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Modest Reflections on the Term ‘Religious Experience’

Michael Durham Torre
Published Online: 2017-07-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2017-0028


The paper urges a reconsideration of the term “religious experience,” as it is presently used in textbooks in the Philosophy of Religion (to which it first refers). The term needs to include not only what might be termed “extraordinary” religious experience (as used in those texts), but the “ordinary” experience of most who practice a religion, and it needs to assess such experience not so much as a “proof” of God (or a “Transcendent Reality”), but rather as a credible witness to what it affirms. The central portion of the paper then investigates how “experience” was used and understood-as a conscious term of analysis-by Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas. It then argues that this understanding of “experience” can be applied successfully to refer to “religious experience,” whether “ordinary” or “extraordinary”: it argues that such an understanding would fit well any phenomenological description of what most people mean by their “religious experience.” It concludes that there is work to be done both to develop adequate criteria to discern how credible religious experience is, as a witness to its object, and to apply such criteria to major religions.

Keywords : experience; praxis; subjective; immediate; credible


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About the article

Received: 2017-05-09

Accepted: 2017-06-19

Published Online: 2017-07-18

Published in Print: 2017-01-26

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 360–369, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2017-0028.

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© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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