William James Argument Of Natural Religion

analytical Essay
1661 words
1661 words

Religious sentiment had long been thought to be inferior to natural religion. The arguments of natural religion were widely accepted as self-evident from the middle ages throughout parts of the enlightenment. Only after these arguments were questioned and their self-evidence evaporated, did the pious philosophers find recourse with religious sentiment. The psychologist William James exemplifies this; he transformed religious discourse by denouncing natural and institutionalized religion. At the same time, he embraced and vigorously defended religious sentiment and experience. William James thoroughly explains religion's meaning and value, and adequately defends it from rationalist critics.

Religion's meaning is predominantly one of subjective …show more content…

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how the psychologist william james transformed religious discourse by denouncing natural and institutionalized religion and vigorously defended religious sentiment and experience.
  • Explains that james defines religion as a solitude individual's feelings, acts, and experiences towards whatever he or she considers the divine.
  • Analyzes how james admits that there is something parapsychological about religious experience; it is beyond the domain of the five senses. this sense is fully objectified and externalized ideas that are intuitively grasped.
  • Explains james' view that the concepts of objectivity or truth are too vague and indefinable, along with being inconsistent with human nature.
  • Explains james' view that religious experience is unique in that it allows for an optimistic, enthusiastic acceptance of the universe that is not found elsewhere.
  • Explains that james holds that the only way to properly deal with the universe is a religious one. a religious experience removes the pressure of complete isolation.
  • Explains that james' views on the plausibility and value of religion had its critics. the medical materialists followed the general rationalistic tendency of the defenders of natural religion, but differ in that they held that religion is entirely irrational.
  • Analyzes how james' response to medical materialism was that it involved fallacious reasoning. they point out the flawed reasoning of the medical materialist.
  • Analyzes how james defends the value of religion from the survival theorists. science and reasoning are useful, but they cannot address emotional and personal issues that religion can properly deal with.
  • Analyzes william james' unique approach to religious concepts and ideas that places a primacy on religious experience rather than on the "truths" of natural religion.

James holds that the concepts of objectivity or truth are too vague and indefinable, along with being inconsistent with human nature. Human beings do not base their beliefs on pure reason, but rather base it upon their intuitive core. Knowledge is based upon this intuitive core, we do not give assent to beliefs that contrast these inarticulate feelings. If beliefs make people happy, they are going to accept them, as happiness is mankind's fundamental goal. The basis of religious thinking are the subconscious over-beliefs that shape us and our opinions. It's this intuition that allows us to assent to any religious argument in the first place. This subconscious does not care for reasoned dictation, but rather operates on these principles of subjective feeling and use. James is not arguing that this is any morally better, but simply gives a descriptive account. To James, natural religion is subservient to subjective religious …show more content…

James' problem with their reasoning is simple; every idea is the result of organic functioning. Even the ideas of science, which is the basis of medical materialism, is in some way dependent on organic functioning. This reasoning that any form of religious experience should be invalidated because of some psychological or organic flaw is a fallacy. The origin of an idea does not determine its validity. James makes this contention clear when he looks at the medical materialist perspective on genius. They clearly seem to indicate that genius results from some form of psychological and organic deficiency, but they do not bother to criticize the results of genius. James points out that a double-standard that is given to religion in this context. Spiritual insight can still be gained by those with psychological ailment. These conditions may allow these individuals to access parts of reality that are separate from the domain of pure reason. James is not saying that everything the mentally disturbed should be taken as true, rather that they should not be instantly rejected. Medical materialism does reject this, by simply explaining religious experience away. As long as the idea is not utterly implausible, it still has some sort of value to life. The medical materialist confuses an existential judgement with one of value. The truth is that religion has very real and noticeable effects on people. James'

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