Summaries of classes - Philosophy 245

Please note that these are summaries, not 'the notes' for the class. These have been prepared by students in the class, and I have posted them here, unchanged, as a ready reference for those who could use a quick idea of what topic(s) have been discussed. But there is no guarantee of accuracy (or even proper spelling)! Caveat lector!

Sept. 5 - David Hearn

Philosophy is the study/love of wisdom.
Philia = love that leads you to act
Sophia = wisdom

Wisdom is – understanding

Philosophy should affect you and lead you to try and get you insight and understanding  of the “Good life”, logic, and science
Good life = Ethics, aesthetics. What you ought to do
Logic = persuasion through good reasoning backed up by evidence
Science = an explanation of why/how the Earth is the way it is. Metaphysics goes beyond where physics can go and tries to answer questions such as “Why is there anything at all?”

Philosophers are interested in the fundamentals of society and the basic features of existence.
-    Does every event have a cause? Ex) dents in a car, choice by “free will”

Human beings need to know things  Epistemology

Methods: How to prove/ answer questions.
Ex) Is there a God?
First, define what you mean by God.
-    God is the creator of the universe.
Next, speculate
-    What ca I find?
-    Try and get an answer
Ask others who have studied the topic before
-    Follow up on the authors who seem to be headed in the right direction
Be critical of
-    Analysis of concepts
-    Arguments (proof people offer to defend their arguments)
-    Assumptions

Toolbox of a Philosopher.
What tools are inside? You already have them but do not necessarily know how to use them yet. They are something everybody has. NOT a religious experience.
-    Reasoning
-    Ability to see reality. Must be publicly observable/experiencable. Not private knowledge
Cannot depend on religion, political, or scientific ideologies because not everyone has them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 -- Michael Abernethy

What is Religion?
Remembering that Speculative philosophy is the love of wisdom and the pursuit of it by means of questions WITHOUT SUPPOSITION (although personal bias may be hard to avoid in some cases), we must ask questions like:
-        Does God exist?
-        Why do people pray?
As speculative philosophers, we cannot simply comply and agree with what our religions dictate to us. We must ask these questions, and use what tools we have, namely 1. Reason and 2. Reality.
Thus, to understand whether or not what is taught is true, we must ask the question: What is Religion?
-        And when we ask What is Religion, we do not ask “What does it mean”, but rather what it ACTUALLY IS in essence.
There are many definitions for religion:
A. Oxford Dictionary: 1. One of the prevalent systems of worship.
-        A set of practices (prayers) and rituals.
                        [one must ask “who deserves worship”]
-        Including the institutions (systems of dogma) associated with it.
-        Containing doctrines and dogmas (what you “ought” and “ought not” to do)
2.      The human recognition of superhuman controlling power and especially of a personal God entitled to obedience.
-        Providential/watching over humanity and the universe.
B. Faith, religious convictions, belief.
This definition leads the speculative philosopher to ask whether faith is rational, or irrational? Believing in something that you can not really explain or pinpoint?
You have faith in your friends and family, but is the faith in God the same as the faith in your friends?
The existence of your friends is not necessarily in question with your faith in them, but rather you have faith that they will be there for you.
In the same way, one has faith that God will be there for them. However we are not sure whether God exists or not, and it may very well be that the only authority to tell us otherwise 100% CERTAINLY, would be the very authority in question. But I'm not an authority on that subject anyway.
C.     Purports to explain:
-        Why there is anything at all. (the Big Bang)
-        What is valuable (a standard; system of values; a set of moral rules like the Ten Commandments)
-        “Locates” us in the universe; explains why we exist. (answering the questions to the “meaning of life”)
D.    Gives a feeling of peace and security.
But perhaps people only become peaceful once they follow the standards set in by the religion. And if this is the case, perhaps they are worrying about an eternal punishment, and never really at peace at all.
The concept of religion, then, is very broad: from personal to communal beliefs/rituals.
                                                Thus to say that religion is absolutely TRUE is to say a lot!
Is any essential definition possible? Even if there was one, just because something has a defined function does not mean it will be used that way.
                        Wittgenstein said (roughly): “You can't give an essential definition to most things.”
But in looking at the definition of a “game”:                           And a religion:
1.      Activity producing enjoyment.                        1. Has some concept of the sacred and an object of devotion.
2.      One or more people.                                        2. A system of thought and action shared by a group
3.      Sometimes has rules.                                       3. Involves some kind of ultimate concern or  commitment which gives a frame of obligation*.
*Religion thus involves some kind of obligation or commitment, and often people do things because they feel they have to rather than wanting to.
While we may not arrive at an essential definition, we can pinpoint some characteristics:
-        Things are sacred
-        it is shared by a group

Sept 10, 2014 -Zack Boulter

Philosophy of religion examines the content and methodology of religious questions  

Content: is there a God? Are we capable of knowing if God exists? If so, what are God’s traits? Is God perfectly just? Could God have traits that lead to contradictions? For example, would God be capable of creating an object so that he is incapable of lifting it? Could God be multiple beings in one single being? Should God be bound by the ethical responsibilities of humans? If so, are His/Her actions ethical?   


