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William James on How to Study Experience: Integrating Phenomenology of Religion and Radical Empiricism

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

William James stands at the nexus of two intellectual traditions important to religious studies: phenomenology of religion and radical empiricism. Focusing on James’s work, I identify three essential points of contact between radical empiricism and phenomenology of religion: epoché, the affective character of consciousness, and the inevitably open-ended nature of experience. I argue that these resonances allow them to be integrated, thereby furnishing a more robust and defensible understanding of the category of “experience.” This integrated approach responds to recent criticisms of phenomenology of religion, and describes a complimentary relationship between it and other, explanatory approaches to the study of religion and religious experience.

Affiliations: 1: American University in Cairo


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