PHIL 3600 -- Philosophy of Religion
Section 001
Spring 2017
Th/Th 5:00-6:15
VAC 1B88

Chris Heathwood
Office: HLMS 192
Hours: Fridays 9:30-12:00, and by appointment

Course Description
This is a course in analytic philosophy of religion in the Western tradition.  In this area of philosophy, 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.  There are far too many such questions worth studying to fit into one course.  We will confine our attention to just a few of them.

After laying out a traditional definition of God, our first main topic will be divine omnipotence.  We'll gain an appreciation for why the notion of omnipotence is problematic, and explore the solution offered centuries ago by the great medieval philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274).  Our second topic will be the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge, where we investigate whether God's omniscience implies that no one has free will.  Our focus will be on the kind of solution to the dilemma offered centuries ago by the late medieval philosopher William of Ockham (1287–1347) as it is developed by the leading contemporary philosopher of religion Alvin Plantinga.

Then we will move on to arguments for God's existence.  We'll begin with Pascal's wager, due to the pioneering French philosopher, scientist, and mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623–1662).  This argument attempts to show that we should believe in God because it is prudent to do so.  Then we'll study the most famous version of the ontological argument, due to the medieval theologian 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 called the fine-tuning argument.  According to this argument, certain remarkable facts about the laws of physics provide evidence that those laws were crafted or selected 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.  We will also learn about the best-known argument for atheism – the problem of evil – in a guest lecture, though this will happen earlier in the term.

Further Clarifications
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 the questions suggested above (Is the notion of omnipotence really incoherent?, Is divine foreknowledge really incompatible with human freedom?, Is there really evidence for God's existence in certain facts about the laws of physics?, etc.).

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 should have taken at least two courses in philosophy at the university level to take this course.  If you haven't, but you still think this course is appropriate for you, please talk to me about it.

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 mistaken.  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 plus side, in this class we get to discuss deeply and honestly some of the most important questions that we as humans face, questions concerning the nature and existence of God.

Course Website
The course website, which you should check regularly, can be found here:

There you will find:

No book is required!  The readings will be supplied via the course website.  Some of these will require a password, which I will give you in class.

Class Mates
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.

Course Requirements
1. Technology.  You must have an email account and regular access to the internet, and you must check your email address and the course website frequently.

Classrooms should be free from external intrusions.  Accordingly, I would like our classroom to be an internet-free and device-free zone.  To this end, text messaging during class is strictly prohibited.  First-time offenders will be asked to stop; repeat offenders will lose points.  When you get to class, please put your cell phone away.

Also to this end, 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.)  If you must use a laptop in class, please sit in the back row, since your screen is distracting to those sitting behind you.

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, and to give you an incentive never to miss class.  For each reading, there will be a set of Reading Questions posted on the website.  All of the questions on the pop quizzes will be taken from these reading questions.  Furthermore, though the quizzes are not "open-reading," they are open-note.  Thus, as you are doing each reading and taking notes on it, you should (a) write down each question in your notes and then (b) write the answer below it, which you can find by reading, studying, re-reading, and thinking about the reading.  Then bring these notes with you to class.  All of the answers to the pop-quiz questions will then be right before you as you take the quiz!  So, yes, there is no reason that you all shouldn't ace all of the reading quizzes.

Quizzes are not restricted to readings that were due on the day of the quiz.  They might cover readings that were due on earlier days.  So bring all of your past reading notes with you to class.

You are permitted to use notes only that you yourself created from doing the reading; using or copying a classmate's notes is cheating (see Academic Integrity section below).  However, it is perfectly ok, and in fact encouraged, for you to discuss – "as equals" – the readings and reading questions with classmates.

There might be a short homework assignment or two.  If there are, they will be lumped in with your quiz grades.

3. Two Papers (30%).  Two papers are required: a short, pre-structured paper, and a longer, more open-ended paper.  The shorter one will be due a third to halfway through the term, the other close to the end of the term.  Exact due dates will eventually be posted on the course schedule below.  For the shorter paper, I'll give you the topic and the structure for the paper.  For the second paper, you can come up with your own topic related to the course (but I'll supply a few paper prompts for those who would like it).  Late papers are penalized 1/3 of a letter grade per day late unless you have a legitimate, documented excuse.  I'll say more about the papers as their due dates approach; in the meantime, check out my Philosophy Paper FAQ.

4. Two Exams (50%).  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 hold a review/study session before each part of each exam.  You should 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 me know in advance, by email.

Your final grade for the course is determined according to the following scheme:

Reading Quizzes
20% 100 points
First Paper 10% 50 points
Midterm Exam 25% 125 points
Second Paper 20% 100 points
Final Exam 25% 125 points
100% 500 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, arrive on time, 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 I 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 a B or a B–.

Course Schedule (subject to adjustments)

Date Topic
[and links to slides/handouts]
Readings  (Reading Questions are here)
(due on date listed; likely to change as semester goes along)
Tu 1/17 Introductions, Roll, Syllabus  
  Th 1/19 The Nature of God Rowe, "Introduction" (2007)
Rowe, "The Idea of God" (2007), pp. 4-11
Tu 1/24 [Nature of God Slides]
Rowe, "The Idea of God" (2007), pp. 11-18
  Th 1/26 Omnipotence
The Cartesian Account
Aquinas, excerpt from Summa Theologica (1274)
Frankfurt, just footnote 3 from "The Logic of Omnipotence" (1964)
Tu 1/31 Questionnaire Results
The Thomistic Account
Mavrodes, "Some Puzzles Concerning Omnipotence" (1963)
Frankfurt, the rest of "The Logic of Omnipotence" (1964)
Th 2/2 Testing the Thomistic Account Clarke, from A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God (1705)
Re-Read Rowe, "The Idea of God" (2007), first six paragraphs of "Omnipotence and Perfect Goodness" section (pp. 6-9)
Tu 2/7
The Clarke/Rowe Amendment
[Omnipotence Slides]
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)

Th 2/9 Freedom and Foreknowledge
The Augustinian Formulation
Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out," pp. 237-239 (1/4 of the way down)
Edwards, from Freedom of the Will (1754), read just p. 52 (starting at §12)
Tu 2/14 The Edwardsian Formulation
DFF Principles and Argument
Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out," pp. 239-243 (1/4 of the way down) and §II (pp. 243-251)
  Th 2/16 Some Replies to Our DFF
First Paper Assignment
Re-Read Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out," p. 239 (1/4 of the way down) – p. 240 (1/2 way down) and §II (pp. 243-251)
Nozick, "Newcomb's Problem and Two Principles of Choice" (1969), §I

Tu 2/21 Ockham's Way Out
Begin working on Study Guide for Midterm Exam
Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out," §IV
OPTIONAL: Holt, "Thinking Inside the Boxes" (2002) and Bellos, "Newcomb's problem: which side won the Guardian's philosophy poll?" (2016) (see also)

Plantinga, "On Ockham's Way Out,"

Th 2/23 [Freedom and Foreknowledge Slides]
First Paper Due
Tu 2/28 Review/Study Session for Midterm Exam
Th 3/2 Midterm Exam, Part 1
Tu 3/7 Midterm Exam, Part 2  BRING A BLUEBOOK!
  Th 3/9 The Problem of Evil (Guest Lecture by Eden Lin)
[Problem of Evil slides]
Mackie, "Evil and Omnipotence" (1955).
Van Inwagen, "The Problem of Evil" (2004)
Tu 3/14 Pascal's Wager Pascal, excerpt from Pensées (1660)
OPTIONAL: "Does Religion Make You Happy?" (2014)
Th 3/16 Pascal's Wager Hacking, "The Logic of Pascal's Wager" (1972)
Tu 3/21 Pascal's Wager  
  Th 3/23 [Pascal slides]
Anselm, excerpt from the Proslogion (1077), with an introduction by editors Pojman and Rea
  M 3/27 - F 3/31:  S P R I N G   B R E A K
Tu 4/4 Ontological Argument re-read Anselm, excerpt from the Proslogion (1077)
Gaunilo, Anselm, Gaunilo's criticism and Anselm's rejoinder (1077)

Th 4/6 Ontological Argument Kant, excerpt from The Critique of Pure Reason (1789)
Tu 4/11 Ontological Argument
[Ontological slides]
Heathwood, "The Relevance of Kant's Objection to Anselm's Ontological Argument" (2011)
Th 4/13 Fine-Tuning Argument (guest lecture by Kris McDaniel)
[Fine-Tuning Handout]
Garcia, "Teleological and Design Arguments" (2010)
Tu 4/18 Fine-Tuning Argument
Arguments for Atheism
Second Paper Assignment
Hawthorn, "Arguments for Atheism" (1999), §1 (pp. 116-125)

Th 4/20 Arguments for Atheism
Hawthorn, §§2.1-2.3
Tu 4/25 Arguments for Atheism
[Arguments for Atheism Slides]
Hawthorn, the rest
  Th 4/27 Second Paper Due
Impromptu Paper Presentations
Tu 5/2 Review/Study Session for Final Exam

Th 5/4 Final Exam, Part 1  
Tu 5/9 Final Exam, Part 2 (7:30 p.m., in our room)  BRING A BLUEBOOK!

Accommodation for Disabilities
If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please show me your letter from Disability Services in a timely manner (for exam accommodations provide your letter at least one week prior to the exam) so that your needs can be addressed.  Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities.  Contact Disability Services at 303-492-8671 or  If you have a temporary medical condition or injury, see Temporary Injuries guidelines under the Quick Links at the Disability Services website and discuss your needs with me.

Religious Holidays
Campus policy regarding religious observances requires that faculty make every effort to deal reasonably and fairly with all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments, or required attendance.
  Please let me know well in advance about any such conflicts, and we'll work together to resolve them.  For more information, see the university’s policies on these matters.

Classroom Behavior
Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Those who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline. Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, color, culture, religion, creed, politics, veteran's status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and gender expression, age, disability, and nationalities. Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student's legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records.  For more information, see the policies on classroom behavior and the student code.

Sexual Misconduct, Discrimination, Harassment and/or Related Retaliation
We at CU Boulder are committed to maintaining a positive learning, working, and living environment.  We do not tolerate acts of sexual misconduct, discrimination, harassment, or related retaliation against or by any employee or student.  CU's Sexual Misconduct Policy prohibits sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, intimate partner abuse (dating or domestic violence), stalking or related retaliation.  CU Boulder's Discrimination and Harassment Policy prohibits discrimination, harassment, or related retaliation based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation or political philosophy.  Individuals who believe they have been subject to misconduct under either policy should contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) at 303-492-2127.  Information about the OIEC, the above referenced policies, and the campus resources available to assist individuals regarding sexual misconduct, discrimination, harassment, or related retaliation can be found at the OIEC website.

Academic Integrity
All students of the University of Colorado at Boulder are responsible for knowing and adhering to the academic integrity policy of this institution.  Violations of this policy may include cheating, plagiarism, aid of academic dishonesty, fabrication, lying, bribery, and threatening behavior. All incidents of academic misconduct shall be reported to the Honor Code Council (; 303-735-2273).  Students who are found to be in violation of the academic integrity policy will be subject to both academic sanctions from the faculty member and non-academic sanctions (including but not limited to university probation, suspension, or expulsion).  Other information on the Honor Code can be found at the Honor Code Office website.

Anyone caught violating CU's academic integrity policy (in any way) will automatically receive an F for this course, and may be subject to expulsion from the university.  I take cheating very seriously.