PHIL 3600 -- Philosophy of Religion
Office: HLMS 192
Hours: Wednesdays 3:00-5:00, and by appointment
Office: HLMS 15
Hours: Wednesdays 12:00-1:00, Thursdays 3:30-4:30, and by appointment
In analytic philosophy of religion, we attempt to answer fundamental questions concerning important doctrines of major world religions, especially the Abrahamic religions, and especially the doctrines concerning God, as God is typically understood in those traditions. We attempt to answer questions about
If we tried to cover all of these topics, our study of each would be superficial. So instead, to allow us to investigate the ones we do cover more deeply, we will be covering only a few of them.
After laying out some definitions of God, our first main topic will be divine omnipotence. We'll gain an appreciation for why the notion of omnipotence is problematic, and we will explore and assess the solution offered centuries ago by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274).
Our next topic will be the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge. We will investigate whether God's omniscience implies that no one has free will. If it does imply this, this seems to render some mainstream religions internally inconsistent. Our focus will be on the kind of solution offered centuries ago by William of Ockham (1287–1347) as it is developed in a challenging paper by the leading contemporary philosopher of religion, Alvin Plantinga.
If not too many students in the class have already studied this, we will next look at the relationship between God and morality, and in particular at the Euthyphro argument, due to Plato (~428–347 BC), for the view that it is not plausible to base morality in God's commands.
Then we will move on to arguments for God's existence. We'll study three. We'll being with Pascal's wager, due to the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), which attempts to show that it is prudent to believe in God. Then we'll study the most famous version of the ontological argument, due to St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109). Ontological arguments attempt to prove that God exists simply from the definition of God. We'll conclude our examination of arguments for God's existence with a fascinating modern version of the argument from design call the fine-tuning argument. According to this argument, certain astonishing facts about the law of physics provide strong evidence that those laws were chosen by an intelligent designer.
Our final topic for the course will be a kind of master argument for atheism, and the many issues this argument raises, such as the different kinds of possible evidence for God's existence, the notion of self-evidence, the problem of divine hiddenness, and the notion of faith.
This is a course in the philosophy of religion. It is not a course in comparative religion, the history of religion, or the sociology of religion. Though these are important questions, we will not be asking what the religious beliefs of some group are, or how they differ from the beliefs of some other group, or what cultural circumstances might have led them to adopt their religious views. We will instead be trying to figure out the answers to questions like the questions described above.
This is a challenging course, especially for non-majors. Much of the reading is difficult and must be read slowly and more than once. Many of the ideas and arguments presented in lecture and in the readings are unfamiliar, difficult, and technical. You will be expected to know the material thoroughly, to think about it deeply, and to write clearly and precisely about it. You are supposed to have taken at least two courses in philosophy at the university level to be eligible to take this course. If you haven't, but you still think this course is appropriate for you, please talk to me about that.
One interesting feature of philosophy -- and indeed one that attracts many of us to it -- is a willingness to question everything. In the context of the philosophy of religion, this means a willingness to entertain the possibility that some of our most cherished beliefs are wrong. We thus need to be ok with openly discussing the possibility that God does or does not exist. This can make some people uneasy, but I hope that my mentioning it now will help to mitigate that. On the flip side, we get to discuss deeply in this class some of the most important questions that we as humans face, questions concerning the nature and existence of God.
The course website, which you should check regularly, can be found here:
There you will find:
No book is required! We will supply the readings via the course website. Some of these will require a password, which I will give you in class.
So that you will have someone from whom to get the notes and any other pertinent information should you miss class, introduce yourself to two of your classmates, and get their email addresses and phone numbers.
1. Technology. You must have an email account and regular access to the internet, and you must check your colorado.edu email address and the course website frequently.
Text messaging during class is strictly prohibited. First-time offenders will be asked to leave their phones on my desk for the remainder of class; repeat offenders will be excused from class. When you get to class, turn your cell phone OFF.
I prefer that you don't use a computer in class; students who use laptops in class do less well in college, as do those who sit near them. (See also.) But if you must, you may use it only for taking notes. No web-surfing, emailing, IM-ing, facebooking, etc. If you use a laptop, disable the wifi.
