William James

  • Created by: Kids
  • Created on: 13-05-15 14:42

William James:

-He was an American philosopher and psychologist. He wrote some very important and influential books including The Varieties of Religious Experience and Essays in Radical Empiricism.

-James said that religious experiences are at the heart of religion and that religious teaching, attitudes and practices are 'second-hand' religion, this means that reliogious experiences are true religion.

Some of the main arguments from The Variety of Religious Experiences.

- He believed that even if we can find a psychological reason for a religious experience it doesn't make the experience invalid and doesn't take away its spiritual value. He wanted to look at religion and religious experinces in an objective way, and so rejects Freuds idea that religious experiences are the result of perverted or repressed sexuality, that this was an attempt to disregard religion by someone who started off rejecting it.

- He believed that religious experiences are more important to religion than study religious texts or institutions.

-The experiences of great religious figures can set patterns for the conventional believer to study. He cites examples of ‘saintliness’ in people such as St Teresa of Avila. He shows how such Christians can be strong people who help others to progress and for people to learn from.

-He didn't believe that there was a single feature of religious experience that defines it, but he understood it to be “the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine”.

His four criteria of a mystical experience:

-Passivity= There is a sense of feeling that


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