The interpretation of religious experience in the thought of Baron Friedrich von Huegel and Frederick Robert Tennant
Hunter, Doris Leenhouts
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The purpose of the dissertation is to compare and evaluate the interpretations of religious experience in the thought of F.R. Tennant and Baron F. von Huegel. The expository, comparative, and critical methods are used. The methodological and epistemological theories of the writers are presented followed by an exposition of their views of religious experience. The study then proceeds to compare and evaluate the affinities and disagreements found in the expository material. The writings of Tennant and von Huegel which have specific relevance to these topics are considered. The sources used are mainly primary. Brief biographies of the thinkers conclude the introductory material of chapter one. Tennant's interpretation of religious experience grows out of his analytic-genetic methodology and phenomenalistic theory of knowledge. He gives priority to the psychogenetic study which investigates the order of knowing by criticism of presumptive knowledge. This approach establishes sensory impression as the only original source of knowledge. All ideas are reasonably probable, originating in a process of ideational construction and inference from facts perceived originally by the senses. Religious experience, in light of this empirical approach, does not afford an independent, unique, or self-validating datum which provides direct knowledge of Reality. It is an implicit part of the cumulative teleological argument for God providing intellectual, moral, and aesthetic inspiration after theism has been rendered the most probable conviction concerning God. Von Huegel's analytical methodology and critical realistic theory of knowledge supports his interpretation of religious experience. This approach affirms the trans-subjective significance of the data of consciousness, affording man a means for direct contact with the external world. There is evidence for the operation of the transcendental operativeness of the objective order in man's ordinary experiences of sensory perception, the succesiveness of time, and creative activity. The qualitative nature of this objective order dimly known by man in these experiences is clearly articulated in the religious experience. Religious experience, although it is not exempt from critical examination, testifies to the reality of the Divine Action. This type of experience has its own contribution to make to life, namely, new emotional and fresh volitional insights which reflect a penetration into and a stimulation of the deeper level of man's total nature by the religious Object. The conclusions of this study may be summarized as follows: (1) The psychogenetic study, which avoids a priori propositions concerning the nature of 'realities,' provides the most coherent approach to an inquiry into the nature of religious experience. (2) The procedure of analogical inference in comparison to a theory of direct acquaintance explains more consistently the manner in which man arrives at his reasonable knowledge about Reality. (3) The interpretation of knowledge as the coactivity between the interested subject and an objective continuum gives an intelligible explanation of the factors involved in religious experience. (4) It is constructive to enlist the definitions of faith as conative activity (fiducia) and as trust (fides), recognizing the essential emotional and volitional values coming from religious trust while employing the philosophical interpretation which relates this trust to all of man's experiences. (5) The activities of interpretation (cognitive insights) and stimulation (energization of will and imagination) are necessary and related factors in religious experience. (6) The evidential value of religious experience cannot be established without reference to cognitive statements which men reach by means of intersubjective discourse with one another regarding the nature of metaphysical Reality. (7) The emotional and volitional values derived from religious experience are essential although not self-validating factors involved in man's total understanding of Reality.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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