Experience and Interpretation

Caroline Franks Davis

in The Evidential Force of Religious Experience

Published in print July 1999 | ISBN: 9780198250012
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191681233 | DOI:
Experience and Interpretation

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An extremely common challenge to arguments from religious experience—though not to the veridicality of religious experiences as such—is the claim that because religious experiences involve interpretation in terms of religious doctrines, any argument attempting to justify those doctrines by an appeal to religious experiences must be viciously circular. This chapter examines the assumptions of the vicious circle challenge, which can be expressed as the idea that one can distinguish between ‘the given’ and ‘interpretation’, and that the former is the real ‘experience’ whereas a religious experience is ‘an interpretation of an experience’ in a way that the sensory perception of material objects is not. It is a linear, foundationalist view of the relationship between beliefs and experiences, and a naive ‘associational’ view of concept formation. It is a rigidly non-cumulative view of the justification of perceptual claims; and ignorance or neglect of the principle of credulity.

Keywords: religious experiences; vicious circle challenge; interpretation; principle of credulity; perceptual claims; concept formation

Chapter.  9194 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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