Skip to content

Philosophy of Religion Seminar

Fall 2001
Mondays, 1:30-3:20, WLH 204*
*note change of room

Keith DeRose,
office hours: Mondays, 12:15-1:15; 109 CT Hall

Yale logo ghosted

Announcement 9/11, 2:00 p.m.: A slightly larger room (WLH 204) has been found for our class.  All students who turned in a card at the first meeting (on 9/10) will be admitted.

A study of two related topics.  First, the relation between God’s knowledge and human
freedom including questions of what God knows about which free actions we will perform
or would have performed and when He knows it.  Second, the problem of evil and the
question of how there could be evil if an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good God exists.

Enrollment: Here at Yale, you can never know how many students are coming to a class until it meets.  (And sometimes not even then!)  But there are some indications to think it possible that we may have too many students for the class to function effectively as a seminar.  If that happens, I will have to limit enrollment.  I will do this by having every student fill out a card with their vital information at the first meeting, and then posting the next day a list of those who are admitted into the seminar.

First Meetings

In our first two to three meetings, we will not be discussing philosophy of religion (!).  Rather, from other areas of philosophy (philosophy of language and metaphysics/philosophy of mind), we will briefly study topics that will be important background for our discussions in later weeks of our main seminar topics that are within the philosophy of religion.

The first meeting of this seminar (9/10) will be a lecture on conditionals (“if…then…” statements).  This lecture will presuppose no background in philosophy of language, and will be designed to introduce students to the major issues and positions in recent philosophical studies of conditionals — especially those that will be relevant to our seminar.  (Students who will not be taking this seminar, but who would like a “crash course” on conditionals, might want to sit in on this first meeting.)  Topics: Subjunctive vs. indicative conditionals; the leading theories of each; the paradox of indicative conditionals; bivalence, as applied to conditionals; the Law of Conditional Excluded Middle; “might” vs. “would” subjunctive conditionals.

Our second meeting (9/17) will be on the issue of freedom, determinism, and indeterminism.  This meeting will consist more of discussion (and less of lecture) than the first meeting.  To prepare for the discussion, students should read “Free Will and Scientificalism,” by Peter Unger.  This paper is available on-line in PDF format here:

For those who can’t access pdf documents, a copy of this paper will also be put in the course file at the philosophy department office.  In preparation for this meeting, you might also try your hand at the true/false “quiz” I have on-line here:
though you shouldn’t be discouraged if you don’t know how to answer.  (On that quiz, construe the “Aristotelian” as someone who believes that simple statements about free actions that will/may occur in the future, like I will eat Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow and I will not eat Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow are neither true nor false.  But what should such an “Arisototelian” say about the disjunction, Either I will eat Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow, or I won’t ?  Well, that’s question 1 on the quiz.)  Depending on how the discussion goes, our study of this topic may be extended into our third meeting.

Having studied the needed background issues, we’ll launch into our main seminar topics in our third meeting.  The first reading you should do to prepare for our main topics are the “Introduction” and Essays V and VI in our Problem of Evil anthology (see below).  You should read these, if possible, before our third meeting.

Books/Readings: Several of our readings will be from M. Adams and R. Adams, ed., The Problem of Evil (Oxford University Press).  I had planned to make that anthology a required textbook for the course, but it appears that the publisher has run out of copies, and will not be printing new copies soon enough for our purposes.  If you happen to already own this book, it will come in handy.  For the rest of you, assigned papers will be made available for reading in the philosophy dept. office (CT Hall, room 108).  Some of our readings will be from sources other than the above anthology; these also will be made available at the philosophy department.
Here are a couple of other books that some of you, depending on your interests, may want to get:

M. Adams,  Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Cornell UP). [] [Barnes&]
D. Howard-Snyder, ed., The Evidential Argument from Evil (Indiana UP). [] [Barnes&]

These aren’t textbooks for the class, but would be valuable for those interested in writing their course papers on certain topics.

Written Work will consist of a 1-2 page paper proposal (due Monday, Nov. 12, at class); and a paper of 13-17 pages (typed, double-spaced; due Monday, Dec. 10 (note change) by 4:00 PM, in DeRose’s mailbox, 108 Connecticut Hall).

Grading: Grades will be based primarily on the above written work, but also on participation in seminar discussions.  Attendance at all seminar meetings is mandatory.

PoE-cov   Ev-Arg-cov   Horr-Evil-cov


Skip to toolbar