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The Evidential Force of Religious Experience$
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Caroline Franks Davis

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198250012

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198250012.001.0001

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A Cumulative Case

A Cumulative Case

(p.93) IV A Cumulative Case
The Evidential Force of Religious Experience

Caroline Franks Davis

Oxford University Press

Richard Swinburne provides one of the most recent attempts to use religious experiences as evidence for theism. In The Existence of God, Swinburne argues not only that it is rational to maintain a current religious belief but also that ‘theism is more probable than not’. He recognises that religious experience on its own cannot yield such an ambitious conclusion; it does, however, play a crucial role in a cumulative argument for the existence of God. This chapter examines Swinburne's argument, suggests some modifications, and provides the guidelines for the most crucial part of this book, the response to sceptical challenges. Swinburne expounds and defends the principle of credulity, which must form the ultimate underpinning of any successful argument from religious experience. Rather than tying his principle to experiences with a particular type of percept, to a host of ‘dispositions to believe’, or to viciously circular criteria of veridicality, Swinburne conceives of a principle so fundamental that even religious experiences are subsumed under it.

Keywords:   Richard Swinburne, religious experiences, evidence, theism, principle of credulity, cumulative argument, rationality

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