Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Final Exam Schedule

Any work that you wish to turn in (e.g., final exam, final paper, any remaining readings questions) is due this Tuesday at noon in my office. YOU MUST GIVE THIS ALL TO ME IN PERSON, IN MY OFFICE: DO NOT JUST DROP IT OFF. YOU MUST SEE ME IN PERSON.

Everyone else (including seniors if they want to make it):
We'll meet Wednesday at 10:30 AM. Your final exam, final paper and any remaining readings questions are due. Be prepared to tell your peers about your papers. Again, you too MUST GIVE THIS ALL TO ME IN PERSON, IN MY OFFICE: DO NOT JUST DROP IT OFF. YOU MUST SEE ME IN PERSON.

The Semester's Readings

Highlighted below are all the assigned readings from Clark and a few additional readings. All corresponding and relevant chapters and sections from Stairs were also assigned.

Readings in the Philosophy of Religion
Edited by Kelly James Clark

Table of Contents:

Introduction: The Renaissance in the Philosophy of Religion

Part One
Introduction: Arguments for the Existence of God

Chapter 1. The Cosmological Argument

  1. Thomas Aquinas, “The Five Ways
  2. Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz, “On the Ultimate Origination of Things”
  3. J.L. Mackie, “Cosmological Arguments”
  4. William Lane Craig, “The Kalaam Version of the Cosmological Argument”

Chapter 2. The Argument from Design

  1. William Paley, “The Watch and the Watchmaker”
  2. David Hume, “Critique of the Argument from Design”
  3. Richard Dawkins, “The Blind Watchmaker”
  4. Michael Denton, “The Puzzle of Perfection”
  5. Robin Collins, “The Fine-Tuning Argument”

Chapter 3. Moral Arguments

  1. Plato, “Euthyphro”
  2. Robert Merrihew Adams, “Moral Arguments for Theistic Belief”
  3. Linda Zagzebski, “The Virtues of God and the Foundations of Ethics”

Chapter 4. Religious Experience

  1. William Alston, “Perceiving God”

Chapter 5. Naturalism Refuted?

  1. Alvin Plantinga, “The Self-Refutation of Naturalism”

Chapter 6. The Balance of Probabilities

  1. Richard Swinburne, “A Cumulative Case for the Existence of God”
  2. J.L. Mackie, “The Balance of Probabilities”
  3. Alvin Plantinga, “Arguing for God”
  4. William J. Wainwright, “The Nature of Reason”

Suggestions for Further Study

Part Two


Introduction: Reason and Belief in God

Chapter 7. The Need for Evidence

  1. W.K. Clifford, “The Ethics of Belief”

"A Right to be Wrong," Allen Stairs

  1. Antony Flew, “The Presumption of Atheism”

Chapter 8. Wittgensteinian Fideism

  1. Norman Malcolm, “The Groundlessness of Belief”
  2. Kai Nielsen, “Religion and Groundless Believing”

Chapter 9. Pragmatic Justification of Religious Belief

  1. Blaise Pascal, “The Wager”
  2. William James, “The Will to Believe”

Chapter 10. Reformed Epistemology

  1. Kelly James Clark, “Without Evidence or Argument”
  2. Phil L. Quinn, “On Finding the Foundations of Theism”

Suggestions for Further Study

Part Three


Introduction The Problem of Evil

Chapter 11. The Problem Stated

  1. David Hume, “God and Evil”

Chapter 12. Theodicy

  1. John Hick, “The Soul-Making Theodicy”
  2. Marilyn McCord Adams, “Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God”

Chapter 13. The Evidential Problem of Evil

  1. William Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism”

"A Tale of 12 Officers," Mark Vuletic

  1. Daniel Howard-Snyder, “Rowe’s Argument from Particular Horrors”

Suggestions for Further Study

Part Four


Introduction: Critiques of God

Chapter 14. The Hermeneutics of Suspicion

  1. Karl Marx, “The Opium of the Masses”
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche, “Religion as Resentment”
  3. Sigmund Freud, “The Future of an Illusion”

Chapter 15. Humanism

  1. “A Humanist Manifesto”

Suggestions for Further Study

Part Five


Introduction: Philosophical Theology

Chapter 16. Does God Suffer?

  1. Johan Scotus Eriugena, “Divine Impassibility”
  2. Nicholas Wolterstorff, "Suffering Love"

Chapter 17. Prayer

  1. Thomas Aquinas, “Whether It Is Becoming to Pray?”
  2. Eleonore Stump, “Petitionary Prayer”

Chapter 18. Is There a Hell?

