Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||Theistic philosophers have perennially cited mystical experiences-- experiences of God--as evidence for God's existence and for other truths about God. In recent years, the attractiveness of this line of thought has been reflected in its use by a significant number of philosophers.1 But both philosophers and mystics agree that not all mystical experiences can be relied upon; many are the stuff of delusion.2 So they have somehow to be checked out, their bona-fides revealed. But can they be? I will be arguing that (a) they must indeed be cross-checked to serve as good evidence; and that (b) they can't be--or not nearly well enough to permit pressing them into service as serious support for theism. The need for cross-checking, necessary in any case, is made acute by two facts: the extreme variability of mystical experiences and the doctrines they are recruited to support, and the fact that, especially in the face of this variability, mystical experiences are much more effectively explained naturalistically. Furthermore, our ability adequately to cross-check mystical experiences (hereafter, ME's), in a way that would reveal the hand of God, is crippled by the fact that theists offer no hypothesis concerning the causal mechanism by means of which God shows Himself to mystics.|
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