Information on the course, on assignments and examinations, etc., will be periodically posted on the course web page: http://iago.stfx.ca/people/wsweet/phil24010.html
This course aims at providing the student with a philosophical basis for reasoned reflection on religion and religious belief. In the first term, discussion will focus on some traditional questions in the philosophy of religion. In the second term, an examination of a number of recent debates will allow us to apply--and perhaps refine--our answers to the questions raised in the first part of the course.
II. Can we know anything about God?
A. "the philosopher's God" and the believer's God
B. Aquinas and Geach on omnipotence
C. Boethius, Aquinas and Pike on omniscience
D. Aquinas, Anselm and Hartshorne on eternal and immutable being
E. Mascall on analogy and "goodness" [check the preceding link, or look for the reading on reserve]
[A useful essay on analogy can be obtained here.]
III. Arguments against monotheism
A. The problem of evil
against religion [readings linked to this page]
A. Feuerbach - God as a projection of the human mind
B. Freud - Religion as neurosis
C. Marx - Religion as 'opiate'
V. Arguments for God's existence
A. Aquinas on faith and reason
B. Paley and Hume - the teleological argument
C. Aquinas - the cosmological arguments
1. efficient causality
2. possible being
D. Anselm, Gaunilo [and Descartes] - the ontological argument
V. What is the relation between reason and faith?
A. Aquinas on faith and reason [review]
B. Pascal and 'the wager'
C. Clifford and evidentialism
D. William James and the 'will to believe'
E. Hendrik Hart and anti-foundationalism [reading on reserve]
F. Plantinga and "Reformed epistemology"
G. Kai Nielsen and the parity argument [reading on reserve]
H. Summary: Argument and proof in religion
VI. What is the function and purpose of religious language?
A. Flew, Hare and Mitchell: falsifiability and meaning
B. Hick and eschatological verification
C. D.Z. Phillips and Wittgensteinian fideism
D. Kai Nielsen and objections to Wittgensteinian fideism [reading on reserve]
E. Summary: A descriptive and performative view of religious language
VIII. Summary and Conclusion: What is religious belief?
What is it to have a religious belief? What does it mean to "believe in" God?
The class will have a 'lecture and discussion' format. The professor will introduce a topic with a summary of the relevant arguments or a commentary on a text. This will be followed by questions and discussion of the material by the class as a whole (e.g., points of clarification or criticism and of comparison; comments on the relations between or among different issues).
Students are expected to have prepared the readings before class, to attend all of the classes and to participate in discussion.
In conformity with University regulations, students who have more than 3 unjustified absences in a term may be reported to their Dean.
It is essential in learning how to do philosophy that students be prepared to ask and answer questions in class.
Supplementary readings (placed on reserve in the library - or
check for link)
Possible essay topics:
Method of evaluation: