Religious belief, social establishment and autonomy
I attempt to analyze, reconstruct, and otherwise defend William Alston's vindication of the cognitive status of mystical experience. I begin by reconstructing Alston's doxastic practice approach to epistemology, which provides him with general criteria by which to determine whether or not mystical experience contributes to the justification of an agent's mystical beliefs. I then present Alston's case for the claim that, according to his general epistemic position, there is a way of forming beliefs about God on the basis of the perception of God which we have adequate epistemic reason to believe is reliable. At the heart of Alston's case are the claims that a way of forming beliefs should be regarded as presumptively reliable so long as it is socially established and that the beliefs generated by autonomous ways of forming beliefs are not necessarily subject to epistemic norms de jure for other practices. I attempt to discredit Alston's appeal to social establishment as grounds for imputing presumptive epistemic innocence and I attempt to provide a rationale for Alston's claim that mystical beliefs should not be subject to the same epistemic norms to which we subject sense-perceptual beliefs.