Monday, August 23, 2010

Pairing this Blog with My Philosophy of Religion Course: Reading List and Other Issues

As I’ve mentioned before, my plan for the coming semester (which begins today) is to deliberately pair my blog posts with current topics I’m covering in my philosophy of religion class. I will be inviting students enrolled in the class to read and comment on blog posts as a way of deepening their understanding of and critical engagement with course materials (whether any will take me up on this has yet to be seen). I may also give students in the class the opportunity, if they wish, to submit “guest posts” for possible inclusion on the blog.

In general, I do not expect that the posts here will simply rehash course lectures or serve as a substitute for coming to class (I mention this especially for those of my students who might be reading this). Sometimes, I will use the blog to develop more fully arguments and ideas I only gesture towards in lectures. Sometimes, I will use it as a venue for explaining in somewhat different terms course materials that, from experience, I know to be frequently misunderstood. Sometimes I will use it mainly as a discussion forum for continuing conversations started in class (with the post aimed primarily at provoking such discussions). And sometimes I will use it to apply or relate course ideas to topics of popular interest.

For those who regularly read and comment on this blog, I ask you to continue doing so as usual—but I also ask that you take special care to be respectful to other commenters. This is not to say that you shouldn’t criticize or challenge ideas and arguments that might come from my students. Please do. Part of the point of inviting my students to participate in the blog is the hope that they will participate in critical conversations in which all participants (including me) are challenged to deepen their thinking in the light of substantive criticisms. What I ask, however, is that we challenge ideas and arguments without casting aspersions on those who advance them. In other words, avoid ad hominem attacks. During this semester, if I think that a posted comment is abusive, I will be more likely to delete it than I would be at other times (unless the target of the abuse is me, in which case I’ll let it stay up).

Although visitors to this blog should be able to continue to read my posts just as they always have, some of you have expressed an interest in following along with the readings (or at least the topics) we’ll be covering in the course. For those interested in doing so, I include below a schedule of course topics and readings. “TGD” stands for The God Delusion (by Richard Dawkins); “IGAD” stands for Is God a Delusion? (by me), and GM stands for the anthology God Matters: Readings in the Philosophy of Religion (by Raymond Martin and Christopher Bernard). Since God Matters is priced as a textbook, those of you not enrolled in the course may not want to invest in the book, and may want to use the list of readings below for the purpose of tracking down related readings on your own. The plan of the course is to use the contemporary “God debates” sparked by the spate of “new atheist” bestsellers as a springboard for a deeper look at topics and controversies in the philosophy or religion—hence the use of Dawkins’ book and mine, especially early in the semester.

Aug. 23 TOPIC: The New Landscape of Philosophy of Religion

READINGS: TGD, Preface; IGAD, Introduction

Aug. 25-27 TOPIC: Terms of the Discussion, Part I: What is “Religion”?

READINGS: TGD, Ch. 1; IGAD, Ch. 1; Reitan, “Christopher Hitchens, Religious in Spite of Himself?

Aug. 30-Sept 1 TOPIC: Terms of the Discussion, Part II: The Concept of God

READINGS: TGD, Ch. 2; IGAD, Ch’s 2 & 3; GM 2 (Mavrodes, “Some Puzzles Concerning Omnipotence”); GM 5 (Boethius, “God is Outside of Time” from The Consolation of Philosophy)

Sept. 3 TOPIC: Are Sophisticated Religious Claims Meaningless?

READINGS: Anthony Flew, “Theology and Falsification”

Sept. 8-10 TOPIC: The Evidentialist Challenge to Religion

READINGS: GM 23 (Clifford, “It is Wrong to Believe Without Evidence”) & 20 (Flew, “The Presumption of Atheism”); IGAD Ch. 4

Sept. 13-15 TOPIC: Aquinas’s Five Ways: A Closer Look

READINGS: GM 10 (Aquinas, “Five Ways”); TGD, Ch. 3, pp. 77-79; IGAD, Ch. 5, pp. 101-105

Sept. 17-22 TOPIC: Science and Arguments from Design: Does Science Offer Evidence for God?

