Theoretical and Epistemological Foundations

James M. Nelson and Brent D. Slife

in The Oxford Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199729920
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Theoretical and Epistemological Foundations

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The psychology of religion and spirituality (PRS) involves applying the methods and procedures of psychological science to the study of religion and spirituality. Since PRS is a scientific endeavor, best practices in the field will always involve a thorough understanding of the scientific process, such as that provided by contemporary philosophers of science. One of the most important things to be learned from these writers is that all science—including inquiry in PRS—involves methodological, epistemological, ethical, and ontological assumptions that greatly affect the conduct of scientific work. A brief review of these assumptions in PRS suggests that current scientific practices in the field fall short in a number of ways, making it difficult for investigators to truly increase our understanding of the important psychological processes involved in religious activities and spiritual experience. We explore the nature of these assumptions and their problems, and offer a possible alternative framework that will help advance the science of PRS.

Keywords: philosophy of science; methodology; naturalism; positivism; hermeneutics

Article.  11223 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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