Evaluating the Fales/Gellman debate on the epistemic status of mystical religious experiences

From the mid 1990s to the early 2000s there has been a debate between Jerome Gellman and Evan Fales regarding the epistemic status of mystical religious experience. Gellman argues that mystical religious experiences provide some justification for the belief that God exists when taken in conjunction with a variety of other experiential evidence. Fales takes a naturalistic approach and argues that instances of mystical theistic experiences are only tools by which the mystic attempts to gain greater social status. In this article I summarize the debate and go on to raise three objections to Fales’ naturalistic account: that any naturalistic explanation would fail to account for the richness and variety of all mystical religious experiences; that if there were a naturalistic account for each and every mystical religious experience across time then the list of naturalistic explanations would be so exhaustive that it would seem arbitrary that no theistic explanation is included; and that the brand of reductionism put forth by Fales only shows that, at best, it would not be reasonable for external observers to take my mystical religious experience as evidence for God’s existence, but that this should make absolutely no difference to the experiencer.
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DOI 10.1080/21692327.2014.938097
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.R. G. Swinburne - 1989 - Cambridge University Press.
Mysticism and Religious Experience.Jerome I. Gellman - 2005 - In William J. Wainwright (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press. pp. 138--167.

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