Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Spring 2007 Syllabus

Also available here in PDF.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
- Martin Luther King Jr. ,‘48

PHL 410 Philosophy of Religion


9:00 pm - 9:50 pm, MWF, Sale Hall, Room 105; 42312 - HPHI 410 - 01; Turnitin.com 1762574

Instructor: Nathan Nobis, Ph.D.

Office: Philosophy & Religion Department, Sale Hall 113

Office Hours: 10-12 MWF and by appointment (but please let me know if you want to meet)

Best way to reach me: aphilosopher@gmail.com

Catalogue Description: Examination of philosophical questions in religion and religious belief.

Extended Description: This course provides students with the opportunity to improve their skills at reasoning critically about philosophical issues. Some of the questions we will ask and attempt to rationally answer include the following and many, many more:

· If God (or gods?) exists, what is He (or She? Or They?) like?

· Does God exist? What reasons or arguments are there to think that God exists? Are these arguments any good?

· What reasons or arguments are there to think that God does not exist? Are these arguments any good?

· What are miracles? Have they ever happened? Is there good reason to believe that they have?

· What are the relationships between morality and religion? Can people be good if they are not religious, or does morality require religious belief, or God’s existence?

· What are the relationships between religious belief and practice and a meaningful life?

We will practice identifying precise and unambiguous conclusions given as answers to these kinds of questions and the reasons given for and against these conclusions. We will then practice evaluating these reasons to see if they provide strong rational support for these moral conclusions or not. We will think about what helps people think more carefully and critically about philosophical issues and what factors and influences discourage and prevent this.

Required course materials:

If you cannot get your own copies of these books and other materials, you cannot be in this class.

1. Readings in the Philosophy of Religion, edited by Kelly James Clark [CLARK]

2. A Thinker's Guide to the Philosophy of Religion by Allen Stairs and Christopher Bernard [STAIRS & BERNARD]

3. Anthony Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments

4. A pass-code for the Thompson Turnitin system: http://insite.turnitin2.thomson.com/ (This code should be for sale at http://www.ichapters.com/ in addition to the bookstore).

5. A small budget for downloading and printing some articles to read and bring to class.

Classroom rules:

1. Be on time: being late is disruptive and wastes time. If you are more than 10 minutes late, you will not get full attendance credit.

2. No using cell phones, PDA’s, text messaging, listening to music on headphones, or reading a newspaper or doing work for other classes. Computers can only be used for taking notes and other class-related work, not personal web surfing. Anyone using such devices for unacceptable purposes will be asked to leave. No such devices can be used or accessed during tests.

3. No food in class.

Assignments and grading:

(1) Readings

The reading assignments should be done before you come to class. Many of the readings are difficult. You will need to read them at least three times. To better comprehend the readings, you should first skim the article or chapter, then you should read more carefully, taking notes, making an outline, underlining/highlighting, etc. Doing this kind of work is necessary for an adequate understanding of the material. I expect that your books will show signs of wear.

(2) Discussion questions / daily papers / short writings:

These are short writing assignments. They are typically written answers to the questions at the end of each assigned reading from Readings in the Philosophy of Religion (or other assigned reading). They are due at the beginning of each class when that reading will be discussed. These must be typed and show thoughtful engagement with the readings: I would expect that an adequate answer would typically require at least ½ page per question. No late papers will be accepted since these are intended to enhance that day’s discussion. 25% of grade

(3) Two Exams. All of lecture, discussion and reading content is fair game. These will likely be take-home, but they might be in-class. 25% of grade each

(4) 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. More details later. 25% of grade

(6) Attendance and participation are required. This course is based on discussion, dialogue and cool, calm, rational debate: thus class attendance is required and will be taken daily at start of the class time. You are allowed 1 missed class for any reason; after that 2% will be deducted from your overall grade per missed class and 1% will be deducted for being late to class. Absences can be excused only if you bring me an excuse in writing. Students with perfect attendance will receive 4% added to their overall score.

(7) There will likely be extra credit opportunities, events addressing ethical and/or philosophical issues that I’ll encourage you to attend and write up a summary and reaction to for variable bonus points, usually 3.

Submitting exams, the final paper, and select short writings (I will tell you which):

· This must be submitted both in hardcopy in class (I do not accept any papers by email) and through the Thompson Turnitin system: http://insite.turnitin2.thomson.com/ If the item is not submitted through the Turnitin system, it will not be graded and so you will receive a zero.

· Papers must by typed and carefully written: put your name, email, the date, course # and time at the top of the first page; DO NOT USE A COVER PAGE. And give your paper a title.

· No late papers will be accepted: you will have plenty of time to write the papers, so you need to make wise use of that time.

A WARNING ABOUT PLAGIARISM: Cheating and plagiarism are forms of lying (to the instructor, the school, future teachers and employers, and yourself, among others) and theft (of other people’s ideas and words) and are grounds for failing the course. If you submit a plagiarized paper (e.g., a paper you took in whole or in part from the internet or some other illegitimate source), the instructor (with the help of Turnitin.com) will notice this and you will then fail this course immediately: no excuses will be accepted. It is your responsibility to know what plagiarism is.
Here are some suggestions to avoid plagiarism: do not check the internet for anything related to your papers: instead use the texts required for the course and think for yourself; do not take phrases from the texts; put all of your writings in your own words; do not cut and paste anything from the internet into your paper; do not visit Wikipedia; do not take articles from online encyclopedias; do not visit online dictionaries; use an acceptable citation method (e.g., MLA, APA, etc.). If you would like additional sources to learn more about a topic, see the instructor.

Reading, Lecture and Discussion Schedule, subject to slight changes:

Readings should be done in advance for the day assigned. We will work through the CLARK book roughly in the order it presents the theories and issues with commentary and discussion STAIRS & BERNARD from and other sources. Exact readings and assignments will be announced in class and posted on the blog/webpage. If you come to class, you should know exactly what the current assignments are.

First reading assignment:

CLARK: Introduction

STAIRS & BERNARD: Introduction and Ch. 1

RULEBOOK: preface, introduction, Ch. I, II, & VI.

Another assignment, by the end of the first week or as soon as you decide you are going to be in this class: email the instructor at aphilosopher@gmail.com to let him know that you are going to be in this class. The email should say which class you are, your name, your major and ask a question or give a comment about the class so far.

A full reading list will be distributed soon!

If you ever have any questions about anything, please just ask!

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