Special Issue "The Epistemology of Religious Experience"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Humanities/Philosophies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (10 May 2022) | Viewed by 6155

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Mark Webb
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Philosophy, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA
Interests: philosophy of religion; epistemology; Buddhist philosophy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue of Religions will focus on the epistemology of religious experience. The overall driving question is the question as to what evidential force religious experiences have. This discussion involves several subtopics, including the following: (1) To what degree is trust in testimony relevant? (2) In what ways is religious experience like other kinds of experience? (3) To what extent does religious experience influence religious doctrine, and to what extent is it influenced by it? (4) What are the implications of religious diversity/disagreement for claims of religious experience? (5) How, if in any way, has the cognitive science of religion shed light on these issues? This issue aims to approach these questions from a variety of religious traditions, with input from a variety of academic disciplines. The result will be a collection of high-quality papers that can inform further research in a variety of academic fields.

Prof. Dr. Mark Webb
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • religious experience
  • Mysticism
  • epistemology
  • perception
  • meditation

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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Article
Near-Death Experiences and Religious Experience: An Exploration of Spirituality in Medicine
Religions 2022, 13(2), 156; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13020156 - 11 Feb 2022
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Abstract
There has been a continuous discussion of religious experience since William James, culminating in a rich and varied literature on the epistemology of religious experience in the late twentieth century. There has also been a burgeoning literature on near-death experiences (NDEs), largely on [...] Read more.
There has been a continuous discussion of religious experience since William James, culminating in a rich and varied literature on the epistemology of religious experience in the late twentieth century. There has also been a burgeoning literature on near-death experiences (NDEs), largely on neurology and physiology and sometimes as possible counterevidence to naturalism. One important subject is largely missing, and that is a discussion of NDEs as religious experiences, and what light that might shed on their epistemic status. This paper is an attempt to fill that gap. In part one, we will delineate the topic of NDEs and what medical science has to say about them. In part two, we will lay out a general view of the epistemology of religious experience. In part three, we will apply that understanding of religious experience to NDEs and draw what lessons we may. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Epistemology of Religious Experience)
Article
The Ecology of Religious Knowledges
Religions 2022, 13(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010011 - 23 Dec 2021
Viewed by 830
Abstract
Different religious traditions, beliefs, and experiences claim to have epistemic contact with the ultimate source of reality. However, this epistemic claim has encountered one of its most significant obstacles in the initial incompatibility of its multiple accounts. I argue that from the ecology [...] Read more.
Different religious traditions, beliefs, and experiences claim to have epistemic contact with the ultimate source of reality. However, this epistemic claim has encountered one of its most significant obstacles in the initial incompatibility of its multiple accounts. I argue that from the ecology of knowledges, the idea that intentions, body, and physical and social environments are constitutive elements of our experience and knowledge, we can understand both the veridical, as embodied and extended, and pluralistic, as essentially limited, nature of religious experiences and knowledges. I characterize the mystical religious experience as a state of consciousness that (allegedly) allows direct epistemic contact with the supreme reality, articulating its essentially non-ordinary nature on the basis of the radical otherness of the sacred realm, namely, its character of being eternal, infinite, and with supreme ontological, ethical, and aesthetic value. According to this proposal, the different religious perspectives are understood as different epistemic approaches dealing with these numinous features in a gradual continuum from their most impersonal to their most personal specifications. I conclude that the cognitive relevance of any religious knowledge implies explanations and interventions that, although compatible with, go beyond those of both other religious knowledges and the knowledges of the non-sacred domains. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Epistemology of Religious Experience)
Article
Psychedelic Epistemology: William James and the “Noetic Quality” of Mystical Experience
Religions 2021, 12(12), 1058; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121058 - 29 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1016
Abstract
William James proposed in 1902 that states of mystical experience, central to his idea of religious experience, can be identified based on their ineffability and their noetic quality. The epistemological category of the noetic quality, modified by W. T. Stace in 1960, plays [...] Read more.
William James proposed in 1902 that states of mystical experience, central to his idea of religious experience, can be identified based on their ineffability and their noetic quality. The epistemological category of the noetic quality, modified by W. T. Stace in 1960, plays a central but somewhat confounding role in today’s biomedical research involving psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin and LSD. Using scales based on James, it can be shown that psychedelics “reliably occasion” intense subjective states of experience or mystical states. It is debated whether these states are necessary for the wide range of possible mental health therapeutic benefits that appear to follow. This paper reviews what James said about the noetic quality and its relationship to religious experience, epistemology, and states of mystical experience. It explores how the noetic quality is measured in today’s research, addressing a growing list of concerns that psychedelic science can be epistemologically biased, that it is hostile to atheistic or physicalist views, that it injects religion unduly into science, or that it needs to find ways to eliminate the mystical element, if not the entire intense subjective experience altogether. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Epistemology of Religious Experience)
Article
Diversity and Interpretation. Toward a Pluralist Realist Description of Religious Experience
Religions 2021, 12(10), 848; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100848 - 09 Oct 2021
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Abstract
This paper attempts to offer a pluralist realist account of the diversity of religious experience. In the first part, I show that an influential trend in contemporary philosophy of religious experience and religious pluralism is based on the mediational image of knowledge and [...] Read more.
This paper attempts to offer a pluralist realist account of the diversity of religious experience. In the first part, I show that an influential trend in contemporary philosophy of religious experience and religious pluralism is based on the mediational image of knowledge and a problematic notion of interpretation, which generates irresoluble problems. I then attempt a redescription based on an extension of Heidegger’s theory of understanding as pre-theorical engagement with the world, which allows for the conciliation of the diversity of religious experience with its claimed epistemic force. To develop this argument, finally, I present the experience of diversity proper of the contemporary world as a type of spiritual experience in which the traits of a pre-theoretical religious understanding can be found. As a result, the paper suggests a move from epistemology to spirituality for a better understanding of religious experience. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Epistemology of Religious Experience)
Article
The Epistemic Parity of Religious-Apologetic and Religion-Debunking Responses to the Cognitive Science of Religion
Religions 2021, 12(7), 466; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12070466 - 25 Jun 2021
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Abstract
Recent work in the cognitive science of religion has challenged some of the explanatory assumptions of previous research in the field. Nonetheless, some of the practitioners of the new cognitive science of religion theorize in the same skeptical spirit as their predecessors and [...] Read more.
Recent work in the cognitive science of religion has challenged some of the explanatory assumptions of previous research in the field. Nonetheless, some of the practitioners of the new cognitive science of religion theorize in the same skeptical spirit as their predecessors and either imply or explicitly claim that their projects undermine the warrant of religious beliefs. In this article, I argue that these theories do no additional argumentative work when compared to previous attempts to debunk religious belief and that these recent debunking efforts are very much motivated by methodological commitments that are shared with canonical research. I contend that these argumentative strategies put debunkers very much on an epistemic par with religious apologists: both advocate responses to the cognitive science of religion that are primarily motivated by methodological commitments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Epistemology of Religious Experience)