  1. Stephen T. Davis, “Universalism, Hell and the Fate of the Ignorant”
  2. Marilyn McCord Adams, “The Problem of Hell: A Problem of Evil for Christians”

Chapter 19. Religious Pluralism

  1. John Hick, “The Philosophy of Religious Pluralism”
  2. Peter van Inwagen, “Non Est Hick”

Chapter 20. Feminist Theology

  1. Patricia Altenbernd Johnson, “Feminist Christian Philosophy?”

Suggestions for Further Study

Part Six


Introduction: Asian Philosophy of Religion

Chapter 21. The Sources

  1. The Upanishads
  2. The Life of the Buddha

Chapter 22. Buddhist Philosophy of Religion

  1. Bimal K. Matilal, “Mysticism and Reality: Ineffability”
  2. Edward Conze, “Buddhist Philosophy and Its European Parallels”

Chapter 23. Taoism

  1. Lao Tzu, “The Tao Te Ching”
  2. T’ang Ch√ľn-I, “Spiritual Values in Taoism”

Suggestions for Further Study

Wednesday, April 25, 2007



Due: Wednesday, May 9th at noon in the classroom. NO EMAIL SUBMISSIONS.

(Entire final time is 1030 AM – 1230 PM). Final paper due then too!

Senior Finals Thursday & Friday, May 3rd & 4th

Your essay answers must have an introduction, a thesis, be well-organized, and clear. You must explain these issues and arguments so that someone who has not read and discussed these issues would understand them. You should explain the issues and arguments fully: do not make anyone guess at what you are trying to say. And, above all, you need to give reasons for what you think: you need to raise objections, respond to them, and defend your views!

Answer BOTH questions 1 & 2; pick TWO questions from 3,4,5, 6 and 7. TOTAL= 4 Q’s.

1. Using events of recent weeks (or other moral or natural evils) develop a William Rowe-style argument for God’s non-existence. Explain five of the strongest ways how theists might respond to this argument. Explain whether these responses show that Rowe’s argument is unsound or not and why. Defend your views from relevant objections and questions.

2. From an intellectual point of view, should you believe that there is God? Explain what “evidentialism” is and what various evidentialists might argue about believe belief in God. Explain “Reformed Epistemology’s” response to evidentialism. Explain and defend your view on whether (a) evidentialism is true and supports belief in God, (b) evidentialism is true and supports disbelief in God, (c) evidentialism is false and belief in God is “properly basic” or (d) evidentialism is false but belief in God is not properly basic either. Explain each response and which is most reasonable. Defend your views from relevant objections and questions.

3. Blaise Pascal argues that you should “bet” on believing in God. Explain his wager. Explain whether he makes a strong case in favor of it or whether there are objections that defeat his strategy. Defend your views from relevant objections and questions.

4. Marx, Nietzsche and Freud object to religious belief, in particular theistic belief. What are there arguments? Are their arguments sound or not? Why? Defend your views from relevant objections and questions.

5. What is hell? Explain different theories of hell. Present some “universalist” arguments for the conclusion that nobody goes to hell (at least not permanently). Explain whether these arguments are sound or whether arguments for “separatism” are stronger. Defend your views from relevant objections and questions.

6. Many people think petitionary prayer is valuable and useful. Present theistic arguments for the conclusion that petitionary prayer is pointless. Explain whether these arguments are sound. Defend your views from relevant objections and questions.

7. What is the intellectually proper response to religious pluralism? Explain the options and defend your view about what you should think about your own religious beliefs (or lack thereof) in light of your knowledge of the diversity of religions. Defend your views from relevant objections and questions.

Some literature on Hell from the Philosophers Index:

Thomas Talbott and Jerry Walls seem to be prominent in the "universalism" literature (as well as Adams and Davis, who we read). Jonathan Kvanvig has some writings (including a book) on hell too.

William Craig Lane and Michael Murray seem to offer some defenses of "separationism."