2. Reading Quizzes (20%). There will be quite a few "pop" quizzes throughout the semester. These quizzes are designed to test that you are doing and understanding the readings. For each reading, there will be a set of reading questions posted on the website. Most or all of the questions on the pop quizzes will be taken directly from these reading questions. Furthermore, the quizzes are open-note. Thus, as you are doing each reading and taking notes on it, you should write down your answers to the readings questions in your notes. Then bring these notes with you to class, since most or all of the answers to the pop quiz questions will be right in your notes! You are permitted to use only notes that you yourself created from doing the reading; you cannot copy your classmate's notes. Though the pop quizzes are open-note, they are not open-book or "open-reading."
Let me put all of this another way. There will be quite a few pop quizzes throughout the term. But you will be getting all (or most all) of the questions in advance. And you will be permitted to answer them in advance, and to bring those answers in with you to look at when you take the quiz. Thus, there is really no reason why you shouldn't ace every pop quiz.
3. Two Papers (40%). Two papers are required. The first will be due about 1/3 of the way through the term, and the second will be due about 3/4 to 4/5 of the way through the way of the term. See below for specific (tentative) due dates. You will be given a set of paper topics for each paper, from which you can choose, though you can also come up with your own topic. We'll have more to say about papers in class, and there is a set of paper guidelines, which you should get to know well. Late papers will be penalized unless you have a legitimate, documented excuse; the penalty is 1/3 of a letter grade per day late (see the paper guidelines for more details).
4. Two Exams (40%). There will be two exams: a midterm exam and a non-cumulative final exam. Each exam has two parts, and will take place over two class periods. The first part of each exam will consist of very-short-answer questions (e.g., multiple choice or true/false questions); the second part will consist of short-answer questions (questions that can usually be answered in a sentence to a paragraph). For the second part of each exam you'll need to bring a bluebook. Both parts of both exams will take place in class, and will be closed-note and closed-reading.
To help you prepare, and to give you an idea about the sorts of questions you can expect, a study guide will be made available before each exam. We will also have a review day before each part of each exam where we will take your questions about the study guide. You must come prepared for these review sessions by having already written out your own answers to the questions on the study guide.
If you miss any exams during the semester, you will be permitted to take a makeup exam only if you have a legitimate, documented excuse (e.g., non-trivial illness, death in the family, religious obligation). If you need to miss an exam, you need to let us know in advance, by email.
Your final grade for the course is determined according to the following scheme:
|First Paper||20%||100 points|
|Midterm Exam||20%||100 points|
|Second Paper||20%||100 points|
|Final Exam||20%||100 points|
There are no "extra-credit" opportunities. So there's no need to ask if you can "do extra credit" to boost your grade. If you want to get a good grade, don't miss class, always arrive on time, always do the reading, take notes on readings and in class, ask questions when you have them, contribute to class discussions, start working on your papers early, start working on the study guides for exams well in advance, work on these study guides by actually writing out your answers to the questions on them (as you would have to do if it were a question on the real exam), come to the review sessions having already put a lot of work into the study guides, come to office hours when you are confused about the material, and arrange study groups with your classmates.
We will use a standard "non-curved" grading scale, as follows:
Since we don't grade on a curve, it is theoretically possible for everyone to get an A (and also for everyone to get an F). But assuming that grades are distributed throughout the spectrum of grades in the normal way, the average grade in the class will probably be about a B–.
