I’ve always thought that the argument from religious experience had a certain strength to it. In order for it to be cogent, only one of the billions of religious experiences needs to be veridical. In order for the argument to be proven false, every one of the billions of religious experiences must be false. With these large numbers, and the remarkable burden of proof that rests on those who wish to reject the argument, it seems that the argument from religious experience has a certain initial plausibility to it.
This point is surely mistaken.
The truth of the conclusion would be guaranteed by the veridicality of the experience, but that doesn’t make the argument cogent. It’s like one of Plantinga’s arguments for the existence of God: look how many sets there are; there couldn’t be that many sets without a God; so God exists. Even if the argument is sound, it should still be found wanting from an epistemic point of view. (Even though it is a hard question to say what is needed of an argument so that it is not deficient from this point of view).
This discussion raises an interesting question in epistemology about the epistemic value of experience and the role of testimony. Suppose we think of it in a non-religious context. I’m thinking of the following kinds of cases: empirical disputes, political disputes, moral disputes, etc. There are two, er, bizarre views here: the first is that unanimity of testimony is required for rational acceptance of the content of the testimony, and the other is the position in the quote above that no amount of disagreement matters.
How about this viewpoint? Testimony creates a presumption in its favor that requires defeating information to block rational acceptance, and the defeating information must itself be something more than that there is contrary testimony. What else? I can’t say, but I can list some things: some sketch of an explanation of why the testifier is mistaken or unreliable; the existence of contrary testimony plus a claim to the effect that there are no rational grounds on which to prefer one piece of testimony to another; etc. Central to the position is that testimony is a generative source of justification (or rationality or (non-Plantingian) warrant). Many here have worked on testimony much more than I, so I ask: does this position withstand scrutiny (or better: is there is precisified version of it that withstands scrutiny)?