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Unit information: Philosophical Approaches to Religious Experience in 2016/17

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Unit name Philosophical Approaches to Religious Experience
Unit code THRS10057
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. David Leech
Open unit status Not open
Pre-requisites

None

Co-requisites

None

School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description

In this unit students will look in depth at defenses of, and objections to, the argument from religious experience in the philosophy of religion. The unit will examine the major types of religious experience, and explore whether they might best be regarded as veridical or illusory, focusing on perennialist (‘common core’), constructivist, and naturalistic interpretations of religious experience. Topics may include whether religious experience should be regarded as analogous or disanalogous to sense perception; Alston’s ‘doxastic practices’ defense and Swinburne’s appeal to the ‘principle of credulity’; whether the idea of ‘pure conscious events’ and unconstructed experiences is coherent; and whether the available naturalistic explanations of religious experience undermine claims that religious experiences are evidence of some kind of religious reality.

Aims:

To introduce students to defenses of, and objections to, the argument from religious experience in the philosophy of religion.

To provide an overview of the major types of religious experience and some of their philosophical implications.

To introduce students to some central issues in religious epistemology.

To develop critical interaction with primary and secondary materials.

To develop written presentation skills through the course assessment.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to demonstrate:

(1) knowledge of defences of, and objections to, the argument from religious experience in the philosophy of religion;

(2) knowledge of the major types of religious experience and some of their philosophical implications;

(3) familiarity with some central issues in religious epistemology;

(4) skills in the researching, reading and presentation of complex material, at a standard appropriate to level C/4.

Teaching details

1 x one hour lecture plus 1 x one hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

One essay of 1500 words (50%) and one 2 hour examination (50%). Both will assess ILOs 1-4.

Reading and References

Alston, William 1991, Perceiving God, The Epistemology of Religious Experience, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. (BL51 ALS)

Katz, Steven T., ed., Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. (BL625 MYS )

Gellman, Jerome, 2001, Mystical Experience of God: A Philosophical Enquiry, Aldershot: Ashgate. (BL625 GEL)

Swinburne, Richard, 1991, The Existence of God, Revised Edition, Oxford: Clarendon Press. [online access]

Wainwright, William J., 1981, Mysticism, A Study of its Nature, Cognitive Value, and Moral Implications, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. (BL625 WAI)

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