Richard Swinburne’s Concept of Religious Experience. An Analysis and Critique

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The so-called ”argument from religious experience’ plays a prominent role in today’s analytical philosophy of religion. It is also of considerable importance to richard Swinburne’s apologetic project. However, rather than joining the polyphonic debate around this argument, the present paper examines the fundamental concept of religious experience. The upshot is that Swinburne neither develops a convincing concept of experience nor explains what makes a religious experience religious. The first section examines some problems resulting mainly from terminology, specifically Swinburne’s use of appear-words as success-verbs. While these problems might be resolved by a recurrence to the observer, the second and third part of our paper present problems not so easily resolved: namely, that Swinburne’s concept of experience as conscious mental events is too broad and inaccurate for its role in the argument given ; and that Swinburne does not even attempt to figure out which features of an experience, when present, turn an experience simpliciter into a distinctly religious experience. Section 4, in conclusion, outlines possible reasons for this unusual and remarkable inaccuracy in conceptualisation.
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