PHIL 3600 -- Philosophy of Religion
Spring 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.

Topic 1 - The Nature of God

Rowe, "Introduction" (2007)
Rowe, "The Idea of God" (2007)

Topic 2 - Problems Concerning Omnipotence

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.

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 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. Descartes thinks that God could make a circle not all of whose ________ are equal.
    5. Frankfurt's aim in this paper is to provide a solution to what puzzle, and a solution that does not depend on what idea?
    6. Suppose God creates a stone too heavy for him to lift. According to Frankfurt's solution, can God lift this stone?

Topic 3 - God and Morality

Mortimer, "Morality is Based on God's Commands" (excerpt from his Christian Ethics, 1950)

  1. According to Mortimer, when some action is right, it is right because ____________ .
  2. Which of these would Mortimer accept?
    1. that our conscience won't lead us astray
    2. that what is right for some people might not be right for other people
    3. that human beings are of infinite worth
    4. the individual exists for the good of society
  3. TRUE or FALSE: Mortimer thinks that when Christianity tolerated slavery, this was justified.

Plato, excerpt from Euthyphro (380 BC)

    1. Euthyphro claims to be an expert about __________.
    2. Who indicted Socrates for impiety?
    3. Socrates didn't want Euthyphro to give him examples of pious actions, but to explain to him what?
    4. For what purpose does Socrates want this explained to him?
    5. Euthyphro proposes the idea that what all the gods love is pious, and what they all hate is impious. What view of Mortimer's is similar to this?
    6. What question does Socrates put to Euthyphro in response to this proposal of his?
    7. TRUE or FALSE. In the end, Euthyphro provides an account of piety with which Socrates is satisfied.

Antony, "Good Minus God" (2011)

    1. Antony suspects that so many people dislike atheists because they think that rejecting God means rejecting what?
    2. As Antony sees it, why do nihilistic atheists deny that there are objective facts about what people morally ought or ought not to do?
    3. Who from the history of philosophy was a nihilistic atheist, according to Antony?
    4. Antony writes, "Things don't become morally valuable because God prefers them; God prefers them because they are morally valuable." What should this remind us of?
    5. Does Antony think that even theists should agree with her about this? Why?
    6. Antony identifies two things that the Divine Command Theory of ethics nicely explains. What are they?
    7. According to Antony, Divine Command Theory can succeed only if is can explain __________.
    8. What is the "Divine Independence Theory"?
    9. According to Antony, if the Divine Command Theory is true, then what kind of reason can we have and what kind of reason can we not have to obey God?
    10. Does Anthony think that our choices become more significant or less significant if atheism is true? Why?

Topic 4 - The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge

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" (1986)

Introductory Section and Section I

  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. According to Plantinga, the statement of the argument from God's foreknowledge to the denial of human freedom appeals to two intuitions. For each of these intuitions, state it in your own words. Put it in such a way that a friend of yours who studies no philosophy would understand what it is saying.
  5. Boethius' reply to the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge rests on the idea that God is outside of __________ .
  6. 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?

Section II-IV

  1. TRUE or FALSE: According to Plantinga, though we can't change the past, we can change the future.
  2. Ockham speaks of propositions that are "necessary per accidens." Plantinga speaks of propositions that are "accidentally necessary." What do they mean?
  3. 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).
  4. What is a "soft fact about the past"? Give an example.
  5. What is a "hard fact about the past"? Give an example.
  6. What is the importance, for Ockham, of the distinction between hard and soft facts about the past?
  7. Which premise of the freedom and foreknowledge argument that we formulated in class would Ockham deny?
  8. 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.
  9. TRUE or FALSE: If we hold that God is merely omniscient rather than essentially omniscient, Plantinga thinks that divine foreknowledge is less of a threat to human freedom.
  10. As Plantinga understands Ockham's way out, the foreknowledge argument fails because God's having known a certain proposition is sometime not a _____ fact about the past?
  11. Plantinga discusses an example involving a colony of carpenter ants. In a sentence, What is this example supposed to show?

Topic 5 - Pascal's Wager

Pascal, excerpt from Pensées (1669)

    1. TRUE or FALSE: Pascal thinks that, through reason, we are capable of knowing both what God is like and that he exists.
    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 believe in God. What does Pascal think you can do to get yourself to believe?
    6. What delights, according to Pascal, will you forgo if you decide to believe in God?

Hájek, "Pascal's Wager" (2012), §§1-3

    1. How many arguments for believing in God does Hájek think can be found in the Pensées?
    2. According to Hájek, what sort of reasons for believing in God does Pascal's wager attempt to provide?
    3. What does Hájek mean by the "utility" of the outcome of some action?
    4. What does Hájek mean when he says that the choice of believing in God "superdominates" the choice of not believing in God?
    5. Pascal sees that his first argument for believing in God may fail because if you choose to believe in God but God does not exist, then ________________ ?
    6. According to Hájek, what is Pascal's argument for the idea that the probability of God's existence is 1/2?

Hájek, "Pascal's Wager" (2012), rest

    1. According to Hájek, the guiding insight of Pascal's third argument is that the second argument will go through equally well no matter the likelihood of what provided what?
    2. If it's irrational to assign any particular probability to God's existence, which of Pascal's three arguments would be unaffected?
    3. How might one argue for the idea that the probability of God's existence is zero?
    4. Even if rationality or prudence requires wagering for God, what other norm might still require not doing this, according to Hájek?
    5. According to Hájek, Pascal's Wager rivals what argument for being the most famous argument in the philosophy of religion?


Topic 6 - The Ontological Argument

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" (2011)

    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?

Interlude - Religion without God?

Poe, "Colleges Should Teach Religion to Their Students" The Atlantic Monthly (March 7, 2014).

(no reading questions for this one; you're on your own)

Topic 7 - Design Arguments

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.

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. 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?

Topic 8 - Arguments for Atheism

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?

Topic 9 - Life After Death

Kagan, "Dualism vs. Physicalism" from his book Death (Yale University Press, 2012)

  1. What two questions does Kagan think we need to answer in order to answer the question, Is there life after death?
  2. What is the problem of personal identity?
  3. How does Kagan suggest that we interpret the question, "Is there life after death?"?
  4. What are you, according to the dualist view?
  5. What are you, according to the physicalist view?
  6. TRUE or FALSE: Kagan believes that if persons are souls, then this guarantees that we survive the deaths of our bodies.
  7. According to Kagan, when physicalists talk about minds, this is just a way of talking about what?
  8. TRUE or FALSE: According to Kagan, on physicalism, the mind just is the brain.
  9. According to Kagan, what is death on the dualist view?
  10. According to Kagan, what is death on the physicalist view

Kagan, "Arguments for the Existence of the Soul" from his book Death (Yale University Press, 2012)

pp. 24-49:

  1. TRUE or FALSE: Kagan denies that we can observe souls either with our five senses or with our inner sense
  2. What, according to Kagan, does the dualist need to do in order to show that souls exist?
  3. In saying why he doesn't think that we need to appeal to a soul in order to explain why a living body is animated whereas a corpse is not (despite their containing all the same parts), Kagan draws an analogy with a ____________ .
  4. Kagan refers to the example
  5. of Hal in order to suggests that mere physical objects could have what?
  6. Which of these arguments for the existence of the soul does Kagan think is the strongest?
    (a) the argument from animation
    (b) the argument from thought
    (c) the argument from emotion
    (d) the argument from consciousness.
  7. TRUE or FALSE: Kagan thinks that purely physical systems can be creative.
  8. Which premise or premises of the argument from free will does Kagan think can be reasonably called into question?
    (a) Premise (1)
    (b) Premise (2)
    (c) Premise (3)
    (d) Premises (1) and (2)
    (e) Premises (1) and (3)
    (f) Premises (2) and (3)
    (g) Premises (1), (2), and (3).
  9. According to Kagan, the standard view of quantum mechanics says that the fundamental laws of physics are what?
  10. What is compatibilism?
  11. TRUE or FALSE: Kagan rejects compatibilism.

pp. 49-56:

    1. Give three examples of unusual or putatively supernatural phenomena that someone might appeal to in arguing for the existence of souls.
    2. (a) In discussing the beginnings of a biological explanation of near-death experiences, Kagan claims that when the body is in stress, what two things happen?
      (b) And which two aspects of near-death experiences are these supposed to explain?
    3. Kagan says that if you want to know how people who perform séances manage to do the apparently amazing things they appear to do, the person to ask is a ____________ .
    4. Kagan writes, "So at best it's a tie [between dualist and physicalist explanations of the relevant phenomena], and therefore no compelling reason to accept the existence of a soul." Kagan seems to be saying that if it's a tie, this favors the physicalist. Why should that be?