chapter  9
18 Pages

Experience Skewed

ByDavid Brown

The prominence given in these Introductions to William Alston’s treatment of the issue makes it highly appropriate that we should focus here on his book-length contribution, Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience (1991). In that work the analogy with ordinary sensory perception is pursued at length to draw conclusions not dissimilar from Swinburne’s principle of credulity, that a presumption exists in favour of ‘Manifestation’ or M-beliefs where the person concerned has a ‘perception’ of God present and acting upon him or her. His difference from Swinburne is, in Alston’s view, more one of emphasis, with Alston giving much more attention to the key role played by ‘socially established doxastic practices’, conventions within a particular community (in this case the Christian) about how certain experiences should be read, affecting not only the individual most directly concerned but also the ability of others within the community in question to accept such testimony.1