TI: The Injustice of Hell AU: Kershnar,-Stephen SO: International-Journal-for-Philosophy-of-Religion. O 2005; 58(2): 103-123 AB: This essay aims to establish two theses. First, hell is unjust. Second, God ought not (or perhaps cannot) impose hell on human beings. In support of these theses, Stephen Kershnar argues that human beings do not deserve hell because they either cannot cause an infinite amount of harm or are not responsible for doing so. Also, since humans don't have infinitely bad characters, hell can't be deserved on the basis of character. Since humans don't deserve hell, God may not (or perhaps cannot) impose unjust punishments and hence may not (or cannot) send or allow persons to go to hell. PY: 2005

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In Database: The Philosopher's Index 1940-2006/12.
4 TI: Escaping Hell: Divine Motivation and the Problem of Hell AU: Buckareff,-Andrei-A; Plug,-Allen SO: Religious-Studies. Mr 05; 41(1): 39-54 AB: We argue that it is most rational for God, given God's character and policies, to adopt an open-door policy towards those in hell--making it possible for those in hell to escape. We argue that such a policy towards the residents of hell should issue from God's character and motivational states. In particular, God's parental love ought to motivate God to extend the provision for reconciliation with Him for an infinite amount of time. PY: 2005

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In Database: The Philosopher's Index 1940-2006/12.
5 TI: The Problem of Hell--The Universalism of Thomas Talbott (in Polish) AU: Lukasiewicz,-Dariusz SO: Kwartalnik-Filozoficzny. 2004; 32(3): 75-91 AB: The paper presents Thomas Talbott's views on the existence of hell. Talbott argues that the existence of hell conceived as eternal never-ending suffering is impossible from the logical point of view. According to him the existence of an eternal hell is inconsistent with God's love and justice. Talbott, however, does not rule out the possibility that hell exists, but only as a transitory situation preceding universal salvation. PY: 2004

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In Database: The Philosopher's Index 1940-2006/12.
6 TI: A Hell of a Dilemma: Rejoinder to Talbott AU: Walls,-Jerry-L SO: Religious-Studies. Je 04; 40(2): 225-227 AB: In this brief rejoinder to Talbott's reply, I argue that his clarifications pose a dilemma for him: he must either modify his account of unbearable misery, or give up his claim that all sinners must reach a point where they can resist God no farther. PY: 2004

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7 TI: Misery and Freedom: Reply to Walls AU: Talbott,-Thomas SO: Religious-Studies. Je 04; 40(2): 217-224 AB: In this brief reply to Walls's challenging critique, I try to do two things: first, clarify the most fundamental point on which I think Walls and I disagree, and second, argue that, as surprising as it may first appear, Walls's free-will theodicy of hell requires that God interfere with human freedom in inappropriate ways. PY: 2004

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8 TI: A Hell of a Choice: Reply to Talbott AU: Walls,-Jerry-L SO: Religious-Studies. Je 04; 40(2): 203-216 AB: In this article I respond to Thomas Talbott's criticisms of the view of hell I have defended. In particular, I argue that coherent sense can be made of the choice to be eternally separated from God. Moreover, Talbott does not successfully show how God can save everyone without overriding their freedom. Finally, I argue that there is no significant sense in which sinners defeat God or sin with impunity on the view I have defended. Talbott's case that universalism necessarily follows from God's perfect love and power then falls. PY: 2004

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9 TI: "Is Eternal Damnation Compatible with the Christian Concept of God?: No Hell" in Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, Peterson, Michael L (ed), 278-287 AU: Talbott,-Thomas PB: Blackwell-Publishing : Malden MA, 2004 AB: Jerry Walls and Thomas Talbott both agree that God is perfectly loving and that he desires the salvation of all the persons he has created. But they disagree as to whether God's desire will be fulfilled. Walls argues that God has given human beings libertarian freedom and the opportunity to use it to accept or reject salvation. In so doing, God leaves open the possibility that some persons will freely and decisively reject him, a possibility which Jesus' own words lead us to believe will be actual. On the other side, Talbott contends that God's desire for the salvation of all will be fulfilled. He argues that it is not possible for one freely to reject God forever and that, even if it were, God's love would not permit anyone to do so.

11 TI: In Defense of Naive Universalism AU: Howard-Snyder,-Daniel SO: Faith-and-Philosophy. Jl 03; 20(3): 345-363 AB: Michael J. Murray defends the traditional doctrine of hell by arguing directly against its chief competitor, universalism. Universalism, says Murray, comes in "naive" and "sophisticated" forms. Murray poses two arguments against naive universalism before focusing on sophisticated universalism, which is his real target. He proceeds in this fashion because he thinks that his arguments against sophisticated universalism is more easily motivated against naive universalism, and once their force is clearly seen in the naive case it will be more clearly seen in the sophisticated. In this essay, I argue that Murray's arguments against naive universalism have no force whatsoever.

TI: "Jonathan Edwards and the Doctrine of Hell" in Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian, Helm, Paul (ed), 13-26 AU: Wainwright,-William-J PB: Ashgate-Publishing : Aldershot, 2003 AB: Edwards attempts to show that (1) the eternal punishment of the wicked is a necessary consequence of God's desire to display his justice, majesty, and holiness, (2) contributes to the good of the whole system, and (3) is just. His endeavor is partly successful and partly not. For example, the propositions which support (1) are compatible with God's manifesting his holiness by simply annihilating rather than eternally punishing the wicked. Again, while Edwards's premises entail that any sin is infinitely heinous when considered objectively, they don't show that the sinner is infinitely heinous and so deserves infinite punishment. PY: 2003

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In Database: The Philosopher's Index 1940-2006/12.
16 TI: "Jonathan Edwards on Hell" in Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian, Helm, Paul (ed), 1-11 AU: Kvanvig,-Jonathan-L PB: Ashgate-Publishing : Aldershot, 2003

TI: Hell and Vagueness AU: Sider,-Theodore SO: Faith-and-Philosophy. Ja 02; 19(1): 58-68 AB: A certain traditional conception of the afterlife is binary. After death one proceeds either to heaven or hell. Heaven is very, very good; hell is very, very bad. There are no possibilities for the afterlife other than heaven and hell, and membership in heaven or hell is never indeterminate or a matter of degree. The problem with the binary conception is that it contradicts God's justice. God must employ some criterion to decide who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. No reasonable criterion would be sharp; any reasonable criterion will have borderline cases. But the binary conception of the afterlife allows for no corresponding fuzziness in how the dead are to be treated. Hell must therefore contain people who are nearly indiscernible in relevant respects from people in heaven. No just God would allow such a monstrously unfair thing.

TI: On the Problem of Hell AU: Cain,-James SO: Religious-Studies. S 02; 38(3): 355-362 AB: There is a conception of hell that holds that God punishes some people in a way that brings about endless suffering and unhappiness. An objection to this view holds that such punishment could not be just since it punishes finite sins with infinite suffering. In answer to this objection, it is shown that endless suffering, even intense suffering, is consistent with the suffering being finite. Another objection holds that such punishment is contrary to God's love. A possible response to this objection is developed.

TI: God Is Great, God Is Good: Medieval Conceptions of Divine Goodness and the Problem of Hell AU: Clark,-Kelly-James SO: Religious-Studies. Mr 01; 37(1): 15-31 AB: Eleonore Stump, accepting the medievals' axiology, ameliorates the doctrine of hell. However, I argue that her Dantean version of hell fails because not to be in certain circumstances is rationally preferable to continued existence. In addition, life under those conditions would result in frustration, not fulfillment, of one's second nature and would result in a progressive loss of being. Indeed, it seems more reasonable to reject the identity of being and goodness which both the medievals and Stump embrace or to accept being as a prima facie good that is defeasible in the face of eternal damnation. (edited) PY: 2001

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25 TI: A Craigian Theodicy of Hell AU: Seymour,-Charles SO: Faith-and-Philosophy. Ja 00; 17(1): 103-115 AB: Problem: if God has middle knowledge, he should actualize a world containing only persons whom he knows would freely choose heaven. Thus, there should be no hell. Craig offers an answer to this problem in his article "'No Other Name': a Middle Knowledge Perspective on the Exclusivity of Salvation Through Christ." Craig is mainly concerned to give a logically possible defense of hell, though he thinks his suggestion does not lack the sort of plausibility needed for a theodicy. I consider various objections to the latter assessment. My conclusion is that, although Craig's argument is implausible as a theodicy of conservative exclusivist soteriology, it is useful for less traditional ideas of hell. PY: 2000

TI: The Idea of Hell and the Classical Doctrine of God AU: Kronen,-John-D SO: Modern-Schoolman. N 99; 77(1): 13-34 AB: Two key features of the classical doctrine of hell (CDH) are that the sufferings of the damned are positively willed by God on them, and that these sufferings include certain pains which are not simply the necessary concomitants of being denied the beatific vision. In this paper I show that these two features of CDH contradict central tenets of the classical doctrine of God and that the arguments that have been traditionally given in support of the CDH are, in any case, weak. I conclude from this that, whatever doctrine of hell one adopts, it should not include these two central features of CDH.

