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Religious Experience ➼ Religious Experience Download ➻ Author Wayne Proudfoot – How is religious experience to be identified described analyzed and explained Is it independent of concepts beliefs and practices How can we account for its authority Under what conditions might a per How is Religious Experience to be identified described analyzed and explained Is it independent of concepts beliefs and practices How can we account for its authority Under what conditions might a person identify his or her experience as religious Wayne Proudfoot shows that concepts beliefs and linguistic practices are presupposed by the rules governing this identification of an experience as religious Some of these characteristics can be understood by attending to the conditions of experience among which are beliefs about how experience is to be explained.

5 thoughts on “Religious Experience

  1. B.t. Newberg B.t. Newberg says:

    Wayne Proudfoot investigates the relatively brief and tumultuous development of the idea of religious experience He finds difficulties in the way it has been described resulting from efforts to render religion invulnerable to critiue Many have tried to show that religious experience is a primary phenomenon like feeling or sensation completely prior to thoughts or beliefs In other words they have claimed that religious experience is in no way a product of our own intellectual processes but comes to us much like sensation or feeling But Proudfoot proves that religious experiences are in fact shaped by the beliefs we bring to them They are not independent of our mental processes A Catholic's experience of Mary for example is conditioned by what is expected of a religious experience of Mary To a certain extent religious experiences are created by what we believe will be experiencedProudfoot's insight bears directly on comparative religion an activity in which nearly all modern pagans take part to some degree His opponents such as Schleiermacher and Otto who claimed religious experience was prior to beliefs deplored reductionism in comparative religion In other words they railed against attempts to reduce religious experience to psychology social forces evolutionary imperatives or anything else other than religion itself Since religious experience is entirely sui generis or unable to fit into any other category it can only be explained in its own terms In this way they attempted to fend off critics of religion According to them comparative activity could only be conducted within the framework of specific religions and their theologies However Proudfoot attacks this position He says that an ambiguity has been exploited as a protective strategy Reductionism is not all of one kind Rather there are two types descriptive and explanatoryDescriptive reductionism means describing a subject's experience in terms other than those that may be plausibly ascribed to that subject A Buddhist's experience can only be described in Buddhist terms not in Hindu terms Born Again Christian terms Secular Humanist terms or any other besides Buddhist terms Any attempt otherwise will end up describing something other than the experience For this reason such description is unacceptable Schleiermacher Otto and the others were uite right to deplore this tactic Descriptive reductionism is to be avoidedHowever explanatory reductionism is different This type of reductionism does not aim to describe the experience but rather to explain how it came to be identified by the subject as a religious experience It explains why the experience had significance for the subject and why it was seen as religious A Celtic druid might encounter a great oak in the Rockies feel an overwhelming presence and take this as a communication from a Gaelic god Why did this druid identify the experience as a divine presence rather than a moving but secular appreciation of nature? Why did the druid feel it was a Gaelic god rather than a North American Indian spirit or some other power? These sorts of uestions ask how it comes about that a religious experience is identified as such The druid may explain it by saying that the Gaelic god wanted to send a message But an analyst reviewing the subject's experience is under no obligation to agree The analyst may point to the druid's religiosity and explain that it was therefore likely that the experience would be interpreted religiously than if the subject were an atheist Likewise the analyst may point to the druid's Celtic path and explain that the experience was likely to be viewed through a Celtic lens than any other Thus the druid's beliefs shaped the experience Such an analyst reduces the explanation to terms other than the subject's own yet does not do an injustice to the experience itself The analyst offers a contrasting point of view but does not thereby misrepresent or destroy the subject's point of view Thus this type of reductionism is permissible Schleiermacher Otto and the others correctly assessed the faults of descriptive reductionism but extended this attack to all reductionism whatsoever This according to Proudfoot was a grave error Their mistake still influences comparative religion todayThrough this type of reasoning Proudfoot topples traditional arguments against reductionism by revealing them to be over extended and in service of a protective strategy that silences all criticism The understandings of religious experience offered by the likes of Schleiermacher and Otto go with it In their place he suggests how we ought to explicate religious experience the distinguishing mark of religious experience is the subject's belief that the experience can only be accounted for in religious terms It is this belief and the subject's identification of his or her experience under a particular description which makes it religious p 223In other words we do not need to look for some fabled sui generis experience irreducible to any other explanation Rather we should look at the subject's beliefs about the experience In particular we should take note of the subject's belief that the only way to fully account for it is by recourse to religious terms If we go back to the example of the druid's experience in the Rockies we can identify it as a religious experience because the druid did not find it sufficient to explain it as a deeply moved appreciation of nature It was not enough from the druid's point of view to explain it in any other way than as a divine communication The analyst need not agree with the druid but need only attend to the druid's beliefs That is enough to identify it as a religious experienceThe analyst may then go on to describe the experience For this task the terms used must be plausibly ascribable to the druid It cannot be described using terms or beliefs that the druid does not likely possess To do so would be to describe something other than the experienceFinally after a satisfactory description has been achieved the analyst may offer an explanation for the experience Again at this point is permissible to use terms other than those of the subject The task of explanation is as followsWhat must be explained is why they understood what happened to them or what they witnessed in religious terms This reuires a mapping of the concepts and beliefs that were available to them the commitments they brought to the experience and the contextual conditions that might have supported their identification of their experiences in religious terms p 226As pointed out before the druid in the Rockies might explain the experience as caused by the will of the Gaelic god but the analyst might just as well put forward that the experience was at it was because the druid was likely to view the experience in religious and specifically Celtic terms To do so the analyst would have to show that these beliefs were available to the druid identify the druid's explanatory commitments and bring to bear the conditions that supported the druid's conclusion about the experience This is what the analyst ought to do in order to explain religious experiences according to ProudfootThis is the central message of Proudfoot's book In order to demonstrate his points he roves over a range of disciplines including comparative religion hermeneutics psychology of emotion and philosophy of mind His style is hard nosed un romantic and at times difficult but it is also rewarding Through this strict multi disciplinary approach Proudfoot sheds light on areas that have long been often deliberately shrouded in darkness With this book religious experience re enters the realm of understanding