Methodology: the critical analyses of authors with ideas pertinent to questions regarding the nature of God and religion. The critical analyses of arguments and concepts for, and opposed, to the existence of God. Trying to find answers to speculative questions concerning the nature of God and religion

Religions deal with content. For example, the existence of Jesus. Religions also deal with giving value judgment to said content. For example, how does the existence of Jesus effect the individual and humanity as a whole.     

Is reason compatible with faith?

According to Fideism, reason is not compatible with faith. According to a Fidesit God is so overwhelmingly complex that the human mind is unable to comprehend Him/Her. As such, reason cannot be used to prove the existence of God. In place of reason, Fideism advocates faith as the only possible way to ascertain the existence of God.   

One famous Fideist is Karl Barth. Barth was fond of quoting the biblical passage “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” this passage typifies Fidest though

Another famous Fidist is Tertullian. Tertullian acknowledged the absurdity of the belief that God could be killed, buried, and then resurrected, but claimed that the absurdity of the notion is in fact evidence of its factuality. He believed because it is impossible/absurd.


Sept 12

September 16, 2014 - Caitlin Thomas

Psychoanalyst: (Freud)

True religious belief is tough, but if it is meaningless then why would intelligent, well-educated people become religious?

            -seems extreme to say it’s meaningless, therefore it must not be entirely meaningless or irrational

What does religion mean? Maybe not what we think – religion and beliefs are disguised

e.g. Thor – god of lightening and thunder

-see a being of great strength – an important virtue for warriors – Norse culture/tradition is very warlike.

IDEAL of Strength – Thor (very important) / we deify/reify it to emphasize importance to our tradition.


e.g. Church of St. Sofia / was there a St. Sofia?

Story of Sofia – used to be a Greek church, then a mosque, now a museum.

            Wisdom is important: God is wise (divine attribute?)

Sofia – had 3 children: Faith, Hope and Love

-family refused to worship false gods, therefore King took Faith and tortured her (limbs cut off, milk instead of blood, did not die)

-Hope put into a furnace, emerged untouched then killed. Love/charity is also tortured and killed

Story of Sofia: perhaps an allegory à persistence despite persecution, you should have faith/love/hope despite trials.


Stories: are they literally true or are they disguised? (contain an important message – get the point without literal truth).

e.g Romulus – (Remus) twin founders of city state of Rome – threatened and raised up to be a god

            -was a great hero (its as if he was a god…) : Elevated Person --> god.


Psychologists say looking at the origin of some religious traditions (Roman, Norse, etc.) there is something important going on à they represent values and virtues that were important to a society.  Standards: which are necessary for a society.  What better way to preserve them? Make them divine – better way to get people to follow them.

            -Who knows what will happen in the future – the Gods, so put your hope and trust/faith in them

            -gives us a way of managing this mystery of life


Therefore: it is reasonable to believe in the gods – you need standards that are higher than self.

 But not needed now that we’ve grown up (put aside childish things)

 At one time it was useful and sensible but we’ve grown up “sometimes its really difficult to let go of things”

“The sun rose” a way people think about things – not literally true.  A way of thinking – comfortable.

            -‘hangovers’ not al together harmful, doesn’t matter if its not true. 

            -Religious illusions (some) are relatively harmless but ultimately religions are an illusion we need to get rid of.


Reason tells us that sometimes we have to say things that are false because sometimes they have value – e.g. Santa – brings gifts to good boys and girls

Reason tells us certain things don’t need to be true – also tells us that it can be important for our values. 

Religion can be useful, but its not true….and at this point in our lives, not important to believe. 


Philosophical Theist (Aquinas)

            -Faith and Reason are compatible.

not only reasonable to believe, but also it can tell us truths. 



September 17th 2014 Brennan Neve


4th position on Faith / Reason

The Philosophical Theist

- Faith and Reason are compatible, it is reasonable to believe and faith can tell us truths.

Some things surpass our ability to prove with reason so we rely on faith to uncover truths on these matters.

Romans:1:20 : "When one considers the works of God in the world, his eternal power and divinity are manifest"

- simply by looking at the complex, intricate world you can prove God's existence

Leo XII: "In the first place, then.. Human reason... demonstrates that God is; for by the greatness of the beauty and of the creature the

Creator of them may be known thereby."

Pius XII: "The human intellect approaches that demonstration of the existence of God.. which are already known to you in the presentation of the

"five ways" which... St.Thomas Aquinas offers as a speedy and safe road to lead the mind to God."

- Thomas Aquinas would say that there is no contradiction between faith and reason.

In the Summa Contra Gentiles (The Book on the Truth of the Catholic Faith)

- Aquinas tries to prove as much about faith in God as he can by reason. He uses philosophical reason to support his claims, including

quoting The Philosopher(Aristotle). Because he is able to prove the importance of faith using reason, Aquinas thinks that if you are agnostic or

theist, that simply means that you are unreasonable.

- Not every truth is made to be known in the same way (You can't use the rules of one game in another different game). You need the right kinds of


- Not all intellects are capable of the same degree of knowledge (one person can prove the theory of relativity, another can explain God).

Aquinas says that we are hindered from knowledge for various reasons. Some people are just not able to grasp certain concepts (the subtleties of

philosophy,super symmetry); other people are simply lazy or too occupied with other matters. It can take a lot of practice before you can grasp

difficult philosophical answers. Often things can be proven even if everyone cannot see the proof.


