: First, philosophical defences of foundationalism are untenable. Second, the theological benefits that can be reaped from foundationalism come at too high a price. I show that both William Alston's and Alvin Plantinga's foundationalism leads to sceptical conclusions. Third, I argue that the epistemic implications of foundationalist reconstructions of religiousexperience are incompatible with Christian ontology. Criticizing the account Plantinga develops in his (...) books on warrant, I suggest that it is preferrable to reconstruct religiousexperience in antifoundationalist, i.e., coherentist, terms and develop the model of a mobile for these purposes. (shrink)
Caroline Franks Davis provides a clear, sensitive, and carefully argued assessment of the value of religious experiences as evidence for religious beliefs. Much more than an 'argument from religiousexperience', the inquiry systematically addresses underlying philosophical issues such as the role of interpretation in experience, the function of models and metaphors in religious language, and the way perceptual experiences in general are used as evidence for claims about the world. The author examines several arguments (...) from religiousexperience and, using contemporary and classic sources from the world religions, gives an account of the different types of experience. To meet sceptical challenges to religiousexperience, she draws extenisvely on psychological and sociological as well as philosophical and religious literature, probing deeply into the questions whether religious experiences are merely a matter of interpretation, whether there is irreducible conflict among religious experiences, and whether psychological and other reductionist explanations of religiousexperience are satisfactory. She concludes that religious experiences, like most experiences, are most effective as evidence within a cumulative style of argument which combines evidence from a wide range of sources. (shrink)
I argue that people do not and cannot have religious experiences that are perceptual experiences with theological content and that provide some justification for the belief in God. I discuss William Alston's resourceful defence of this idea. My strategy is to say that religious perception would either have to be by means of one of the ordinary five senses or else by means of some special sixth religious sense. In either case insoluble epistemological problems arise. The problem (...) is with perceiving God as God, which we need to do if reasons to believe in God are to be generated. To do so, we would have to perceive the instantiation of His essential properties – being all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. But perceiving the instantiation of these properties of God, even by some special sixth religious sense, is impossible. Hence, God cannot be perceived either by the ordinary five senses or by a sixth religious sense. Religious perceptual experiences are a myth. (Published Online February 17 2004). (shrink)
Appeal to experience for rational justification of religious belief is probably as old as the question whether religious belief has any rational support. The issues relevant to such appeal range widely, and I will have to be content to deal with only a few of them.
Accession Number: ATLA0001788492; Hosting Book Page Citation: p 200-214.; Language(s): English; Issued by ATLA: 20130825; Publication Type: Essay; Related Books/Electronic Resources: 9780713997897; 067003472X; 9780670034727; By: Dennett, Daniel C Breaking the spell 464 p. Publisher: New York : Viking ; London : Allen Lane (Penguin Books), 2006. ATLA0001508292.
This clearly presented study examines the nature of religious experiences, and asks whether they can be used as evidence for religious beliefs. The author discusses important philosophical issues raised by religiousexperience, such as the role of models and metaphors in their description, and the way experiences in general are used as evidence for claims about the world. Using contemporary and classic sources from the world's religions, the author gives an account of different types of (...) class='Hi'>religiousexperience. She also draws extensively on psychological, sociological, and philosophical literature to meet sceptical challenges, and concludes that, like most experiences, they are most effective as evidence within an argument which combines evidence from a wide range of sources. (shrink)
Can religiousexperience justify belief in God? We best approach this question by splitting it in two: Do religious experiences give their subjects any justification for believing that there is a God of the kind they experience? And Does testimony about such experiences provides any justification for believing that there is a God for those who are not the subject of the experience? The most popular affirmative answers trace back to the work of Richard Swinburne, (...) who appeals to the Principle of Credulity and the Principle of Testimony. Since then, development of his line of reasoning has gone in a number of distinct directions. Here I propose yet another development. I argue first that the Principle of Credulity is false on the grounds that it has several implausible commitments. I then offer a Phenomenal Conservative perspective on the epistemology of religiousexperience suggesting a categorically affirmative answer to but a nuanced answer to which allows the possibility of reasonable disagreement about religiousexperience. (shrink)