Review

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Review
Religious Disagreement, Mystical Experience, and Doxastic Minimalism: Critical Notice of John Pittard’s Disagreement, Deference, and Religious Commitment
Religions 2021, 12(9), 673; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090673 - 24 Aug 2021
Viewed by 669
Abstract
In his recent book, Disagreement, Deference, and Religious Commitment, John Pittard challenges J.L. Schellenberg’s rejection of mystical experience as worthy of enjoying presumptive doxastic trust for two main reasons. First, Pittard holds that Schellenberg wrongly focuses only on avoiding error while placing no [...] Read more.
In his recent book, Disagreement, Deference, and Religious Commitment, John Pittard challenges J.L. Schellenberg’s rejection of mystical experience as worthy of enjoying presumptive doxastic trust for two main reasons. First, Pittard holds that Schellenberg wrongly focuses only on avoiding error while placing no emphasis on gaining truth. I argue that, contra Pittard, Schellenberg’s account nicely balances the competing epistemic goals of gaining truth and avoiding error. Second, Pittard thinks that Schellenberg’s criteria for presumptive trust in that of universality and unavoidability are arbitrary. I counter that Schellenberg’s criteria are not arbitrary since they are the best way of achieving these goals. I conclude that despite not enjoying presumptive doxastic trust, this in itself does not entail that mystical experiences are never trustworthy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Epistemology of Religious Experience)
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