- Some things can be proven by reason while other things are beyond reason (transubstantiation, the holy trinity). These things that are beyond

reason, are not necessarily false because reason is not stating them as false, but rather is incapable of proving them. Our finite minds cannot

grasp the infinite nature of God.

- Faith can give you answers without having to fully comprehend them. If we left understanding to reason alone a lot of people wouldn't understand

things.. Faith deals with things that are beyond our understanding.

- We are tempted to think that we know everything, faith humbles us.

Ultimately Reason can know some things about God but human intellect has limits and that is where faith comes into the picture. Is it possible for

reason to prove something that disagrees with faith?


When was the Earth created?

- Bishop Usher says On October 23rd at 9am, 4004 B.C.E...

- Stephen Hawking says 4.6 billion years ago...

It would be a contradiction for these both to be true at the same time. Is chronologically tracking the history of the bible really a religious

belief? Maybe this kind of issue is for scientific study and not important for religious believers.

September 19, 2014-Keegan Stephenson

 - The fact that one person can’t prove something does not make it false. The proof of God doesn’t rely on previous faith. Faith and reason can’t conflict; it’s impossible according to Aquinas (page 13 in coursepack).

- Aquinas would say the way we know things is through God; he/she is the author of our intellect. God gives our natural abilities according to Aquinas, so we ought to know what is true. If we know something by good reason and something by faith and they contradict, this is conflicting knowledge and hinders us from the truth. ------Bishop Usher has a historical question of when the world was created, which for Aquinas, is not a religious view but a scientific. Bishops assessment of this question was a chronological viewpoint before modern earth sciences. Aquinas would say this isn’t a conflict between faith and reason, but two different viewpoints stemming from reason.

- Reason will bring us to the answers and if your faith or reason differs, then go back and check your faith or reason again. Either reason or faith has led you to incorrectly arrive at a proof. Both conflicting views can’t be true.

-Scripture statements are cognitive and these statements are not attitudes or feelings. God’s existence doesn’t depend on ones belief; he is a fact. Religious belief is a matter of the intellect, thus can’t conflict with faith. If something is a fact, Aquinas would say there must be a proof.

- Pascal’s prayer was not for public consumption, but was a private writing. He describes a God who is interested in us which in turn makes us care about God. He is more than just a creator in this aspect. God is a person like us. Religion for Pascal is concerned about an actual relationship with God. A believer does not want to be separated from this relationship with God.

-God doesn’t change, and this makes it hard for a philosopher to prove that God is providential.

September 23rd, 2014  - 
Alborz Saffari

Divine attributes of God

Transcendent, merciful, compassionate, good, omniscient, unchangeable

Infinite vs. Eternal

The idea of an eternal God would suggest that God is a function of time.  It is hard to say what time is and whether time is a function of creation or when time started, if time/ the universe is not infinite.  If time and the universe is finite than infinite would be a better term to describe God, as God must exist infinitely, but not eternally in order to bring everything that exists into creation.  This means that anything that has been created cannot therefore be God.  In the Bible God is described as the “Alpha and the Omega”, meaning the first and the last.  God has existed infinitely and everything that was created can be traced back to the first mover, God.


Is God really omnipotent? There are things that God cannot do such as sin, which would make human beings more omnipotent than God?  If humans have complete free will, the humans are a creation of God that is more omnipotent than God.

Is Gods goodness and knowing like ours?


It is hard for religion and concepts such as God to be univocal or unambiguous, as it requires a lot of contemplation to even attempt to understand the nature and/or the essence of God.


God’s nature/essence is more likely to be equivocal as it is open to interpretation and requires a high level of contemplation.


God’s goodness and knowing can be analogical as well as God is such a supreme being that it is hard for human beings to understand God and must therefore use analogies to try to explain the complex nature of God, which transcends human understanding.

September 24, 2014
  -  Adam McNamara
P.T. Geach on Omnipotence - Covers and adds material to Aquinas' theory of Omnipotence
Aquinas says that God is not omnipotent, he claims this as to allow objections to his claim, and then he can refute those objections.
God cannot sin, or deny himself, thus he cannot be omnipotent.
Aquinas: If omnipotence means all that you can do, then it is a viscous circle.
Walking to the Moon- Is causally possible, and is logically possible if it does not imply contradiction.
"Dog person" -You could imagine such a thing in a long time. 2 natures in one living thing
Jesus- Had two natures in one person.
GOD can do anything logically possible, and causally impossible and possible. However for God to do something logically impossible is not feasible.
Square circle - God can make the words, but cannot make it true to the form.
Sinning is logically possible, It is not a limitation of God's power to sin.
*When you act; humans can error, but God cannot; to sin is to fall short of a certain action, and God does not fall short... God does not sin.
"Counter Factual"
|If X then Y.  ---------->|Statements with a false proposition, and a false conclusion.
|True in its own reality
If a man is a donkey, he has four feet. He is not a donkey; therefore he has two feet.
If God wills it, he could do it; But it is not in God's will to do such a thing.
Descartes- God could change the law's of addition and could create a world where 7+5=13
                God is more omnipotent then Aquinas thinks.
Geach - If we are interested in what God can and cannot do, then the true meaning of omnipotence tricks us.
            The problem with omnipotence is that it forces us to think of 'impossible things'.
             Power             |       Having the power to
                                           do anything.
Geach - Almighty deals with having power over something.
            There are good philosophical reasons for using 'Almighty' instead of Omnipotent 

Sept 26, 2014 -- Kyle Tully

Page 17 – The Consolation of Philosophy
“Boethius cannot reconcile God’s foreknowledge with man’s free will.
-If God knows what we are going to do before we do it, do we really have free will? If we don’t have free will, can we be punished for what we do wrong?.. This leads us to wonder if God’s knowledge conflicts with free will.
-We must have a clear idea of what God is to find out if He exists. We can’t be sure if He exists if we don’t know anything about Him.

