What is at stake philosophically, and how the various parties to the debate have weighed in. Exam 4 PHIL 309B Perspectives: Science, Social Science, Humanities Summer 2018 Remember: • define technical terms • use examples to illustrate the points you are making • give the reasons for each view you are discussing, rather than simply summarizing the ideas • write as if you are explaining the ideas to someone who is not in class and has not read the articles PART I. (10 points each).
1. There are at least three ways to understand the origin or nature and value of religious experiences: (i) the reductionist or ‘medical materialist’ (to use James’ terminology), (ii) the religionist, or (iii) the pragmatic. Carefully explain one of these, making sure to explain both how it addresses the issue of the origin of religious experiences, and how it addresses the issue of the value of religious experiences. 2. According to James, it is in the nature of religious experiences that, the people who have them are generally convinced that they have experienced a real presence that cannot be clearly characterized or defined. James likens this experience to the “experience” we might imagine an iron bar to have in the presence of magnetic fields. Explain what James means by this metaphor and his argument that human life is “soaked through” with things which we believe exist but we do not perceive with our five senses, making sure to give examples of the sort of entities he has in mind. What implications might this have for our right to believe in the veracity of religious experiences? Part II. Choose one. (20 points)
1. What, in your opinion, is the value of religious experiences, such as the feeling of oneness with the universe one gets from meditation, or the hearing of voices, or speaking in tongues? That is, is it plausible to think that religious experiences are cases of direct perception of God or the divine? Is it simply a disturbance in the brain and nothing else? Does it matter how it originated, so long as it makes one’s life more meaningful or better in some fundamental way? Having explained your view, discuss in detail one alternative account, and give yourbest reasons for why you do not find the alternative convincing. 2. What, in your opinion, is the best way to understand the relationship between science and religion? Is it that science is the only way we know things, and religion is merely superstition and ignorance? Is it that they speak to different fields of human experience, or that science speaks to objective facts about the world whereas religion speaks to subjective questions about the meaning of life? Is it that religious language does not state facts at all? Is it that science tells us facts about God through our knowledge of God’s creation? Having explained your view, compare it with one alternative, and give your best reasons why you do not find the alternative convincing. (Your view here may depend on which specific religion you have in mind, for instance, the relationship between Christianity and science might be different than the relationship between Buddhism and science. Be sure to indicate which religion you are discussing).
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