I: Hell and the Goodness of God AU: Van-Holten,-Wilko SO: Religious-Studies. Mr 99; 35(1): 37-55 AB: In this paper I contribute to the ongoing debate on hell in three ways: (1) I distinguish between three questions that play a key role in any discussion of the doctrine of hell; (2) I argue positively for the need of a doctrine of hell for Christian theism; (3) after evaluating several theological positions, I argue that the doctrine of hell should be construed as intrinsically bound up with the Christian conviction that God is love and wants to live with human beings in a relationship of mutual love and fellowship. From this perspective on hell I provide some fresh criticisms on the positions of John Hick, Thomas Talbott, and Charles Seymour.

TI: On Choosing Hell AU: Seymour,-Charles SO: Religious-Studies. S 97; 33(3): 249-266 AB: Most contemporary philosophers who defend the compatibility of hell with the divine goodness do so by arguing that the damned freely choose hell. Thomas Talbott denies that such a choice is possible, on the grounds that God in his goodness would remove any 'ignorance, deception, or bondage to desire' which would motivate a person to choose eternal misery. My strategy is to turn the tables on Talbott and ask why God would not remove the motives we have for any sin whatsoever. I argue that two plausible answers to this question also show why God would not remove our motives for choosing hell.

38 TI: The Problem of Hell AU: Kvanvig,-Jonathan-L PB: Oxford-Univ-Pr : New York, 1993

TI: Intolerable But Moral? Thinking About Hell AU: Jensen,-Paul-T SO: Faith-and-Philosophy. Ap 93; 10(2): 235-241 AB: Thomas Talbott's recent argument for Hell's nonexistence is a sophisticated version of hard universalism. I suggest some reasons to question his argument and to accept the logical and moral possibility that some humans will not be saved.

TI: Craig on the Possibility of Eternal Damnation AU: Talbott,-Thomas SO: Religious-Studies. D 92; 28(4): 495-510 AB: In two papers, one a critique of two papers of mine, William Lane Craig has sought to put the Free Will Defense in the service of the traditional doctrine of hell; and in my rejoinder, I argue that Craig's defense of the traditional doctrine is unsuccessful. I consider several propositions that Craig claims are logically possible, and with respect to each of them I defend one of two claims. Either the proposition is not really possible, or it does not entail the traditional doctrine. Hence, Craig fails to demonstrate even the possibility of the traditional doctrine. PY: 1992

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41 TI: The Doctrine of Hell and Moral Philosophy AU: Yandell,-Keith-E SO: Religious-Studies. Mr 92; 28(1): 75-90

TI: Divine Omniscience and the Soteriological Problem of Evil: Is the Type of Knowledge God Possesses Relevant? AU: Basinger,-David SO: Religious-Studies. Mr 92; 28(1): 1-18 AB: The "soteriological" problem of evil is concerned with the traditional theistic belief that many will spend eternity in hell. If God is all-loving, he wants no one in hell, and if God is all powerful, he can bring it about that no one will be in hell. Thus, must we not conclude that the traditional concept of God cannot be reconciled with eternal damnation? I argue that, while responses to this challenge may well differ significantly as a function of the model of divine omniscience affirmed, no such model offers a response that is clearly superior to the others.

TI: The Doctrine of Everlasting Punishment. AU: TALBOTT,-THOMAS SO: Faith-and-Philosophy. Ja 90; 7(1): 19-42 AB: I argue that, although theism in general is consistent, many of the popular forms, specifically those that include the traditional doctrine of hell, are implicitly self-contradictory. After examining three varieties of theism, each of which involves, I contend, a logical impossibility of one kind or another, I conclude that nothing short of an explicit universalism--that is, nothing short of the view that God will eventually reconcile all persons to himself--is consistent with other doctrines essential to Christian theism.

56 TI: HELL AND THE GOD OF JUSTICE. AU: ADAMS,-MARILYN-MCCORD SO: Religious-Studies. D 75; 11: 433-447

Monday, April 23, 2007


Is there a Hell? Separationism vs. Universalism

Main questions:

  • Is there a Hell? If so, what is it like?
  • Could anyone go there? Does anyone go there? Could anyone stay there eternally? Does anyone stay there eternally? (Adams says no. Davis says maybe. You say?)

Who cares? Depends on your perspective:

  • Many theists, esp. Christians, claim that there’s a hell and some people go there eternally: they are Separationists. Perhaps they are mistaken and there are arguments to show that Universalism is correct! If Universalism is correct, then that might make some differences to these Christians’ beliefs, policies, priorities, etc.
  • Atheists, of course, deny that there’s a hell, since they deny that there is a God. Agnostics suspend judgment on both questions.
      • Some theists argue that these non-theists will go to hell. If these non-theists can make a case for universalism, i.e., argue this – if theism is true (esp. Christian theism), then Universalism is true – then perhaps it doesn’t matter so much whether they believe that God exists!
        • Matter how?

Interesting Background Issues (see Stairs Ch. 13, Life After Death and next semester’s metaphysics class):

  • Can we survive death? If so, how? If we can, what are we essentially? Immaterial Souls? Or might we be some material part of ourselves that God uses to “re-create” us in an afterlife?
  • Would it be desirable to live eternally?
  • Do we have libertarian, indeterministic free will? (See Stairs). If we don’t have free will, or free will is compatible with determinism, what difference does that make for these issues?

Reasons to Accept Separationism, from Davis and Adams:

Reasons to Accept Universalism, from Davis and Adams:

What seems to make most sense, given everything else we reasonably believe about what God is like (or would be like, if God exists):

Friday, April 20, 2007


For Monday, the readings from Clark on Hell!
Professor Bennett will be with us! :)

For the Wed and Friday readings, see below.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Some Final Paper suggestions

Here are some possibilities for a a final paper where -- FOR AN AUDIENCE WHO HAS NOT READ THESE PAPERS OR IS FAMILIAR WITH PHILOSOPHY -- you (a) accurately summarize and carefully explain the main argument of an article (or chapter, or selection), (b) raise possible criticisms and problems for the paper's author to address and (c) explain how this author might repond and so (d) argue whether this author's arguments are sound or not. Of course, you can pursue topics and paper targets of your own making, but you need to clear things with me to ensure you are on the right track!

"Sceptical Theism and Evidential Arguments from Evil"
Journal Australasian Journal of Philosophy
Issue Volume 81, Number 4/December 01, 2003
Pages 496-516
Michael J. Almeida, Graham Oppy

Abstract: Sceptical theists--e.g., William Alston and Michael Bergmann--have claimed that considerations concerning human cognitive limitations are alone sufficient to undermine evidential arguments from evil. We argue that, if the considerations deployed by sceptical theists are sufficient to undermine evidential arguments from evil, then those considerations are also sufficient to undermine inferences that play a crucial role in ordinary moral reasoning. If cogent, our argument suffices to discredit sceptical theist responses to evidential arguments from evil.

In Defense of Skeptical Theism: A Reply to Ameida and Oppy.” (with Michael Bergmann). Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2005): 241 – 51.

"Skeptical Theism and Moral Skepticism: A Reply to Almeida and Oppy," discussion note by Nick Trakakis & Yujin Nagasawa

Reply to Trakakis and Nagasawa
discussion note by Michael Almeida & Graham Oppy
University of Texas at San Antonio, USA & Monash University, Australia

Richard Feldman, "Clifford’s Principle and James’s Options " (you will need to read the Williams James essay in Clark also).

Richard Feldman, Reasonable Religious Disagreements (pdf) (July 8, 2004). (You should find a/the article by Plantinga where he discusses this issue .. this probably isn't that hard to find, i.e., something by Plantinga on religious diversity). This paper will appear in volume with a title something like “Philosophers Without God.” The volume is intended for a wider audience than just academic philosophers. It is supposed to be at least to some extent a personal statement.

Daniel Howard-Snyder, "The Argument from Divine Hiddenness," Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 1996

Monday, April 16, 2007

Schedule until the last day of class

Schedule until the last day of class

This Wed.:

re-read Clark, "Without Evidence or Argument" (Clark, p. 191)
Stair's pp. 177-182. I forgot to mention this... it's easy to read though.
Stair's Chapter on Reformed Epistemology. Ch. 7
Quinn, "On Finding the Foundations of Theism" (Clark p. 198)

Friday: Pascal's Wager: in Clark, p. 179-183.
Stairs, p. 182- 188.

Paper topic and plan due. Talk to me about ideas! An argumentative paper; approx 3000 words. You will need to find an article or chapter not from our books but mentioned in the, e.g., “For Further Reading” or references, and write a critical response to the paper. Or you can do something else. Whatever you do, however, your plan needs to be guided and approved by Professor Nobis.

I will soon post some possible "target" papers for you to critically evaluate.

Next Monday: (April 23)
articles on Hell in Clark by Davis and Adams.

Next Wed. (April 25)
Does God Suffer? and Prayer. Readings from Wolterstorff (and Erieugena) and Stump (and Aquines)

Next Friday and beyond (April 27th):
Religious Diversity. Stairs Chapter. Hick and vanInwagen in Clark. Perhaps “
Reasonable Religious Disagreements” by Richard Feldman

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Another Extra Credit Opp.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 at Agnes Scott
Rabbi Hillel Norry and Mark Douglas
"Is Nature Ours? A Jewish-Christian Dialogue"
7:30 p.m.
Evans Hall, terrace level, rooms ABC

Hillel Norry is Rabbi at Congregation Shearith Israel, a Conservative, egalitarian congregation in Atlanta. Mark Douglas is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary. Rabbi Norry and Professor Douglas will discuss what they see their religions as suggesting about the proper relationship between human beings and the rest of creation. What, for example, do the Hebrew and Christian Bibles tell us about our relationship to other species, or our responsibilities to future generations?

Friday, April 13, 2007

“Racism and Anti-Semitism:

What They Are and

What They Aren't”

Racism and anti-Semitism are among the great evils of human history. But what are they, and what makes them morally wrong? This talk examines those questions by focusing on whether the intent to cause harm is an essential part of racism and anti-Semitism.

Dr. Andrew Altman

Professor of philosophy, Georgia State University

He holds his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Columbia University (1977) and received a Liberal Arts Fellowship in Law and Philosophy from Harvard Law School (1984-5). Professor Altman is the author of Critical Legal Studies: A Liberal Critique (Princeton 1990) and Arguing About Law: An Introduction to Legal Philosophy (2nd ed. 2001). He has published more than two dozen articles on topics in legal and political philosophy, including freedom of speech, democratic legitimacy, and voting rights. His articles have appeared in prominent scholarly journals in the areas of political, legal and ethical philosophy, including Ethics and Philosophy and Public Affairs, and several of his pieces have been widely reprinted in anthologies in legal philosophy and contemporary social issues.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2007 4:00 p.m.


A flyer is here:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

For Friday & beyond

For Friday, we'll read and discuss the Freud, Marx and Nietzche selections from the Clark book.

For Monday, let's talk about Clifford and Clark on reason & evidence, in Clark. Then we'll read the Stairs chapter on reformed epistemology and Quinn's discussion.

I'd like to also discuss the following before our time is out:

- religious diversity (readings from both Clark and a Stairs chapter)
- prayer (readings from Clark)
- hell. (readings from Clark)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

For Monday & Wed. after easter: The chapter in Stairs on miracles.
Understanding Moral Disagreement
Thursday April 12
Reception Hall, Michael C. Carlos Museum

Lecture by K. Anthony Appiah, Laurance S. Rockefeller Univeristy Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values at Princeton.

This event is presented as part of the Envisioning and Creating Just Societies: Perspectives from the Public Humanities Distinguished Speaker Series organized by the Center for the Study of Public Scholarship (CSPS) and the Center for Humanistic Inquiry (CHI).
Cosponsors include the Office of International Affairs, Hightower Fund, The Playwriting Center of Theater Emory, Feminism and Legal Theory Project, Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts, Institute of African Studies, Emory Law School, American Studies, and the Departments of Art History, Comparative Literature, Creative Writing, English, Philosophy, Religion, Sociology, Political Science and Women’s Studies.

To print the entire series (PDF), click here.
For additional information on this event, please contact Aline Rafi in the CSPS at 404-727-7602.

Monday, April 2, 2007

For Wed.

For Wed., we will keep talking about William Alston and the similarities and differences between SE (ordinary sensory experience) and RE (religious experience). He proposes that RE has the same "epistemic status" as SE. He discusses seven objections -- seven attempts to show how there are important differences between the two such that SE is justified but RE is not. We'll look at these seven objections in detail!

Of course, re-read the Alston article and the discussion from Stairs.


William L. Rowe

My friends, Dan Howard-Snyder and Mike Bergmann, think that the enormous amount of seemingly pointless, horrendous evil occurring daily in our world gives us no good reason at all to think it unlikely that God exists. For, on the assumption that God exists, they believe we have no good reason to think it probable either that there would be any less horrendous evil or that God would help us understand what some of the justifying goods are that he is powerless to bring about without permitting all this horrendous evil.

In support of their view they liken my argument for the probable nonexistence of God to the reasoning of someone who concludes that there is probably no extraterrestrial life because we don’t detect any communications from extraterrestrials.

I believe they are right to reject the inference to the likely nonexistence of extraterrestrials from our failure to detect communications from them. For, as they point out, we have no good reason to think that extraterrestrials would know that we exist, or would care about us enough to want to communicate with us, or would have anything like sufficient power and knowledge to devise a way to communicate with us. So, given these considerations, we cannot reasonably infer the nonexistence of extraterrestrials from our not having detected any communications from them.

As opposed to what we don’t know about extraterrestrials, however, we do know that God, if he exists, most certainly knows that we exist, most certainly loves us and cares for us, and, being infinitely powerful, is able to prevent any of the horrendous evils that befall us. Furthermore, given his infinite knowledge, God would know how to achieve the very best lives possible for us with the minimum of horrible suffering.

My friends, however, believe that we have no sufficient reason at all to think it even likely that God could achieve the very best for us (humans and animals) were he to have prevented the holocaust, the terrible suffering of the fawn, the horrible suffering of the little girl, or any of the other countless evils that abound in this world.

Why on earth do they believe this? The basic reason is this: God’s knowledge of goods and the conditions of their realization extends far beyond our own. Because God’s knowledge extends far beyond our own they think it just may be that God would know that even he, with his infinite power, cannot achieve the best for us without permitting all the horrendous evils that occur daily in our world. And they also think it just may be that God can achieve the best for us only if he keeps us in the dark as to what the good is that justifies him in permitting any of these horrendous evils.

But what their view comes to is this. Because we cannot rule out God’s knowing goods we do not know, we cannot rule out there being goods that justify God in permitting any amount of evil whatever that might occur in our world. If human and animal life on earth were nothing more than a series of agonizing moments from birth to death, my friends’ position would still require them to say that we cannot reasonably infer that it is even likely that God does not exist. For, since we don’t know that the goods we know of are representative of the goods there are, we can’t know that it is likely that there are no goods that justify God in permitting human and animal life on earth to be nothing more than a series of agonizing moments from birth to death.

But surely such a view is unreasonable, if not absurd. Surely there must be some point at which the appalling agony of human and animal existence on earth would render it unlikely that God exists. And this must be so even though we all agree that God’s knowledge would far exceed our own. I believe my theistic friends have gone considerably beyond that point when in light of the enormous proliferation of horrendous evil in this world they continue to insist that we are unjustified in concluding that it is unlikely that God exists.

They characterize my argument as a “noseeum” argument. But this is not quite correct. There are lots of things we can conceive of occurring in our world which we don’t see occurring. My argument is basically a “noconceiveum” argument, not a “noseeum” argument. We cannot even conceive of goods that may occur and would justify God in permitting the terrible evils that afflict our world.

Of course, being finite beings we can’t expect to know all the goods God would know, any more than an amateur at chess should expect to know all the reasons for a particular move that Kasparov makes in a game. But, unlike Kasparov who in a chess match has a good reason not to tell us how a particular move fits into his plan to win the game, God, if he exists, isn’t playing chess with our lives. In fact, since understanding the goods for the sake of which he permits terrible evils to befall us would itself enable us to better bear our suffering, God has a strong reason to help us understand those goods and how they require his permission of the terrible evils that befall us.

My friends, however, do seem to think we can conceive of goods that may require God to permit at least some of these awful evils. They suggest that for all we know the following complex good may occur: the little five year old girl meets up with her rapist-killer somewhere in the next life, and he then repents and begs her forgiveness for savagely beating, raping, and strangling her, and she then forgives him with the result that both of them live happily ever after in the presence of God.

What are we to make of this suggestion as to why God permitted the little girl to be brutally beaten, raped, and strangled? Well, they are right in holding that even God cannot bring about this complex good without permitting that individual to brutally beat, rape, and strangle the little girl.

But that alone won’t justify God in permitting that to happen to her. For it is eminently reasonable to believe that God could win the soul of the little girl’s rapist-killer without having to permit him to do what he did to her. And even if he can’t, is it right for any being to permit the little girl to be robbed of her life in that way just so her killer could have something bad enough on his conscience to ultimately seek forgiveness? It is one thing to knowingly and freely give up one’s life for the sake of another and quite another thing to have it ripped away, against one’s will, just so someone else can later be led to repentance.

If this is the best that can be done to find a good we know of that may justify God in permitting the little girl to be brutally beaten, raped, and strangled, the evidential argument from evil will surely remain a thorn in the side of theism for some time to come.