-Peter Geach on why he doesn’t like to use the word “omnipotent” in describing God..
4 theories of omnipotence:
1. God can do anything (including things that are self-contradictory) – the theory of “absolute omnipotence”.. (Descartes shares this view).
-God could create another world where 1+1=3
-If God could change anything at any time, everybody would be confused about current ethics, rules, laws, etc.
2. God can do anything that is logically possible (a version of Aquinas’ view).
-God couldn’t make a square circle because it isn’t logically possible.
-We (humans) can create something that we can’t destroy, but if God is omnipotent, he can destroy everything he creates, therefore it is not logically possible for him to build something he can destroy.
3. God can do anything that is possible for God to do.
- God can do some things at one time that he can’t do at another time.
Aquinas’ example:
-It is true that at “time 1”, God can arrange events so that someone doesn’t lose their virginity, but if something happens that changes his planning of events and that person loses their virginity, God is unable to undo that.
4. God can do anything that is possible for God to do in the future.
-God has the power to break his promises, but his power is controlled by his wisdom and goodness, so he wouldn’t break his promises.

According to Christianity:
-God can be a body of something of the sort
-God can be tired or oblivious
-God can be angry or sorrowful
-God can suffer violence or be overcome
-God can undergo corruption

How can you have these properties if you are omnipotent?

September 30th  --  Evan Sobey

-We discuss omnipotence because we want to know about the nature of God
-Geach: Let’s see if omnipotence is a clear concept.
    -If we don’t know what it means, we cannot say it is true.
-How can we best state what we know about God?

(The following four options are responses to options discussed in class on September 26th)
->Option 1: Geach says this is implausible. If God could truly do anything, how could we really know      anything about God? We would have no idea what to expect from God.
->Option 2: This doesn’t make sense. It is logically possible for people to sin, but God cannot sin.
->Option 3: God cannot change the past. Once you’ve done something it cannot be undone. God can make it so that you never sin again; but he cannot make it so that you never sinned in the first place.
->Option 4: This option would not work. i.e. it is not logically possible for God to break promises.

-Omnipotence X: ability to do things; can God make a stone God cannot lift? If so then he is limited.
-Almighty Y: Refers to having power over something or all things.
    -“Almighty” is a quality one can possess.
-Almighty is a better way of describing God’s power.

-How is it possible for God to…
    -be abody
    -be tired or oblivious
    -be angry or sorrowful
    -suffer violence or be overcome
    -undergo corruption.
-…no? Christians say it is possible.

-If Sweet were PM, he could live at 24 Sussex Drive.
Sweet as PM comes with benefits

-Does God as God have a body?
    -If God had a human nature.
-According to Christians, Jesus has a human nature and divine nature.
    -Jesus as a human can die, but the “divine” Jesus cannot die.
    -“Divine” Jesus has always existed, but human Jesus only came to be about 2000 years ago.

    If God is omniscient, the He knows/understands everything past/present/future.
-Are there things God cannot know?
-Can God learn/come to know things?

-Is God’s knowledge compatible with human freedom?
-If God knows everything, then he must know what will happen in the future.
    -i.e. He knew the day I was born whether or not I would be saved.
-Now, if God knows this, then it must be true.
    -So, it was already true, from the day I was born, either that I would be saved or that I wouldn’t.

-But what must, of necessity, be true, I cannot and there is no use in trying.
    -Now suppose that God knew that I would not be saved. Therefore, it has been true since the say I was born that I wouldn’t be saved. So, no matter what I do, I am damned.
-The possible conclusion we can always draw is that God knows everything then human freedom of will cannot truly exist.
-This is known as pre-destination.

October 1, 2014  -- Caitlin Thomas


Paradox: a puzzle: two different beliefs that don’t seem to go together but actually have solutions. 
    -Omniscience: the paradox of divine foreknowledge and humans free will. 

Present            vs.             Freedom

    -God foresees every motive, thought, etc.  if foreknowledge is otherwise than God never really knew about it before. 
If I am free, is this compatible with God’s foreknowledge?
    -By my actions, can I change what God knows?

*We have free acts, but God knows about them – God isn’t making them do it.
    -when you know your friends – you can predict the way they will act.  But Boethius says we can’t make God’s foreknowledge false – he knows so much more.
    -our predictions are just opinions, but God knows it, therefore it cant be wrong. 

Problems with Omniscience:
1. If God knows what we are going to do … then my actions aren’t really free, therefore, I should not be rewarded or punished. 
    -if there is foreknowledge, there is no freedom.

2. If God knows everything we do, and we have no choice to do otherwise, I’m not responsible for my choices – in fact, God is responsible for all evil – because he is causing it.
    e.g. car being pushed into an intersection – other cars fault.

