The challenges of verifying religious experience

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  • Challenges of verifying religious experience
    • Subjective or objective?
      • For something to count as evidence, it must be publicly accessible so that it can be tested
        • Religious experiences - not publicly accessible and so cannot be tested & therefore cannot count as evidence for religious belief
      • Subjective - difficult to use to justify objective claims about the world
      • Mental events private - may be able to make some inferences about what people are thinking  by their behaviour - cannot directly observe mental processes. Undermines evidential value of religious experiences
      • Often ineffable - cannot describe their experience at all - makes it even harder to verify
    • Can I verify someone else's experience
      • AJ Ayer - if a mystic admits experience cannot be described, then he must also admit he is bound to talk nonsense when describing it
      • Verifying own experiences can be just as problematic as verifying someone else's.
        • Hobbes asked what the difference is between saying 'God spoke to me in a dream' and saying 'I dreamt God spoke to me'
      • Merely mental events
      • We could  doubt our own  experiences, asking Was I hallucinating?Am I putting my own interpretation onto something mundane? “Was it alcohol/drugs
      • We can never be sure enough of a religious experience to prove anything objective about the world.


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