Religion and Radical Empiricism

By Nancy K. Frankenberry

Subjects: Religion
Paperback : 9780887064098, 226 pages, July 1987
Hardcover : 9780887064081, 226 pages, July 1987

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Table of contents



1. Experience, Justification, and Theism


The Problem of Justification
Justifications in the Philosophy of Religion
The Problem of Theism
The Problem of Appeals to Experience


2. Shaking the Foundations of Empiricism


David Hume and Classical Empiricism
A.J. Ayer and Logical Positivism
Linguistic Empiricism
Neopragmatic American Empiricism


3. Radical Empiricism in Religious Perspective


William James and Radical Empiricism
Perceptual Experience and the Reinstatement of the Vague
Religious Experience and the "More"
Pure Experience and Affectional Facts
John Dewey and the Religious Dimension of Experience


4. Radical Empiricism: A Theistic Interpretation


Henry Nelson Wieman: Empirical Theism and Naturalism
Bernard Meland: Empirical Realism and Lived Experience
Bernard Loomer: An Aesthetic Order of Relations


5. Radical Empiricism in Metaphysical Perspective


Whitehead's Doctrine of Causal Efficacy
The Buddhist Doctrine of Pratityasamutpada and Sunyata
Whitehead's Critique of Substantialism and Sensationalism
Felt Qualities in a World of Process






Rarely in modern times has religion been associated with empiricism except to its own peril. This book represents a comprehensive and systematic effort to retrieve and develop the tradition of American religious empiricism for religious inquiry.

Religion and Radical Empiricism offers a challenging account of how and why reflection on religious truth-claims must seek justification of those claims finally in terms of empirical criteria. Ranging through many of the major questions in philosophy of religion, the author weaves together a study of the varieties of empiricism in all its historical forms from Hume to Quine. She finds in James and Dewey; in Wieman, Meland, and Loomer of the Chicago School; in Whitehead; and in Abhidharma Buddhism constructive elements of a radically empirical approach to the controversial topic of religious experience. This work provides a strong counter-argument to critics of "revisionary theism," to caricatures of philosophy as "conversation," and to any collapse of the category of experience into its linguistic forms.

Nancy Frankenberry is Associate Professor of Religion at Dartmouth College.


"Frankenberry offers for the first time a tough, sophisticated, and comprehensive discussion of the relation of radical empiricism to the history of philosophy."— William Dean