Answer: Nature of Foreknowledge
    -The way Boethius (and us) knows is different than the way God knows. 
Foreknowledge exists but brings no necessity to the cause.
    -foreknowledge does not cause things, but they just know its going to pass.

E.g. Squeeky and Professor Sweet understand some of the same things (meal time, etc.). But Professor Sweet knows reasons and causes. 

Knowledge doesn’t have to do with the subject matter – has to do with the knower.
    -e.g. General Theory of Relativity – I can’t know it, doesn’t mean it can’t be known. 
    -what you know depends on who you are. 

How does God know?
    -how do I know things  in a linear manner – certain observations and then I generalize
    e.g. Modus Pones (Linear, sequentially, historically)

But: God doesn’t know things sequentially/historically – God looks upon it as a conceptual whole. 
    -he knows things all at once.
    -e.g. a mural – look at one part, then another, than another (really close)
        -stand back and look at whole picture (not a perfect analogy)

God doesn’t know things like we know things.  Not just me  everything.

Then how is that possible if God is in time?

Difference between eternity and everlasting:
    Eternity: not seeing things historically, God sees everything as if they are happening right now – sees in the present.  Therefore, there is no foreknowledge because God is outside of time (sees a large picture).

*we are looking through the perspective of time.
    -We see things in our temporal presence.  God sees things in his eternal presence. 

Therefore, present knowledge is not in conflict with freedom. 
    -if you see someone doing it right now – it is necessary that they are doing it.  Not past or future – eternal presence. 

Necessity: in what sense are my actions necessary or not necessary?  who starts my actions?

Oct. 3, 2014 - David Hearn


NB: Midterm Oct. 22

-          Repeat someone’s position and explain view, give their reasons for that view. Evaluate position. (Omniciene, omnipotent, etc..) (Gietch can evaluate Aquinas)

-          Essay

-          Short answer. Ex) What is a logical empiricist view, what would they say

-          Definitions (maybe)


Divine Omniscience & Voluntary Action

Boethius’s problem

-          Lack of free will

-          God knows events I future therefore you can’t change your actions therefore you’re not responsible therefore God is responsible for good and evil


God is outside time. Eternal.

God sees everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen as if it is happening right now. “Only knows the present” – everything that will happen in future he sees as the present

We see things linearly

p. 188 “you fasten me … contemplator of the divine.” If God knows it  then I must do it. It’s a necessity


2 kinds of necessity

-          Categorical = Absolutely necessary. Ex) All human beings are mortal

-          Hypothetical = If I’m doing it, God knows I’m doing it. Ex) If I am walking, then I am walking.

p. 118 “All thing that God … come to pass”

God doesn’t know in advance that it is happening. Not making you do something, just knows.


Pike : Has Boetheus really given the strongest argument?

p. 185 “Boetheus was right … voluntary.”

“His suspicions … developed.”

Free Will                     vs.                 Free Action

Wish, want                                         often signs of free will

Dream                                                  ex) chained in jail =  no free action but still have free will, just can’t act

Write letters, etc                              on it


Boetheus’ Assumptions (p. 186-187)

1)      If ‘A knows X’ to be true, then ‘A believes X’ to be true, then ‘X’ is true

2)      God cannot in anything be mistaken


Did God create the best possible world?

Does God intervene in the word?

p. 187 “No temporal relations … natural world.”

- If there is no involvement, there’s no room for miracles. Unless you say God setup the world so that miracle would happen.

p. 188 God has always existed and always will exist

John Calvin: God can’t forgive until after the sin happens, therefore it must be some kind of temporal series. Could have planned for it but this implies foreknowledge


p. 189 : Jones mowing lawn example

- Link between Jones mowing and not having any other choice

8 Oct. 2014 -   Evan Sobey

        -Paradox between omniscience and human freedom
              -3 ways put forth to get out of the paradox (last class)
              -Pike claims that all 3 ways fail.

-Where do we get our information about the divine attributes (i.e. omniscience, immutability…)?

-How do we know about God?
        -Tradition (Church…)
        -Innate (Born with knowledge of God)
        -A religious experience (i.e. “talking with God”)
        -From texts   1. religious scripture
                          2. philosophical texts (theologies)

-Philosopher’s God and believers God, not a contradiction but definite difference in focus.

-Where does our knowledge of omnipotence come from?
        -tradition, innate, experience.

-A theology would use the word omnipotence whereas a scripture most likely would not.
        -Geach says omnipotence is not a good way to talk about God (he prefers almighty)

-Could all-knowing be a better way to talk about God than omniscience?

-“God is simple.” -> Aquinas

-Is God independent of the Universe or dependent on it?

-Student Question: Does God need to know the details or simply the outcomes?
        -Why would he need the details?

                -Providence: To be provident is to be “looking after things.”
                -In some religions, this gets confused with…
                        -Predestination: (40 spots left in Heaven) Set in your course.

-Being providential is what the believer wants.

-What are we looking for when we say that God is perfect?
        -Did God know everything from the Big Bang onward?

-It is the belief that we don’t need predestination to get providence.
        -God can be “pleasantly surprised.”

-Perfect: completeness, thoroughness. Perfection is a philosophical term.

-Theologians are influenced by their languages and cultures when writing about religion.
-Is culture relevant to God? Does he care?

