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Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience [Paperback]

William P. Alston

Price: 15.95 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; Reprint edition (Sep 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801481554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801481550
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 15.3 x 2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 375,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
62 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alston's great book 17 Jun 2000
By Andreas Saugstad - Published on
William Alston is professor emeritus in philosophy at Syracuse University in USA. In this book he combines his knowledge of general epistemology with his interest in philosophy of religion. Alston focuses on experience as a provoding a strong basis for theist belief. He tries to show that in so far general perceptive practices are reliable, and Christian mystical practices may be shown to be very similar to general or "ordinary" perception, there is no reason to be a skeptic towards religious experiences. Like general doxastic practices, mystical perceptual practices may be shown to be socially established.
Alston projects his moderate foundationalism into philosophy of religion, in his model experience may be intimately conncted to experience of God, although it is never thought to be infallible. According to Alston theist belief is based on two pillars, natural theology and religious experience, where experience is the most important part.
The book may be read as a modern analytic philosopher's attempt to identify with the Christian mystical tradition, with its empahsis on direct awareness of God.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Epistemologists Will Love It 8 Dec 2011
By not me - Published on
No one should pick up "Perceiving God" expecting a devotional manual or a rich description of mystical experience. Instead, the book is a subtle and fairly technical treatise on religious epistemology, undertaken to assess the epistemic status of claims by Christian mystics to have perceived God directly. The bottom line is that Christian mystical practice is a socially established doxastic system and, as such, should be treated as prima facie veridical unless it produces results that are internally inconsistent or clash with the results of other doxastic systems.

Philosophers will enjoy "Perceiving God" even if they don't buy the conclusion. However, ordinary believers will be left cold, if they finish the book at all. I took off one star because I was unpersuaded by what struck me as the author's finessing of the question of how Christian mystical practice can be veridical even though it clashes with the mystical practices of other religions. Overall, non-philosophers interested in mysticism should start with William James' "The Varieties of Religious Experience" before they tackle "Perceiving God."
6 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very subtle work 14 Aug 2001
By A Customer - Published on
A subtle work for advanced students. It seems destined to become a classic in the field, in my humble (non-expert) judgement.
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