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Caroline Franks Davis provides a clear, sensitive, and carefully argued assessment of the value of religious experiences as evidence for religious beliefs. Much more than an 'argument from religious experience', the inquiry systematically addresses underlying philosophical issues such as the role of interpretation in experience, the function of models and metaphors in religious language, and the way perceptual experiences in general are used as evidence for claims about the world. The author examines several arguments from religious experience and, using contemporary and classic sources from the world religions, gives an account of the different types of experience. To meet sceptical challenges to religious experience, she draws extenisvely on psychological and sociological as well as philosophical and religious literature, probing deeply into the questions whether religious experiences are merely a matter of interpretation, whether there is irreducible conflict among religious experiences, and whether psychological and other reductionist explanations of religious experience are satisfactory.
She concludes that religious experiences, like most experiences, are most effective as evidence within a cumulative style of argument which combines evidence from a wide range of sources.
Caroline Franks Davis is a Research Analyst in the University Studies Group at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada.