Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Clark: Leibniz & Mackie

Clark: William Craig Lane and the rest of Stairs Ch. 2


Setting up the traditional argument(s) from design:

  • Clark: Paley: "The Watch and the WatchMaker" (questions from end of selection due)
  • Stairs Ch. 3 (provides commentary on primary source reading)

Criticisms of the argument:

  • Clark: Hume & Dawkins (questions from end of selections due)
  • and Stairs Ch. 3 (provides commentary on primary source reading)
New versions of the argument(s):
  • Clark: Denton & Collins (questions from end of selections due)
  • and Stairs Ch. 3 (provides commentary on primary source reading)

Philosophy of Time

Here are some entries on philosophy of time:

This is, of course, related to the question of whether, if God exists, God exists in time (i.e., is everlasting) or out of time (i.e., is eternal).
Agnes Scott College's Ethics Program

Agnes Scott College's Ethics Program continues its 2006-07 speaker series, " Is Nature Ours? Ethics, Economics, and the Environment, " contintues with the following exciting events.

Monday, February 5, 2007
Peter G. Brown
" Becoming Citizens Worthy of the Earth "
7:30 p.m.
Evans Hall, terrace level, rooms ABC

Peter Brown is a Professor in the Departments of Geography and Natural Resource Science at the McGill University School of Environment. He is currently working on a book entitled, Reverence for Life: A Philosophy for Civilization. In his talk, Peter Brown will argue that humans don ' t own the Earth, and that the belief that we do is a significant cause of the environmental degradation that is overtaking us and many other species. He will show how this belief is rooted in our Judea-Christian and Greek heritages, and suggest a more promising future lies in Albert Schweitzer's idea of reverence for life.

For more information see

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Logging In

To login to the Thomson Turnitin system, you need to buy a PIN code card from the bookstore. See the syllabus!


We have had some students contact us regarding invalid pin codes for Turnitin. If you please have the students contact us if they find that they have a pin code that is not registering properly. I would ask you to have them go to the following web site and choose to Chat or send an e-mail to us. Depending on the time of day Chat is available. We will take care of this issue promptly and if I am out of town my back-up will be able to answer the e-mails, if the students e-mail us through the web site.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Today's Handouts

Today I gave out a logic and argument handout.
I also gave (and will give) some notes on the cosmological arguments from Aquinas, Leibiz and Mackie.

Here are some additional notes:

Aquinas' Third Way

The Argument

  1. There are at present contingent beings.
  2. Whatever can fail to exist, at some time does not exist.

  3. Therefore,
  4. If all beings are contingent, then at one time nothing existed.(2)
  5. Whatever begins to exist is caused to begin to exist by something already existing.

  6. Therefore,
  7. If at any time t nothing existed, then nothing would have existed at any later time. (4)

  8. Therefore,
  9. If at one time nothing existed, nothing exists now. (5)

  10. Therefore,
  11. If all beings are contingent nothing exists now. (3)(6)

  12. Therefore,
  13. Not all beings are contingent; there is at least one necessary being. (1)(7)
  14. Every necessary being either has its necessity caused by another or has its necessity in itself.
  15. There cannot be an infinite series of necessary beings each having its necessity caused by another.

  16. Therefore,
  17. There is a necessary being having of itself its own necessity, and this all men speak of as God. (8)(9)(10)

Some Definitions:

  • x is a contingent being =df it is possible that x exists and it is possible that x does not exist
  • x is a necessary being =df it is not possible that x does not exist


I. What is it to be a necessary being having of itself its own necessity, and why think that such a being is God?

II. Why think that (2) is true?

III. Does (3) follow from (2)?

(2') For every contingent being B there is a time t such that B does not exist at t.

(3') There is a time t such that for every contingent being B, B fails to exist at t.

(2*) For every person B there is a person A such that A is the mother of B.

(3*) There is a person A such that for every person B, A is the mother of B.

For Wednesday,

Finish Aquinas, way 3 and 4. Re-read the selection! (This stuff is hard, so we really need to study it!)
STAIRS pp. 57-60, which is commentary and discussion of Aquinas.
(I believe Emerson is going to develop a 'souped-up' version of Way 2).

We will discuss -- and finish -- the Clark Ch. 2 Leibniz and Ch. 3 Mackie selections. The questions on Aquinas, Leibniz and Mackie are due Wed.

For Friday., from Clark: Ch. 4 by William Craig Lane and the rest of Stair's Chapter 3 on cosmological arguments. The questions are due that day also.

Next week: Articles from Clark on the Argument from Design & Stairs Ch. 2.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Cosmological Arguments

You need to have read the assigned selections from A Rulebook for Arguments and Ch. 1 of STAIRS. If you haven't done so, do it! Remember, you'll need to read everything at least 3 times, take notes, underline & highlight, etc.

For Monday, we will start discussing cosmological arguments and our main goal will be to discuss:
CLARK CH. 1 -- the Aquinas selection and
STAIRS pp. 57-60, which is commentary and discussion of Aquinas.

The questions at the end of the Aquinas chapter are due on Friday.

For next Wednesday, we will discuss the Clark Ch. 2 Leibniz and Ch. 3 Mackie selections. The questions are due that day also.

For next Friday., from Clark: Ch. 4 by William Craig Lane and the rest of Stair's Chapter 3 on cosmological arguments. The questions are due that day also.

Here's another source on divine attributes:

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Writing Lab

Since 2001, the Writing Lab has served the general Morehouse student population by providing services that foster the most important skills of functioning within our modern global society: the ability to communicate clearly and effectively in writing. The Writing Lab provides tutoring services to Morehouse students regardless of classification or major. All tutors are hired based upon their strong skills in English and their ability to communicate effectively with their peers. Tutors are available Monday through Friday during the day [usually 9-5] in Brawley 200 and weekends and Monday through Thursday evenings in Douglass Hall.

The writing tutors work one-on-one with student writers in order to help them improve their writing. We approach writing holistically, explaining and encouraging student understanding of grammar and mechanics as well as content and rhetorical approach. We do not edit or write the papers for the students; rather we approach tutoring as an opportunity for students to expand their skills. Our goal is to help student writers become more independent and more confident in their writing ability.

Check with the lab for current hours!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Slowly we move along

We are moving along slowly. That's OK since we're getting a firmer foundation so we speed along later.

For Friday, we will start discussing cosmological arguments and our main goal will be to discuss:
CLARK CH. 1 -- the Aquinas selection and
STAIRS pp. 57-60, which is commentary and discussion of Aquinas.

The questions at the end of the Aquinas chapter are due on Friday.

Before that, however, we need to discuss what arguments are. Please re-fresh yourself on the assigned readings from the RULEBOOK. We'll answer these questions:
  • What is an argument?
  • What is it for a conclusion to logically follow from a set of premises?
  • In what ways can conclusions follow from premises: e.g., deductively or validly vs. non-deductively (inductively, abdjuctively) or cogently?
  • What are arguments where the conclusion does not follow from the premises either validly or cogently? Invalid, uncogent, fallacous.
  • What is it for premises to be true?
We also need to say a few more things about the traditional, classical concept of God.

For next Monday, we will discuss the Clark Ch. 2 Leibniz and Ch. 3 Mackie selections. The questions are due that day also.

For Wed., from Clark: Ch. 4 by William Craig Lane and the rest of Stair's Chapter 3 on cosmological arguments. The questions are due that day also.

Monday, January 22, 2007


For Wed., we need to (a) finish talking about the traditional, classical concept of God, (b) talk about logic and (c) read and discuss "A Right to be Wrong," by Allen Stairs.

Although some readings on the cosmological argument have been assigned (Ch. 1 and 2 of Clark, by Aquinas and Leibniz), I don't think we will get to them until Friday.

A complete reading calendar will be available soon. Here's a start of the order of readings for a while:

STAIRS & BERNARD: A Thinker's Guide to the Philosophy of Religion, Stairs and Bernard

CLARK: Readings in the Philosophy of Religion, Edited by Kelly James Clark

Rough order of readings:

STAIRS & BERNARD 1. Concepts of God

Part One

STAIRS & BERNARD 3. The Cosmological Argument

CLARK: 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”

STAIRS & BERNARD 2. The Design Argument

CLARK: 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”

STAIRS & BERNARD 4. The Ontological Argument

(Anselm and/or Descartes reading distributed in class)

Saturday, January 20, 2007 password

I think the password (see below) for this class is the word religion.

Arguments and Logic

If you haven't gotten the books yet, here are some readings on arguments you should read:

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; 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:

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: (This code should be for sale at 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: 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 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 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!