The Significance of Religious Experience

Howard Wettstein

in The Significance of Religious Experience

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199841363
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950003 | DOI:
The Significance of Religious Experience

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The chapter’s immediate focus is an argument for God’s existence from William James that attracted much attention by analytic philosophers of religion, the argument from immediate experience. This argument, it is argued, is no more successful than the older traditional arguments for God’s existence. Like those other arguments, the argument pivots on features of human experience that are religiously quite significant even if hardly a proof of anything. James giving religious experience the status of sense perception is criticized. But James’s remark that religious experiences are gifts to the spirit is explored and endorsed, and the reflections of St. Teresa of Avila, a medieval mystic are brought to bear. The chapter concludes with an exploration of what it might mean to make sense of religious commitment.

Keywords: proofs; scepticism; belief; faith; Dewey; W. James; spiritual experience; mysticism; St. Teresa; epistemology; legalism; Wittgenstein; justification

Chapter.  8875 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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