-Greek philosophy influences christianity and Islam.

-Theory of the Forms: Reality as it appears to us, is different than reality as it is in itself.
                -“To be is to be perceived???” (…maybe?)

-Concepts and ideals
        -Though many ideals are unattainable, concepts are eternal. Even after this world is gone, 2 will always be 2, though it it is not an ideal.

-“My God is a perfect God, he does not change.”
        -Is this an ideal?

-Theologies in the Western tradition are very platonic (perfection oriented). Deep attempts to express perfection.

Oct. 14 - Michael Abernethy

Is God Immutable?


God is perfection in the metaphysical sense, a concept borrowed from the Greeks. According to Plato, perfection was found in ideas/forms.


If God changes, then He has imperfection: Either he is moving from a state of imperfection to perfection (implying He was imperfect to begin with), or he is moving from a state of perfection to imperfection (implying that He is getting worse).


-        But since God is described as perfect, He can have neither of these traits.


Aquinas gives 3 arguments for this stance:



1.      God is “pure act”. There is no potentiality in God, and thus cannot change into something else.


2.      Change or movement involves composition (getting older, movement of matter). Composition implies having parts: a part that remains the same, and a part that changes. But God is “simple”, and has no parts. Therefore God has no composition, and thus does not change.


3.      When something changes, it acquires something else it did not have before. But since God is infinite, he cannot have anything more added to Him.


It is in these ways that Aquinas argues that if God is not immutable, then He is not perfect.


Anselm questions whether or not God can be both compassionate and passionless.


-        God is described as an all-loving/caring God, but God also cannot suffer the feelings we feel.


Anselm answers that in terms of our experience, God is compassionate, but in terms of God Himself, He's not.


-        God can be compassionate by being the source of our consolation in times of need, while at the same time not suffering what we feel.

-        The “consoler” (cause) does not feel the effects of the consolation.


Ex: Being in a dark house away from the Sun (God) has no effect on the Sun, and is a result of your own decision rather than the Sun's. The Sun will be there regardless. Similarly, God will be there regardless of whether you are or not, and provides consolation if you need it.


This then provides another problem: is God dependant, or independent?


Hartshorne says that either God must love all beings, or religion is a fraud.


If God did not love us, but rather felt indifferent towards us, then why would he have created the universe? There must be an important reason why human beings were created. If God is all-loving, then He must have something to love.


Thus, can God be dependant on something? Can God be independent?


Well, a tyrant (one who sets all the rules) who does not care about those who follow the rules is not admirable.

-        But a tyrant who sets the rules and cares for those who follow them is admirable, and thus presents an ethical, impartial, neutral independence, one free of bias.

November 4 - Kyle Tully

The problem with evil:

-God is all powerful

-God is all knowing

-** God is perfectly good – This is the main problem because if God is perfectly good, He should have the ability to omit all evil.


David Hume: What do you see around you? There is good, and there is evil. What can we conclude from this? Maybe there is a cause, but we probably can’t conclude from this that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good God.


What is evil?

Mackie – There are two types of evil.

1) Moral (free will) – (example: terrorism, murder, dishonesty, genocide) – These are things that humans choose to do.

2) Natural – (example: natural disasters, sickness/disease) – Things that humans have no control over.

Much of this evil is arbitrary. It happens to both good and bad people.


Theodicy – Justification for evil (no contradiction between evil and God).

Defence – Can’t show the justification, but it is possible that there is justification (not obviously contradictory).

No Justification – There is a contradiction between evil and God.


Two views of evil:

1) Evil is an illusion/unreal/purely subjective. (Example: evil is just harmony misunderstood. There is actually no evil in the first place). There are no good or bad people/things. Something evil could have some kind of good consequences at some point.

2) “Good cannot exist without evil”

-This suggests that there is some limit to what an omnipotent being can do.


November 5 - Chris Moore

(to come)

November 12, 2014 - Marissa Prosper

The problem with evil


Evil is the privation, or absence, of good (Augustine, Aquinas).

1.      The existence of evil is a “good” thing.

2.      Evil is the absence of a good that naturally should be present. You need something in order to lack it. Example: being blind.

3.      Therefore, evil is real, but it can’t exist on it’s own.

4.      Evil is part of the nature of finite/limited beings.

5.      Moral evil=product of defect in will. God isn’t the cause of moral evil, and since it’s in the nature of contingent things to suffer from certain evils.


Evil is a defect.

We have the free will to choose, and sometimes we choose the bad (evil) over the good. Therefore, evil is not a by-product of God (moral evil).


What is evil? Privation, the opposite of good (painful, etc.)

All evil is a privation; all privation is an evil.

            The average person has 32 teeth, if someone has 30 teeth but their teeth are wider than normal, therefore there are no spaces – would this be a privation? Aquinas would say no because it causes no pain to the individual.


Therefore, not all privations are evil.

E.g. Starvation; lack of food is not a privation of something you naturally need.  


And not all evils are privations.


Knowing what evil is does not solve the problem.

Why would God allow evil? – He created finite limited beings.

Why would God create these types of beings?


Aquinas=evil is real, but it doesn’t exit on it’s own.

Evil people, evil events, evil actions, etc. – evil is more of an adjective than a noun.

However, you could say the same about good.


