PHIL 3600 -- Philosophy of Religion
Fall 2014
Prof. Chris Heathwood

University of Colorado Boulder

Reading Questions

Here are questions to go along with our readings. Have them with you as you are doing each reading. Write down what you take the answers to be. If there is a pop quiz on the reading, it is likely -- though not guaranteed -- that the questions on the quiz will be taken verbatim from the questions below. Remember that reading quizzes are open-note, but not open-reading, so if you do this, you're very likely to do ace the reading quizzes.

There is a beneficial side-effect of doing this.  Reading more actively -- e.g., taking notes on a reading, answering questions about the reading, looking out for particular ideas and issues in a reading -- rather than reading passively helps us better understand and better remember what we've read, and helps us connect the ideas in the reading to other things we know.


Rowe, "Introduction," from Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction (2007). This is a very short introductory chapter to a philosophy of religion textbook that we won't be reading.

  1. According to Rowe, what is the first thing that philosophy of religion should not be confused with?
  2. According to Rowe, what does philosophy of religion have in common with philosophy of art and philosophy of science?
  3. Give examples of three basic religious beliefs that, according to Rowe, we examine critically when we do philosophy of religion.

Rowe, "The Idea of God" (2007), pp. 4-11.

  1. What do polytheism and henotheism have in common?
  2. Which of the great western theologians that Rowe mentions are not Christian theologians?
  3. According to Rowe, when most of us who are the cultural heirs of western civilization think of God, is the being we think of more like God as the old man in the sky or God as the God of the traditional theologians?
  4. Which of these puzzles concerning divine omnipotence does Rowe not claim to have a solution for?
    (a) divine suicide
    (b) divine sin
    (c) the paradox of the stone
    (d) changing the past.
  5. Even if an action's being morally right is not dependent on God's commands, what two aspects of our moral life might still depend on God, according to Rowe?
  6. Rowe suggests that the basic truths of morality might have the status as the basic truths of what?

Rowe, "The Idea of God" (2007), pp. 11-17.

  1. Why, according to Anselm, can't a supreme being have the explanation for its existence lie in some other entity?
  2. Why, according to Anselm, can't there simply be no explanation for the existence of a supreme being?
  3. When Anselm says that God is self-existent, does he mean that God brought himself into existence?
  4. Whereas Boethius, Anselm, and Aquinas hold that God is eternal in the sense of being ________________ , Samuel Clarke holds that God is eternal in the sense of being _________________ .


Aquinas, excerpt from Summa Theologica (1274)

  1. Aquinas begins by considering two things that God cannot do (in apparent threat to his omnipotence). What are they?
  2. According to the fourth objection that Aquinas considers, what would be true if God were omnipotent?
  3. If someone says, "God can do all things," what, according to Aquinas, is this remark best understood as meaning?
  4. Who do you think "the Philosopher" is?
  5. What are the two ways that something can be possible, according to the Philosopher?
  6. What is it for something to be absolutely impossible, according to Aquinas?
  7. According to Aquinas, can God bring about a state of affairs that involves a contradiction? Quote a sentence from Aquinas to prove it.
  8. Explain as clearly as you can what is meant, according to Aquinas, by saying that God can do everything.

Frankfurt, just footnote 3 from "The Logic of Omnipotence" (1964)

  1. TRUE or FALSE. Descartes accepts essentially the same views about God's omnipotence as Aquinas does.
  2. TRUE or FALSE. Descartes claims that although the truths of mathematics were established by God, God could not change them.
  3. TRUE or FALSE. According to Descartes, God could make it the case both that I am sitting down and, at the same time, that I am not sitting down.

Mavrodes, "Some Puzzles Concerning Omnipotence" (1963)

  1. According to Mavrodes' understanding of St. Thomas Aquinas' account of God's omnipotence, to say that God is omnipotent is to say _______________________.
  2. What is the key question Mavrodes poses for Aquinas' account of omnipotence?
  3. Explain the dilemma posed by this question in your own words.
  4. Why does Aquinas' solution to the problem of God's not being able to draw a square circle not help with the problem Mavrodes is discussing?
  5. According to Mavrodes, if God is omnipotent, why does this make the notion of there being a stone too heavy for God to lift self-contradictory?