Course Schedule (subject to change)
Readings (due on date listed; subject to change)
|M 8/25||Introductions, Roll, Syllabus|
|W 8/27||Finish Syllabus
The Nature of God
Hand Out Questionnaire
| Rowe, "Introduction" (2007)
|F 8/29||The Nature of God
||Rowe, "The Idea of God" (2007), pp. 4-11
Also read this syllabus from top to bottom
|M 9/1||NO CLASS -- LABOR DAY|
|W 9/3||Review Questionnaire Results
||Rowe, "The Idea of God" (2007), pp. 11-18|
|F 9/5||Two Definitions of God
Slides for Topic 1 - Nature of God
|M 9/8||Omnipotence||Aquinas, excerpt from Summa Theologica (1274)
Frankfurt, just footnote 3 from "The Logic of Omnipotence" (1964)
|W 9/10||Omnipotence||Mavrodes, "Some Puzzles Concerning Omnipotence" (1963)
Frankfurt, the rest of "The Logic of Omnipotence" (1964)
||Clarke, from A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God (1705)
Re-Read Rowe, "The Idea of God" (2007), first six paragraphs of the "Omnipotence and Perfect Goodness" section (pp. 6-9)
|W 9/17||Freedom and Foreknowledge
||Augustine, excerpt from On the Free Choice of the Will (c. 395)
Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out" (1986), pp. 235-237 (2/3 of the way down)
|F 9/19||Freedom and Foreknowledge
Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out," pp. 237-239 (1/4 of the way
|M 9/22||Freedom and Foreknowledge
|W 9/24||Freedom and Foreknowledge||Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out," pp. 239-243 (1/4 of the way down)
|F 9/26||Writing a Philosophy Paper||Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out," §II (pp. 243-251)
read the Philosophy Paper FAQ
read the First Paper document
|M 9/29||Freedom and Foreknowledge||Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out," §IV.|
|W 10/1||Freedom and Foreknowledge||Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out," §V.
|F 10/3||Freedom and Foreknowledge||First Paper Due
Begin working on Study Guide for Midterm Exam
|M 10/6||The Problem of Evil||
Rowe, "The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism" (1979)
|W 10/8||Review for Midterm Exam|
|F 10/10||Midterm Exam, Part 1|
|M 10/13||Return Part 1; Review for Part 2|
|W 10/15||Midterm Exam, Part 2 BRING A BLUEBOOK!|
|F 10/17||return midterms; return papers
|M 10/20||Pascal's Wager||Pascal, excerpt from Pensées (1660)|
|W 10/22||Pascal's Wager||Hacking, "The Logic of Pascal's Wager" (1972)|
|F 10/24||Pascal's Wager|
|M 10/27||Handout for Pascal's Wager|
|W 10/29||Ontological Argument
||Anselm, excerpt from the Proslogion (1077), with an introduction by editors Pojman and Rea
|F 10/31||Ontological Argument
Handout for Anselm
|Gaunilo, Anselm, Gaunilo's criticism and Anselm's rejoinder (1077)
|M 11/3||Ontological Argument
||Kant, excerpt from The Critique of Pure Reason (1789)
|W 11/5||Ontological Argument
Handout for Kant
|Heathwood, "The Relevance of Kant's Objection to Anselm's Ontological Argument" (2011)|
|F 11/7||Ontological Argument|
|M 11/10||The Fine-Tuning Argument||Ananthaswamy, "Is the Universe Fine-Tuned for Life?" (2012)
Collins, "God, Design, and Fine-Tuning" (~2002), §§I-II
OPTIONAL: Maudlin, "The Calibrated Cosmos" (2013)
|W 11/12||The Fine-Tuning Argument
|F 11/14||Handout for Fine-Tuning Argument||Collins, §§IV-V|
|M 11/17||Arguments for Atheism||Hawthorn, "Arguments for Atheism" (1999), §1|
|W 11/19||Arguments for Atheism||Hawthorn, §§2.1-2.3|
|F 11/21||Handout for Hawthorn||Second Paper Due (no reading due)|
M 11/24 - F 11/28: T H A N K S G I V I N G B R E A K
|M 12/1||Arguments for Atheism
||Hawthorn: re-read §1.4 and §2.2; read §2.4 and §3|
|W 12/3||return/review papers
finish Arguments for Atheism
Start working on Study Guide for Final
|F 12/5||FCQ's; Course Wrap-Up||Continue working on Study Guide for Final|
|M 12/8||Review for Final Exam|
|W 12/10||Final Exam, Part 1|
||Return Part 1; Review for Part 2|
|W 12/17||Final Exam, Part 2 (Wednesday, December 17, 7:30 p.m., in our room) BRING A BLUEBOOK!|
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