PHIL 3600 -- Philosophy of Religion
Prof. Chris Heathwood
University of Colorado Boulder
(20% of your grade for the class)
due Thursday, April 27 in class
Read this first: Philosophy Paper FAQ.Instructions: Write a 1,000-2,000 word (roughly 3-6 page) paper in which you defend, by means of rational argument, a thesis of your choosing on one of the topics from our class. Here are the general topics, with a specific sample topic under each one, in the form of a question:
- The Nature of God
- Is Anselm's argument that God must be self-existent sound?
- What is the best solution to the problem of divine sin? Or is it fatal to the traditional conception of God?
- The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge
- Plantinga's solution holds that we can have power over the hard past. Is this plausible?
- Problem of Evil
- One solution holds that evil is a necessary counterpart to good. Is this a plausible solution?
- Pascal's Wager
- Is William James' objection to Pascal's Wager a good one?
- The Ontological Argument
- Does Gaunilo's Lost Isle objection show that Anselm's ontological argument fails?
- the Fine-Tuning Argument
- Is the "many universes" reply to the fine-tuning argument a successful one?
- the "No Evidence" Argument
- Is Hawthorn's defense of the a priori knowability of God's existence plausible?
- the Argument from Divine Silence.
- Is this a good argument?
Formulate your own thesis on one of these topics and come up with your own reason or reasons for thinking that it is true.
Whatever topic you choose, please put the name of the general topic in the upper right corner of the first page of your paper.
Below I have laid out some sample paper outlines, to help you see all the elements that your paper should contain. Even if you don't plan to write on any of these topics, looking at their structure will help you on your topic.
- Pascal's Wager and William James' Objection. Is William James' objection to Pascal's Wager a good one? In "The Logic of Pascal's Wager," Ian Hacking writes, "many of us will share William James's suspicion that a person who becomes a believer for the reasons urged by Pascal is not going to get the pay-offs he hopes for" (189). Write a paper in which you
(i) explain what you take to be the strongest version of Pascal's Wager for the conclusion that one ought to believe in God;
(ii) clearly and thoroughly explain what you take William James' objection to be (you may hunt down, look at, and draw from James' original discussion if you like, though that is not required);
(iii) evaluate the objection. Does it succeed? If you think it does, present a reply that Pascal might give and then explain why you don't think that reply ultimately succeeds. If you think it doesn't succeed, explain why.
- Anselm's Ontological Argument, Gaunilo's Objection, and Plantinga's Reply. Is Gaunilo's objection to Anselm's ontological argument successful? Write a paper in which you
(i) explain Anselm's ontological argument;
(ii) explain Gaunilo's objection to Anselm's argument
(iii) explain Plantinga's reply on behalf of Anselm to Gaunilo's objection;
(iv) evaluate Plantinga's reply. Does it succeed in showing that Gaunilo's parody argument is relevantly disanalogous to Anselm's argument? Why or why not? Has Plantinga shown that no parody arguments are likely to succeed against Anselm?
- The Fine-Tuning Argument. Is the Fine-Tuning Argument open to a decisive objection? Write a paper in which you
(i) explain the Fine-Tuning argument for God's existence;
(ii) explain what you take to be the strongest objection to the Fine-Tuning Argument;
(iii) evaluate this objection. Does it succeed? If you think it does, present a reply that a proponent of the Fine-Tuning Argument might give and then explain why you don't think that reply ultimately succeeds. If you think the objection doesn't succeed, explain why.
- The "No Evidence" Argument. Is Hawthorn's defense of the a priori knowability of God's existence plausible?
(i) explain the "No Evidence" Argument for the claim that there is no reason to believe in God;
(ii) explain Hawthorn's objection to the premise that God's existence is not knowable a priori (this will require explaining his accounts of self-evidence and faith);
(iii) evaluate Hawthorn's attempt to show that God's existence might be knowable a priori. Is it plausible? If you think it is, present a rebuttal that an atheist might give and then explain why you don't think that that rebuttal ultimately succeeds. If you think Hawthorn's view is not plausible, explain why.
And then read this again: Philosophy Paper FAQ.