Swinburne's Principle Of Doxastic Experience

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Many philosophers and theologians have tried to defend, or substantiate, religious experiences as an argument from religious experience. Two examples are Swinburne’s Principle of Credulity, and Alston’s concept of doxastic practice. Richard Swinburne holds that if it seems to a subject something to be x on the basis of the subject’s experience it is probably the case that x is (Swinburne, 2004). According to Swinburne, it is reasonable to assume that the world is the way it is experienced and unless we have reason to doubt a religious experience then one should accept such an experience as truthful and prima facie proof for the existence of God. However, Brain Davies (1993) points out the most troublesome consequence of accepting Swinburne’s …show more content…
If two people experience the Virgin Mary it is possible that the first person experiences the appearance as the Virgin Mary, but the second person experiences the appearance as a woman in a white garment. From this example one can conclude that a religious experience is only a religious experience if it is recognised as such. It shows that the subject’s religious background is that which makes the observance one of the Virgin Mary and not merely woman in a white garment. Similarly, a Buddhist does not experience Jesus, but rather that there is ‘no-self’ which is in line with the religious background of a Buddhist (Meister, 2009). This leads to the problem of different religious backgrounds: Christians experience a single God, Hindus experience a multitude of gods, and Buddhists experience no God at all. Nevertheless, all three claim the veracity of their experience and their religion: this example reveals a significant issue with the credibility of religious …show more content…
An example to highlight this problem: Individuals of world religion ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ all have religious experiences which, on the basis of the Principle of Credulity, should be accepted as genuine. However, religious system ‘A’ claims there is a single God, religion ‘B’ claims there to be a multitude of gods, and ‘C’ claims there is no god at all. In addition, their experiences conform exactly to their religious belief system. What can one conclude from this? Each of these religions claim that their own religion is the true religion, and thus at most one of them can be right since they are mutually exclusive. One can argue that each experience cancels out the other two, and that therefore it is difficult to defend any of the three. If one argues that the reason for the incompatibility is that these experiences reflect the individual religious backgrounds then arguments derived from them become question-begging. Nevertheless, if such an experience contributes to the well-being of the individual experiencing it, then this has value by itself regardless of any religious or philosophical

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