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Belief in the Existence of God

Phil. 280, Fall 2005  

Prof. K. DeRose

Belief in the Existence of God

Tu, Th 9:00-10:15, LC 102

  • There should be more discussion in our class; but the size of the class makes it difficult.  We will take two steps to partially remedy that situation, to take effect next week (the week of 9/12):
    • We will have several 50 minute discussion sections, led by TFs.  There should be several to choose from throughout the week.
    • My Tuesday and Thursday morning lectures will be structured roughly as follows:
      • 9:00-9:50: lecture, with questions loosely limited to those of clarification
      •  2 minute break, during which those who wish to may leave, without any guilt.  And if enough leave, those who wish to remain can move up to seats closer to the front for discussion.
      • 9:52-10:15: optional discussion period
    • Sections times, rooms: Updated 10/5/05.
      • Matt Benton
        Tu 10:30-11:20 AM,  493 College St., room 107
        Tu 12:30-1:20 PM,  493 College St., room 108
        W 11:30 AM-12:20 PM, WLH, room 003 <—note room changeOffice hour: Tuesdays, 4:00-5:00 pm, CT 405a, and by appointment.Don Smedley
        W 1:30-2:20 PM, Bingham Hall, room 014
        W 4:00-4:50 PM, LC, room 208Office hour: Wednesday, 3:00-4:00 pm, CT 102, and by appointment
    • Vallentyne and Kagan paper: JSTOR link.  (Not assigned reading; just extra reading for those very interested.)
    • scans (pdf files) of Metaphysics:
    • handout, 9/13: word.
    • handout, 9/15 (modified 9/20): word.
    • handout, 9/22: word.
    • blog discussion of van Inwagen: link.  (Not assigned; extra fun reading for the interested.)
    • Paper instructions, first topics: word (word doc.) <–Updated 10/31 and again (6th topic added) 11/1 and one last time (7th topic added ) on 11/2.
    • Midterm information, sample topic: link.
    • Rowe & Wolterstorff reading assignments are cancelled.   Our remaining schedule is as follows:
      • Tuesday, 11/29: Wykstra; start Plantinga
      • Thursday, 12/1: finish Plantinga; Alston; Final exam information & questions distributed
      • Monday, 12/12: Final exam, 2 PM, in LC 102 (our regular classroom)
    • handout, 11/29: word.
  • Final exam directions and questions: Link (word doc.).  This is updated from the paper version handed out in lecture in containing question #9 and in having updated directions relevant to question #9.

  • A review session is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 6, 3-5 PM, in LC 317.

Provisional Syllabus

Brief Course Description: An examination of the main philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God, and an inspection of the justification for belief in God“s existence in light of those arguments.

Expanded Course Description: A critical examination of the main arguments for the existence of God – ontological arguments, cosmological arguments, and also design arguments, including the currently important argument from the apparent “fine-tuning” of physical laws to allow for an interesting universe, capable of supporting life.  We will also critically examine the most important forms of the problem of evil, the arguments against the existence of God that they provide, and the most prominent defenses theists use to attempt to escape these arguments. The course will conclude with a critical look at provocative recent developments in religious epistemology, according to which belief in the existence of God can be perfectly rational in the absence of any good arguments or evidence supporting such a belief.
The course aims to familiarize students with these important philosophical developments, but also to critically engage them and arrive at a reasoned position on the important issues addressed.

Instructor’s Office hours: Tuesdays, 12:30-2:00; CT 410

Books: The following books are required and should be available at Labyrinth Books, 290 York Street:

metaphysics-2ed-cover   PoE-cov   Faith and Rationality-cm

Written Work:

  • Test, in class, probably on October 20
  • Course paper, due Nov. 17
  • Final Exam, December 12, 2 PM, room TBA

Written requirements will consist of an in-class test (probably on Oct. 20), a paper (6-10* pages, typed, double-spaced, due November 17 at the start of class), and a final examination (December 12, at 2 P.M.).  *Note change: On the original syllabus, this was 8-10 pages.
The Oct. 20 test will be on the material covered in lectures and the readings through the last class before the test. 18.  It will consist of essay questions about this material.  Students will have to answer either two or three questions in blue books provided.  The questions will not be distributed in advance.
The final exam will consist of essay questions.  A list of questions will be distributed on April 18, in class, and the questions that actually appear on the final will be taken from that list.  The final will be cumulative, covering the lectures and readings of the whole semester, but will emphasize the material covered after the Oct. 20 test.