Evil is free will.



Is this trying to justify why there is evil?


It could be a defence, not a theodicy.

Defence= possible explanation.

This statement is a lot weaker; you don’t have to prove innocence, just that you had an alibi or that you didn’t do it.


The difference between a “free will theodicy” and “free will defence”

A.      Freedom requires the ability to act wrongly as well as rightly.

B.      It is better that human beings have the ability to act freely then if we were innocent automata, acting rightly in a wholly-determined way.

C.      Therefore, cause of evil is not God, but independent acts of human beings. Just like you cannot blame your computer for not working.


Wouldn’t it be better for humans to always do what’s right?

We have the power to resist temptation.


November 14 - Caitlin Thomas


The Problem of Evil


     Evil is due to free will




     -Is free will such an important thing? What about prayer? —> when we ask for intervention into our lives or into others? 


     -Free will is important in order to be held responsible for our actions (what we deserve or merit, free will has real value)

          -it is better to have free will then not, for its better than being robots.  


Are humans then ultimately responsible for evil? 


1. Is it true that all evil is due to human free will? 

     -> no, e.g. natural disasters, some disease, animal suffering

     -> this view answers the moral evil, but not natural evil.


Can God do evil? 

     Heaven and Hell (eternal suffering - which God would be the cause of the punishment)


2. Why couldn’t God have made human beings so that they always freely choose the good? 


     “Since I can freely choose the good at T1, then I can do it at T2.  Therefore, I can, in principle, do it all at T.  So it is logically possible that humans could always freely choose to do good…. "


     Nor is there any logical inconsistency in always freely choosing to do the good; God presumable does so (for, assuming that God has free will, and he doesn’t do evil). As well, do the good angels or others do evil?


Suppose that much evil is due to ignorance.  Therefore, choosing the good depends on what we know. 

     -but then, if we knew more, we would be more free and more frequently choose ‘the good’ Why couldn’t God have made us like this? e.g. Superman.  


Why is this the best we can be? 


3. How important/how good is free will? 

     - is it with all the suffering? 

     - soul - building? —> why so much evil though? 


Human souls —> product of God: 


     If I put someone in a bad position, aren’t I responsible for that person … ? 


e.g. Agent of the University


If God created us, then who is ultimately responsible? God. 


4.  This defence suggests that God is creating beings that he cannot control. 


     Like Frankenstein.  


God is responsible for our coming and our continuation in existence, so isn’t God responsible some how for evil? 


Ultimately: ’evil is due to human free will’ : this explanation cannot explain all evil … and holds God responsible for some of it.  


Theodicy or Defence?


Theodicy: a justification: ‘evil is justified by human free will’

Defence: ‘evil is possibly justified’ 

     -God could have his reasons/an explanation that goes beyond the ability to know. 

     -maybe there is a justification (though we don’t know it)

     -impossible to justify this question


There are a number of distinct problems of evil: 

     i) a logical contradiction in there being any evil at all. 

     ii) a logical contradiction in there being as much evil as there is. 

     iii) the moral incompatibility of God and evil.  

     iv) the moral (or even logical) incompatibility to a limited God.  


Final Comments/Replies: 

     Distinguish: is the existence of evil justified vs. could it be justified.  


     Logical incompatibility vs moral incompatibility (no morally sufficient reasoning for evil)


Does God have a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil? 


Fideists Response: can’t understand what God is like (story of Job -> 'Job, you can’t even begin to understand what I am like..’) (I don’t understand this, but I still believe in God … and so I believe there is an answer somewhere). 


Logical Empiricist: Hume: ‘lets take a look at facts - what do you see? … good and you see evil. What can you conclude? No reason for anything? Two forces at work?’ 

     Maybe an explanation, but no reason for believing all powerful, good God.  


Does not fit with reasonably believing in a perfectly good God.  


Philosophical Theist’s Response: if we put all the defences together (the soul building, the aesthetic, the ‘illusion’, the free will) - they may constitute a possible explanation of why God would permit so much evil.  


This does not ‘justify’ evil (i.e. no theodicy) BUT, a defence.  


Perhaps, even if the existence of evil does not make it obviously irrational that God exists….



     wants to know why people have belief in God and ultimately believes it is a psychological response to environment.  


Freud thought there was a neurological reason for why someone acts the way they do.  

     -he moved from neurology to psychology 

     - believes that Religion is a response to a problem

     - religious symptoms look a lot like neurosis

     -humans try to cope through unity

     -law is a really ineffective way of controlling people —> so we all police ourselves.  


Desires and social control —> neurotic behaviour, superstition, religion 


Neurosis and Religion: both attempts to deal with stress.  


Freud believes that psychology gives explanation.


November 18 - Evan Sobey

-Neurology -> neurotic behaviour

-How do neuroses come about?

-3 basic elements of our psychological aparatus:

     1. id : instinct (for pleasure)
     2. ego : the (realistic) sense of self that a person has
     3. superego : the socially desired internalization of parental control

-> thus the ego is disabled in its relations with reality
-> it's not so much that the neurotic is mistaken; neuroses are.

-If we can't bring the id, ego, and superego together, we develop neuroses

                  .                                  .                              .

-The future of illusion
     -Freud's first book

-Context: attempt to explain human social life/civilization 

-2 purposes of civilization
     1. Allows humans to conquer nature/natural environment 
     2. Allows us to conquer the social environment 

-Some people don't go along with civilization
     -social discord

-Why? Because sometimes civilization makes us do things we don't want to do.
     -why do we renounce our instinct for pleasure (id) and go to Monday morning 8:15am classes?   ---------> COERCION  

-We are lazy/unintelligent beings; we are forced into motivation/intelligence by society,

-We must give up our instinctual search for pleasure or society would not progress

-How do we deal with this conflict?

     - Give up all benefits of society and resort to an instinctual lifestyle (survival of the fittest etc...)  
-There are three ways of addressing these wishes (for pleasure - id, ego, super ego) :

     1. Dreams
          -attempts at surrogate wish fulfillment
          -dreams are full of symbols
          -fair amount of eroticism
          -since I don't succumb to my desires (for pleasure) in real life, I find my release in my dreams

     2.Culture and Cultural Achievement 
          -denying direct gratification/sublimation
          -deal with frustrations by throwing oneself into culture (work, art, writing, music)

     3. Religion (product of wish fulfillment)
          -provides explanations
          -can give people purpose
          -makes life more 'secure' (moral codes - 10 commandments)
          -thus, "God" explains fate, "terrors of nature"....He becomes an explanatory hypothesis. He becomes a moral guardian; he compensates for the evils of civilization ( and God becomes a 'representation' of civilization)


-Religion perpetuates infantile behaviour patterns
     -relationship between God and followers = child - parent-esque relationship

-Reflects a refusal to distinguish between what reality is and what we want it to be

-Freud does not believe that religious ideas are inherently bad; He claims that it is important to know about religion

-Freud would say religious ideas are

     1. Descriptive and meaningful; they are a response to the world and have significance for believers.
          -tells your "history"
          -tells you things that you can't discover for yourself

----> Our lives are based off of having faith (Will this floor hold? ... Does anyone love me?)

     2. Valuable
          -religious beliefs have contributed to our culture/civilization in the 'internalization' of moral principle.

     3. Not an error
          -they are not the product of thinking so they are not necessarily false

----> They are illusions; they are based off of wishes

-what evidence do we have that would confirm Freud's theory?
-what assumptions does Freud make?
-has Freud given us sufficient evidence?

Nov. 19 - Brennan Neve

In the past religion was used to explain natural phenomenon.  It has often provided the roots for civilizations (e.g.laws, cultures).  According to Sigmund Freud we don't need
religion anymore because we have better societal and natural explanations.
- Civilization is a frustration, its good but we don't always like it we only choose to be part of it because we know its better for the greater good.
Freud thinks there is a close relationship between neurotic and religious behaviour.
    1. Infantile behaviour.  We want a God who acts like a parent telling us what we can and cannot do, A God who will smite us down if we do something wrong or who will alwayslove us no matter how tough things get (like a mother). 
    2. Tendency to repression, an innappropriate response to reality.  Like a child sucking his/her thumb seeking a substitute for breastfeeding.  We repress things that we
can't have by performing rituals or keeping to moral codes.  There is a lot of obssessive behaviour in religion (e.g. washing hands and feet before entering a temple).
    3. Problems with self-image: Some people don't use their "id" and need religion to guide them.  Religion tells us that we are the imperfect who must praise the higher
power.  Religion says you can't follow your "id".
    4. Freud says religion is a non-functional way of dealing with repression.  It may have been in a primitive society but it now only presents problems. 
Just like childhood neuroses like fear of the dark we grow out of these habits or we ought to.  Freud does believe that some things are lost without religion but ultimately we are
better off because we deal with our own problems, we use our "id".

What evidence do we have that would confirm Freud's theory?
- He is providing a naturalistic explanation that everyone can understand no matter their background. 
Society often gives us religion, the dominant religion that surrounds us.  So is religion just a culmination of our culture? Often people say they get religious experiences when
they are under threat, or they are converted when they are under threat (e.g. death of a loved one, war).  "There are no atheists in a foxhole".   Freud would just say this is an
easy response to these worries, or that they are hallucinating.  Just as when someone is fasting or participating in a sweat lodge ritual and their bodies are dehydrated or
mal-nourished they may hallucinate. 
- Freud is offering both a psychological and sociological account of religion
BUT these are two separate issues: religion in a culture and religion in the individual.  While one can speak of certain impulses and memories being repressed in an individuals
over their lifetimes, how can one speak of it being repressed over a "culture's lifetime".  To explain why belieft exists in a culture is one thing but why an individual believes
is quite another.  Culture is not just the culmination of individual beliefs and rituals, it is also law, ideals, stories. 
Does Freud provide an account of all theistic belief?
- different people come to religion in different ways, revelation, philosophy.  Is it an adequate account of everyone's religious belief?  Couldn't the psychological origins of
belief differ from person to person?  There are many strange examples of people converting to religion (Paul Claudel walked into Notre-Dame and was instantly converted).

If all neuroses are harmful (by definition), then a person who has theistic belief is less able to function effectively than s/he would have been without it.  There are many
functional believers, often people are nicer because of their religious beliefs.  If religion were true, wouldn't we expect different behaviour (e.g. putting aside worldly things)?

Nov. 21 - no notes assigned

On Paley's teleological argument

Nov. 25