  2. Roger Green Roger Green says:

    This classic in the field of religious studies is larger a detailed rejection of some of Schleiermacher's views on the originality of religious experience as being found in the impulse to piety Although the work is dated Proudfoot did an immense amount of work clearing up ways of thinking common to the past few centuries

  3. John John says:

    Proudfoot's study of religious experience remains the modern locus classicus for investigation of this topic in philosophical perspective The author surveys the history of investigation into religious experience from Jonathan Edwards and Friedrich Schleirmacher to Rudolf Otto and William James to modern philosophers of religion such as DZ Phillips According to Proudfoot the tendency of many who have investigated religious experience particularly Schleiermacher Otto and James has been to see it as 1prelinguistic and preconceptual and 2a human universal that transcends the particulars of religious tradtions in other words the same something is being experienced by Buddhists Christians Muslims etc Through careful argument Proudfoot demonstrates both of these perspectives to be false and shows that they have been used as what he calls a protective strategy to shield religious experience from analytical criticism in the light of science psycholgy or sociology The authors he cites have defined the religious experience in such a way as to guarantee that tautologically only experiences of something real that is religious can be seen as religious experiencesFollowing Wittgenstein Proudfoot argues that religious experiences far from being preconceptual or prelinguistic in the manner of direct sensations are formulated in and through an existing conceptual and linguistic grammar The Catholic has a mystical vision of the Virgin Mary because of the cultural conditioning that he has received through his tradition If religious experiences are so conditioned they do not represent some kind of pure sensation immune to examination through the lenses of philosophy and the sciences Proudfoot takes on the very common contention that reductionism in the study of religion is always problematic and to be avoided He distinguishes between two different types of reductionism Descriptive reductionism he notes is methodologically incorrect it involves attempting to ignore the subject's own interpretation of her experiences in endeavoring to craft a scholarly description of those experiences Any legitimate description of an experience must be situated in the context of the subject's own descriptive framework Explanatory reductionism however that is the practice of investigating the actual causal mechanisms behind an experience which may or may not coincide with the subject's interpretation is according to Proudfoot not only permissible but is a necessary part of all scholarly investigationA very important work for philosophers of religion and scholars in religious studies

  4. Chad Chad says:

    Unfortunately Proudfoot makes a valid point via a straw man argument against William James and Schleiermacher who would be sympathetic to the idea that religious experiences are thematized by background beliefs Nonetheless both James and Schleiermacher make a plausible case that religious experiences do in fact to the epistemic work Proudfoot ascribes to them Interpreters of both James and Schleiermacher have rightly noted Proudfoot's failure to properly interpret their thought making this a flawed and misleading book

  5. Hadi Hadi says:

    تجربه دینی نوشته آقای پراودفوت از کتابهای تاثیر گذار در مباحث فلسفه دین است عده ای تجربه دینی را یک طریق برای اثبات متافیزیک و یا اثبات خداوند می دانند و گروهی هم آن را مبنایی برای پلورالیزم دینی می دانندبه هرحال این کتاب برای پژوهشگران در طرح و بررسی مساله فوق بسیار مهم و حیاتی است

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