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A Common Language for the Religious Experience

The problem of knowledge is important in philosophy and in religion, referring to the sources of knowledge, to how we know what we know, and ultimately to how we express what we know. Religious knowledge is subject to issues regarding meaning and the use of language, for it is necessary to understand the nature of the religious experience and to convey it to others. Knowledge derives from experience, and the language used to describe that experience and to shape that knowledge is itself subject to issues of interpretation, meaning, and communication. One difficulty faced in communicating about these matters is in finding a language acceptable to all so that the use of a word is understood by all. The problem of developing such a common language has been much discussed in the literature and is far from settled.

However complex this analysis of the different types of ideas and impressions may get, the underlying truth of the approach is that experience is necessary for there to be knowledge. Hume rejects a priori knowledge entirely and considers the meaning of substance and concludes that we can have no idea of the meaning of substance except as a collection of particular qualities. The concept of substance is thus inferred from concrete impressions based on experience, and the experience must predate the concept or the concept would have no meaning. Hume uses the term "idea" in an ambiguous way that makes some of what he says about them unclear, and this means that their precise relationship to experience is also unclear to a great degree. His distinction between impressions and ideas, while it does show that Hume believes experience can be divided into its constituent elements, also shows how the two types of perception have to be related to experience.

Difficulties in describing these matters in language were taken up by Ayer and other logical positivists. Ayer questions the very possibility of knowledge, let alone...

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A Common Language for the Religious Experience. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:48, November 30, 2021, from