Grading. Grades will be based roughly on the following formula, though adjustments will be made for insightful classroom and for marked improvement over the course of the semester: Test: 25%; Paper: 40%; Final Exam: 35%.

Tentative Topics, Readings and Schedule:

Introduction to Course: Sept. 1
B. Leftow, “God, Concepts of” Routledge Enc. of Phil.: html link.
A. Plantinga, “God, Arguments for the Routledge Enc. of Phil.: html link. Existence of”
M. Adams, “Evil, Problem of” Routledge Enc. of Phil.: html link.

Pascal’s Wager, Belief Voluntarism: Sept. 6, 13
Alan Hájek, “Pascal’s Wager” Stanford Enc. of Phil.: html link. short blurb on G. Kavka’s “Toxin Puzzle” second paradox described here (html link).

Ontological Argument: Sept. 15, 20
Plantinga, “Ontological Arguments” parts 2 (link) and 3 (link) of above
PvI, “Necessary Being: The Ont. Arg.” M, pp. 91-114

Cosmological Argument: Sept. 22
Plantinga, “Cosmological Arguments” part 1 above: link.
PvI, “Necessary Being: The Cos. Arg.” M, pp. 115-134

Design, Fine-Tuning Arguments: Sept. 27, 29, Oct. 4
Plantinga, “Teleological Arguments” parts 4 (link) and 5 (link) of above
PvI, “What Rational Beings Are There?” and M, pp. 139-165 “The Place of Rational Beings in the World: Design and Purpose”

Problem of Evil: Oct. 6
M. Adams, “Evil, Problem of” (again) Routledge Enc. of Phil.: html link.
N. Pike, “Hume on Evil” (first part) PE, pp. 38-45.1
K. DeRose, “Might God Have Reasons for word. Not Preventing Evils?”

Free Will Defense: Oct. 8, 13, 18
M. Adams, “Plantinga’s Free Will Defense” PE, pp. 10-16
R. Adams, “Middle Knowledge and the PE, pp. 110-125 Problem of Evil”
A. Plantinga, “God, Evil, and the PE, pp. 83-109 Metaphysics of Freedom”

Test: in class, Oct. 20

Defeat of Evil, Best of All Possible Worlds Defense: Oct. 25, 27
M. Adams, “The Best of All Possible Worlds PE, pp. 4-10 and the Defeat of Evils” Leibniz selection passages D, E, and, esp. F here (word doc).
N. Pike, “Hume on Evil” (conclusion) PE, pp. 45.2-52
R. Adams, “Must God Create the Best?” JSTOR link.

Soul-Making Defense: Nov. 1
J. Hick, “Soul-Making and Suffering” PE, pp. 168-188
M. Adams, “Hick’s Soul-Making Theodicy” PE, pp. 18-20

Horrendous Evils: Nov. 3
M. Adams, “Horrendous Evils and the PE, pp. 209-221 Goodness of God”

Evidential Problem of Evil: Nov. 8, 10
W.L. Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some PE, pp. 126-137 Varieties of Atheism”
S. Wykstra, “The Humean Obstacle to PE, pp. 138-160 Evidential Arguments from Evil: On Avoiding the Evils of ‘Appearance'”
W.L. Rowe, “Evil and the Theistic PE, pp. 161-167 Hypothesis: A Response to Wykstra

Note: See “remaining schedule” above

Reformed Epistemology: Nov. 15, 17*, 29, Dec. 1
N. Wolterstorff, “Introduction” FR, pp. 1-15
A. Plantinga, “Reason and Belief in God” FR, pp. 16-93
W. Alston, “Christian Experience and FR, pp. 103-134 Christian Belief

*Papers due Nov. 17, at start of class
Final Exam: Dec. 12, 2 PM, in our regular class room, LC 102

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