Philosophy 240 (second term) - Philosophy of Religion
Professor: William Sweet
Office: 707 Nicholson Tower
Telephone: 867-2341 / E-mail: email@example.com
Office Hours: M 9.15-11.15; Tu 14.15-15; W 9.15-11; Th
10.15-11.15; and by arrangement
Information on the course, on assignments and examinations, etc., will
be periodically posted on the course web page: http://people.stfx.ca/wsweet/phil240.html
This course aims at providing the student with a philosophical basis for
reasoned reflection on religion and religious belief. In the second term,
we examine a number of modern and contemporary discussions in order to help
us answer such questions as “Do religion and science contradict?” “What is
the relation between reason and faith?” “What is the function and purpose
of religious language?” and “What is religious belief?”.
Course Outline (subject to minor modification):
I. Introduction: What is religious belief?
II. What is the relation between reason and faith?
Aquinas on faith and reason [review]
Pascal and 'the wager'
Whately, Clifford and evidentialism
William James and the 'will to believe'
J.H. Newman and ‘real assent’
Plantinga and ‘Reformed epistemology’ / Kai Nielsen and the parity argument
III. Do religion and science contradict?
IV. What is the function and purpose of religious language?
A. Flew, Hare and Mitchell: falsifiability and meaning
B. Hick and eschatological verification
C. Mascall and analogy
D. D.Z. Phillips, Kai Nielsen, and Wittgensteinian
V. Summary and Conclusion: What is religious belief?
is it to have a religious belief? What does it mean to "believe in" God?
Method of the course and the role of the student:
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 studying philosophy that students
be prepared to ask and answer questions in class.
St. Francis Xavier University values academic integrity.
All forms of academic dishonesty (including plagiarism) are unacceptable.
For the university policy on plagiarism, please visit http://www.stfx.ca/services/registrar/academic-integrity-document.pdf
Email and Office Policy:
I can respond to short messages through email, and I try to check
e-mail once a day. I am not, however, able to provide grades or answers about
course content by email. Students should make use of my office hours and
ask questions in class. Urgent requests (e.g., to meet) are best made by
telephone. If I am not in when you call, please call later or drop by.
Laptops and other technologies:
I assume that laptops and other technologies are being employed for the
purposes of note taking. If you need to surf the net, text, or engage in
other activities, please leave the classroom.
Textbooks (available at the University “Campus Store”):
• Coursepack for Philosophy 240
• Religion, Science, and Non-Science, by William
Sweet, Bangalore: Dharmaram Publishers, 2003.
Supplementary texts: (not required, but useful as reference works)
• Philosophy of Religion, 4th. ed., by John Hick,
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Publ.
• Responses to the Enlightenment: An Exchange on
Foundations, Faith, and Community, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012 [with Hendrik
• Religious Belief: The Contemporary Debate,
Bangalore: Dharmaram Publishers, 2003.
• Religion and the Challenges of Science, ed.
William Sweet, Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishers, 2007.
• God and Argument / Dieu et l’argumentation philosophique,
ed. William Sweet, Ottawa, ON: University of Ottawa Press, 1999.
Method of evaluation:
Attendance / class notes / quizzes on readings 10 %
Written assignment 40 %
Final examination 50 %