Frankfurt, the rest of "The Logic of Omnipotence" (1964)

  1. As Frankfurt puts it, Mavrodes' way of dealing with the paradox of the stone makes use of what principle?
  2. Who else would accept this principle?
  3. Who rejects this principle?
  4. Frankfurt's aim in this paper is to provide a solution to what puzzle, and a solution that does not depend on what idea?
  5. Suppose God creates a stone too heavy for him to lift. According to Frankfurt's solution, can God lift this stone?

Clarke, from A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God (1705). Or you can see it in an early (1728, I think) copy of the book here. Pretty neat.

  1. For Clarke, there is no question that God has infinite power; for him, the only question is what?
  2. TRUE or FALSE: Clarke holds that omnipotence includes being able to bring about things that imply a contradiction.
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Clarke holds that though God will always in fact choose what is good, God has the freedom to choose what is evil.
  4. In the last paragraph of the reading, Clarke suggests an account of the nature of omnipotence that is similar to but different from Aquinas' account. What is that account? My view is that it can be stated in this form: for a being to be omnipotent is for it to be able to bring about any state of affairs that is (i) logically possible and (ii) such that ___________________ . What goes in the blank?



Augustine, excerpt from On the Free Choice of the Will (c. 395)

  1. Evodius thinks that because God knew in advance that the first human being was going to sin, this act of sin _____________________________.
  2. Augustine points out to Evodius that even though God knows in advance that Evodius will be happy on a certain day, it does not follow that Evodius will be happy against his __________ on this day.
  3. According to Augustine, for something to be within our power, it is enough that it occur when what happens?
  4. Does Augustine think that divine foreknowledge is compatible with human freedom?
  5. Does he convince Evodius of this view?

Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out" Faith and Philosophy 3 (1986).

pp. 235-237 (2/3 of the way down)

  1. What, according to Plantinga, are two essential teachings of western theistic religions?
  2. According to Plantinga, what kind of account of human freedom does Augustine sort of endorse in order to solve the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge as stated by Evodius?
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Aquinas thinks that Evodius' argument (i.e., his statement of the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge) is a sound argument.
  4. Here are two propositions:
         (i) Necessarily, if a person is a bachelor, then he is unmarried.
         (ii) If a person is a bachelor, then it is necessary that he is unmarried.
    (a) Which would Aquinas say expresses "the necessity of the consequent" and which expresses "the necessity of the consequence"?
    (b) Is (i) true or false?
    (c) Is (ii) true or false?

pp. 237-239 (1/4 of the way down)

  1. Plantinga claims that the Edwardsian version of the foreknowledge argument appeals to two key intuitions. What are they?

Edwards, from Freedom of the Will (1754), edition, read just p. 52 (starting at §12). Early Modern Texts is a website that features "comtemporized" (my term) versions -- modified for easier reading -- of some classic texts of early modern philosophy. I thought it would be interesting to compare this version with the original Edwards, which appears in the Plantinga.

  1. State each of those two key intuitions in the terms Edwards states them in this version of the excerpt.

Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out" (ibid.)

pp. 239-243 (1/4 of the way down).

  1. Boethius' reply to the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge rests on the idea that God is outside of what?
  2. What thesis does Plantinga think is incoherent?
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Although Plantinga rejects the view that God is atemporal, he concedes that if God is atemporal, then the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge is dissolved.
  4. According to Pike's formulation of the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge, it is not within anyone's power at a given time to do what?

Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out," §II (pp. 243-251)

  1. TRUE or FALSE: Plantinga claims that while the past is outside of our control, it is not outside the control of an omnipotent being.
  2. TRUE or FALSE: According to Plantinga, though we cannot alter the past, we can alter the future.
  3. Ockham speaks of propositions that are "necessary per accidens." Plantinga speaks of propositions that are "accidentally necessary." What do they mean?
  4. Invent your own example of a claim that is about the past as regards its wording only and is in fact about the present or future (at least partly).
  5. What is a "soft fact about the past"? Give an example.
  6. What is a "hard fact about the past"? Give an example.
  7. What is the importance, for Ockham, of the distinction between hard and soft facts about the past?
  8. Which premise of the freedom and foreknowledge argument that we formulated in class would Ockham deny?
  9. Unlike the Edwardsian version, Pike's version of the argument (concerning freedom and foreknowledge) is put in terms of God's _____________ rather than God's foreknowledge.
  10. As Plantinga understands Ockham's way out, the foreknowledge argument fails because God's having known a certain proposition is sometimes not a _____ fact about the past?

Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out," §IV.

  1. Plantinga's example involving the colony of carpenter ants is supposed to show that, if God is omniscient, then we can have power over what kind of facts about the past?
  2. Consider Newcomb's Paradox as Plantinga originally presents it.  Plantinga considers the question of whether one should be a "one boxer" or a "two boxer."  Which of these two views -- that one should be a one boxer or that one should be a two boxer -- suggests that we can have power over the hard past?
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Plantinga accepts that there may be an action that you could take which is such that if you were to take it, then Plantinga himself would not have existed.

Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out," §V.

  1. MULTIPLE CHOICE (select one): The account of accidental necessity that Plantinga thinks is satisfactory makes use of the notion of
    (a) an action's being strictly about the past
    (b) causing a proposition to be false
    (c) an action's being basic
    (d) a future contingent being true.


Pascal, excerpt from Pensées (1660)

  1. According to Pascal, by _______________ we know that God exists but by _______________ we do not.
  2. What would you say that Pascal thinks the odds are that God exists, insofar as we can determine this using our reason?
  3. TRUE or FALSE: When it comes to the choice of whether to believe in God, Pascal thinks you have three options: believe that God exists, believe that God does not exist, and withhold belief on the matter altogether.
  4. Since reason can't decide the matter, Pascal thinks that we should decide whether to believe that God exists on the basis of its effect on your what?
  5. Suppose you decide that it is worth the gamble to have faith.  What does Pascal think you can do to get yourself to believe?
  6. According to Pascal, to have faith that God exists is to do what?  (Here, I am asking not what one can do to get faith that God exists (as in the previous question), but what it is to have faith that God exists, according to Pascal.)

Hacking, "The Logic of Pascal's Wager," American Philosophical Quarterly 9 (1972): 186-192.

  1. What, according to Hacking, did Pascal invent?
  2. And describe what it is.
  3. In your own words, what is it for an act to "dominate" its alternatives?
  4. What does 'inifini-rien' mean?
  5. According to Hacking, what have many scholars of Pascal's wager failed to notice?
  6. TRUE or FALSE: In Hacking's view, Pascal is committed to the idea that one can simply decide to believe in God.
  7. In your own words, describe William James' objection to Pascal's wager.
  8. In the argument from dominance, Pascal assumes that if God does not exist, then believing and disbelieving in him are equally good for a person.  Hacking notes that this is not true of who?
  9. What, according to Hacking, is the weakest part of Pascal's arguments?
  10. Which of these philosophers are favorably disposed to Pascal's wager or something like it, and which are unfavorably disposed?
    (i) Laplace
    (ii) Leibniz
    (iii) Locke
    (iv) Voltaire.


Anselm, excerpt from the Proslogion (1077), with an introduction by editors Pojman and Rea

    1. The editors' introduction to the ontological argument describes it as an a priori argument. What do they mean by this? (Hint: they don't actually explain this, so you may have to do your own research to answer this.)
    2. Why, according to the editors, does the ontological argument have special religious significance?
    3. According to the editors, Anselm's ontological argument is in the form of what kind of argument?
    4. What is Anselm's definition of God?
    5. What, according to Anselm, are the two ways in which something can exist? For each one, give an example (not involving God) that illustrates it.

Gaunilo, Anselm, Gaunilo's criticism and Anselm's rejoinder (1077)

    1. In his reply to Anselm, Gaunilo has us imagine a certain entity.  What name does he give to this entity?
    2. Describe what you take to be Gaunilo's purpose in introducing this entity.
    3. Anselm's has a rejoinder to Gaunilo, but it is hard to say exactly what it is.  Take your best shot at explaining -- briefly and in your own words -- Anselm's rejoinder to Gaunilo.
    4. Explain why, according to Plantinga, the greatest possible island can be conceived as not existing.  (This is discussed in the editors' introduction from the previous reading.)

Kant, excerpt from The Critique of Pure Reason (1789)

    1. What does Kant think it is absurd to introduce into the idea of a thing?
    2. Invent an example of a definition that explicitly does this.
    3. Does St. Anselm's definition of God explicitly do this?
    4. What, according to Kant, is not a real predicate?
    5. Kant thinks that the reason that we do not add to the concept of something when we say that that thing exists is that, if that were true, we could not say what?
    6. According to Kant, the entirety of our knowledge of what exists is provided by what?
    7. TRUE or FALSE: Kant thinks that the ontological argument is successful.

Heathwood, "The Relevance of Kant's Objection to Anselm's Ontological Argument" Religious Studies 47 (2011): 345–357.

    1. For which of these claims is Heathwood arguing?
      1. that Anselm's ontological argument is sound.
      2. that Anselm's ontological argument is unsound.
      3. that if Kant's dictum is true, then Anselm's ontological argument is sound.
      4. that if Kant's dictum is true, then Anselm's ontological argument is unsound.
    2. What is Kant's dictum?
    3. What idea does Heathwood think is popular but mistaken?
    4. Give an example of a property that is real.
    5. Give an example of a property that is not real.
    6. Who held that things that don't exist can have all sorts of other properties?
    7. Heathwood holds that Kant's dictum undermines Anselm's inference from what claim to what claim?


Ananthaswamy, "Is the Universe Fine-Tuned for Life?" (2012)

    1. Ananthaswamy gives five examples of ways in which the laws of nature are "just right" for life. Describe each of the five examples.
    2. According to astronomer Sandra Faber, there are only two possible explanations for fine-tuning. What are they?

Collins, "God, Design, and Fine-Tuning" (~2002)


    1. According to Collins, to what is the universe analogous according to recent findings in physics?
    2. According to Collins, what many people think is the strongest argument for the existence of God is based on what?
    3. According to Collins, what are the four types of "fine-tuning for life" that can be found in the universe?
    4. According to Collins, if the mass of a neutron were increased by just 1/700th of its current mass, what could not exist?
    5. Collins presents an example involving an arrangement of rocks. About the example, he claims that we will conclude that the "brother hypothesis" is much more likely to be true than the "chance hypothesis." What is the name of the principle that, according to Collins, we are using when we draw this conclusion?
    6. State this principle.


    1. FILL IN THE BLANK: According to the "Other Forms of Life Objection" to the fine-tuning argument, _________________________________________________ .
    2. What is the weak version of the anthropic principle?


    1. According to the many-worlds hypothesis, there are a very large number of ____________ each with different ______________.
    2. Collins says that just as it would be no surprise if a winning lottery ticket is produced provided that enough tickets are generated, so too it would be no surprise if what?
    3. According to Collins' reply to the many-universes objection to the fine-tuning argument, invoking a many-universe generator to explain fine-tuning simply shifts the issue to the question of what?


Hawthorn, "Arguments for Atheism" (1999)


    1. According to Hawthorn, what are two main ways to have evidence for some claim or hypothesis?
    2. In what way is testimonial evidence non-basic, according to Hawthorn?
    3. What is the conclusion of the argument that Hawthorn lays out in the last paragraph of p. 120?
    4. The theory of evolution is supposed to support atheism because it offers a way to explain what in terms of what?
    5. Describe one way that the argument from divine silence is supposed to support atheism more strongly than the mere appeal to a lack of evidence for God's existence.
    6. What claim does Hawthorn give as an example of a claim that it is rational to believe although there is no evidence for it?
    7. What is it for a claim to be self-evident, according to Hawthorn?
    8. What is it for a claim to be knowable a priori, according to Hawthorn?
    9. TRUE or FALSE: Aquinas maintains that the proposition that God exists can be known simply by understanding it.


  1. What is Hawthorn's account of self-evidence?
  2. How does it differ from Aquinas' account?
  3. Hawthorn explores the possibility that God could make a species of being for which theism is what?
  4. How does Hawthorn understand faith?
  5. TRUE or FALSE: Hawthorn thinks that it is reasonable to believe in God on the basis of the explanatory power of this hypothesis.


  1. In responding to the argument from divine silence, Hawthorn suggests that it might be important to God that human beings embrace God how?


  1. According to the Argument from the Diversity of Religious Belief, theists need to hold that human beings have an ability to figure out the truth about what?
  2. Who thinks that human belief in God is a symptom of either an inflated sense of our own importance or of anxiety concerning death?