READINGS: GM 15 (Paley, “The Watchmaker”), 16 (Hume, “Critique of the Design Argument”), & 17 (Collins, “God, Design, and Fine-Tuning”); IGAD, Ch. 5, pp. 106-114, handouts

Sept. 24 TOPIC: Dawkins’ Anti-Theistic Argument: Is God’s Existence Unlikely in the Light of Science?

READINGS: TGD, Ch. 4; IGAD, Ch. 5, pp. 114-119.

Sept. 27-29 TOPIC: Ontological Arguments

READINGS: GM 7 (Anselm & Gaunilo, “The Ontological Argument”), 8 (Kant, “Critique…”), & 9 (Malcolm, “Anselm’s Ontological Arguments”)

Oct. 1-4 TOPIC: The Leibniz/Clark Cosmological Argument

READINGS: GM 11 (Yandell & Yandell, “The Cosmological Argument”) & 12 (Mackie, “Criticisms…”); IGAD Ch. 6

Oct. 6-11 TOPIC: The Nature and Authority of Religious Experience

READINGS: GM #41 (James, “Varieties of Religious Experience”), 43 (Alston, “Perceiving God”) & 44 (Scriven, “Critique…”); IGAD Ch. 7.

Oct. 15-18 TOPIC: Moral Arguments for God

READINGS: TGD Ch. 6; GM 18 (Lewis, “The Moral Argument…” & 19 (Mackie, “Critique…”)

Oct. 20 TOPIC: Challenging Evidentialism I: Kierkegaard’s Fideism

READINGS: GM 27 (Kierkegaard, “Religious Belief Requires a Leap of Faith”)

Oct. 22-25 TOPIC: Challenging Evidentialism II: Reformed Epistemology

READINGS: GM 29 (Sennett, “Reformed Epistemology…”) & 30 (Parsons, “An Atheist Perspective”)

Oct. 27-Nov. 1 TOPIC: Challenging Evidentialism III: Pragmatic Faith

READINGS: GM 25 (Pascal, “The Wager”) & 26 (James, “The Will to Believe”); IGAD Ch. 8

Nov. 3-5 TOPIC: The Logical Argument from Evil and its Demise: The Free Will Defense

READINGS: GM 37 (Mackie, “The Logical Problem of Evil”) & 38 (Plantinga, “The Free Will Defense”)

Nov. 8 TOPIC: The Evidential Argument from Evil

READINGS: GM 39 (Martin, “The Evidential Argument from Evil”)

Nov. 10 TOPIC: Meeting the Challenge of the Evidential Argument: The Task of Theodicy

READINGS: GM 34 (Hick, “Soul-Making Theodicy”)

Nov. 12 TOPIC: Questioning the Epistemic Ground of the Evidential Argument

READINGS: “Stephen Wykstra’s Response to the Evidentialist Argument” (Handout)

Nov. 15 TOPIC: Changing the Question: The Existential Problem of Evil, or How to Live with Horror

READINGS: IGAD Ch. 9; “Marilyn McCord Adams on Evil” (A Philosophy Bites Podcast); possible handout

Nov. 17-22 TOPIC: The Problem of Hell: A Case Study in Philosophical Theology

READINGS: C.P. Ragland, “Hell” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy); Thomas Talbott, “God, Freedom, and Human Destiny”; possible handouts.

Nov. 29-Dec. 1 TOPIC: Does Religion do More Harm than Good?

READINGS: TGD Ch’s 7 & 8; IGAD Ch. 10 (by 12/1)

Dec. 3-8 TOPIC: Religious Diversity and its Significance

READINGS: GM 57 (Hick, “Religious Pluralism”), 59 (Meeker, “Exclusivism, Pluralism, and Anarchy”), & 60 (Stairs, “Religious Diversity and Religious Belief”)


  1. *thumbs up*

    Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher.

  2. Looks really good, wish I could take the course!