Skip to content

Phil. 114, Fall 2000 Revised

Free Will, God and Evil
Prof. K. DeRose
M, W 10:30-11:20, LC 101; disc 1 HTBA

Course Description: What does it take for a human action to be free, and to have the value that we typically associate with free actions? Is such freedom (and is such value) compatible with our actions being determined — either by causal laws or by divine decrees? What sense can be made of the notion of divine providence on the assumption that we are free and that such freedom can’t coexist with God’s determining what we will do? To what extent can the theist appeal to human freedom in an attempt to reconcile the existence of God with the fact that the world contains so much horrible stuff? These and related questions will be addressed through a study of recent writings on these topics.

This course seeks to introduce students to philosophy through a study of some related central topics in the philosophy of religion, as well as in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind. The central topic around which the course is organized is the free will defense to the problem of evil — attempts to reconcile the existence of God with the fact that there is evil in the world by appeal to human freedom. Different forms of the free will defense will be investigated and evaluated. The nature of human freedom will be investigated, both as needed preparation for a discussion of the free will defense, and as an important topic in its own right. We will also investigate both arguments for and those against the existence of God, both to set the context in which to evaluate the free will defense, and as independently important issues. Finally, we will investigate philosophical issues arising from different accounts of God’s providential control of the world and how that control relates to human freedom.

Discussion Sections: Times for sections will be posted during the second week of classes.

Books: The following books are required; the first two should be available at Book Haven (290 York Street) and the third at Yyco (262 Elm Street).

-PE:    Adams and Adams, ed., The Problem of Evil (Oxford University Press)
-M:     Peter van Inwagen, Metaphysics (Westview Press, Dimensions of Philosophy Series)
-R:      course reader
PoE-cov Met-cov
Written Work. Written requirements will consist of a short paper (4-6 pages, typed, double-spaced, due Oct. 18 at the start of class), a longer paper (6-10 pages, typed, double-spaced, due Nov. 29 at the start of class), and a final examination. The final exam will consist exclusively, or at least primarily (I sometimes use a few true/false and/or multiple choice questions as warm-ups), of essay questions.

Other course requirements: Attendance at lectures and discussion section.

Grading. Grades will be based roughly on the following formula, though allowances will be made for insightful classroom and section participation and for marked improvement over the course of the semester: Shorter Paper: 25%; Longer Paper: 40%; Final Exam: 35%. Lecture and section attendance are mandatory, and repeated unexcused absences are grounds for the lowering of one’s grade and, in severe cases, for failure.


Topics, Readings and Tentative Schedule:

Introduction to the Course and to the Problem of Evil: Sept. 6

M. Adams    first section ("Problems of Evil") of Intro to PE        PE, pp. 1-3
Pike        first section ("Philo's First Position") of              PE, pp. 38-45

                "Hume on Evil"

Human Freedom, Divine Foreknowledge and the Prospects for “Open Theism”: Sept. 11, 13, 18, 20

Edwards     selections from Freedom of Will: Part I, section 3       R, pp. 43-93

                  and Part II, sects. 8-13

The Free Will Defense: Sept. 25, 27, Oct. 2, 4

Plantinga    "God, Freedom, and the Metaphysics of Freedom"          PE, pp. 83-109
R. Adams     "Middle Knowledge and the Problem of Evil"              PE, pp. 110-125
Lewis        "Evil for Freedom's Sake?"                              R, pp. 94-106

Arguments for the Existence of God: The Ontological Argument: Oct. 9, 11

Anselm      selection from Proslogian                                R, p. 1
Gaunilo     reply to Anselm                                          R, pp. 1-2
Plantinga   selection from God, Freedom, and Evil                    R, pp. 2-5
van Inwagen Chapter 5                                                M, pp. 75-99

Arguments for the Existence of God: The Cosmological Argument: Oct. 16

van Inwagen Chapter 6                                                M, pp. 100-118

Arguments For the Existence of God: The Argument from Design: Oct. 18*, 23, 25
*First Paper Due: Oct. 18, at start of class

van Inwagen Chapters 7,8                                             M, pp. 122-148

Free Will, Determinism, and “Scientiphicalism”: Oct. 30, Nov. 1, 6

van Inwagen Chapter 11                                               M, pp. 184-199
Unger       "Free Will and Scientiphicalism"                         R, pp. 6-42

The “Evidential” Problem of Evil and the No-Defense Defense: Nov. 8, 13

Rowe         "The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism"     PE, pp. 126-137
Wykstra      "The Humean Obstacle to Evidential Arguments from       PE, pp. 138-160

                  Suffering: On Avoiding the Evils of "Appearance"
Rowe         "Evil and the Theistic Hypothesis:                      PE, pp. 161-167

                  A Response to Wykstra"

Soul-Making: Nov. 15, 27

Hick         "Soul-Making and Suffering"                              PE, pp. 168-188
M. Adams     fifth section ("Hick's Soul-Making Theodicy") of Intro   PE, pp. 18-20

The Best of All Possible Worlds Defense and the Defeat of Evil: Nov. 29*, Dec. 4, 6
*Second Paper Due: Nov. 29, at start of class

M. Adams     second section ("The Best of all Possible Worlds and     PE, pp. 4-10

                  the Defeat of Evils") of Intro to PE
Pike         second section ("Demea's Theodicy") of "Hume on Evil"    PE, pp. 45-48
M. Adams     "Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God"               PE, pp. 209-221

Final Exam: December 15, 9:00 A.M., Luce 101 or Dec. 21, 2:00 P.M, SPL 57.
(Luce Hall is at 34 Hillhouse Ave., and Sloane Physics Lab is at 217 Prospect.)

Skip to toolbar