PHL 1643: Philosophy of Religion
The ACC catalogue describes this course as "An analysis of the concept of God, the nature of religion and religious experience with an emphasis on such themes as the problem of evil, rationality and religious belief, and arguments for and against the concept of a deity." We will pursue three goals in this course:
Consequently, we shall explore a number of issues which have been central in the tradition of the philosophy of religion, and we will learn and practice critical reasoning by attempting to come to terms with what is problematic about these issues. Further, we shall discuss in detail the views of certain philosophers in order to learn how they reasoned about these problems.
There are no course prerequisites for Philosophy of Religion. A passing score or the equivalent on the reading portion of the TASP is required, and I highly recommend a passing score or the equivalent on the writing portion. It is also helpful (but not necessary) to have taken world religions.
Our objectives for the semester reflect the goals listed above: demonstration of understanding of the basic issues in the philosophy of religion, including divine reality, the nature and existence of God, religions experience, the problem of evil, faith and reason, and religious pluralism; familiarity with basic approaches to these problems; and demonstration of improved critical thinking skills. The major forms of assessment will be tests (both short-answer and essay), oral presentations, and writing assignments.
Texts and Reading Assignments
These texts will be available in the ACC bookstore(s) (and many of them are available on line). You will also need access to a packet of readings. I will have the readings on desk reserve in the LRS, and I may try to have them posted as well. We'll discuss the details in class.
There will be a number of handouts, each of which will be available here. If you find that you must miss class, please get the handouts prior to the next class. I will post reading assignments here. I expect everyone to come to class having read and thought about the assignment. Reading philosophy takes tenacity; expect to spend at least a couple of hours outside of class for every hour we spend in class. Be sure to get in touch with me if you are having problems with the course content.
Work and Grading Policy
Your grade for this course will be based on written and collaborative work demonstrating the pursuit of the goals of the course. There are four components:
We will talk about the course components in much more detail in class, but my comments under Coursework Guidelines will give you the main idea. Due dates for written work will be arranged in class; please check here regularly for announcements and deadlines. Please note that I will not accept work after the stated due date, except by prior agreement. All written work done outside of class must be typed (using a standard fontno italics!) and double-spaced. Please see my General Course Policies for further information.
Each essay will be a take-home assignment in which you respond to an topic question. I will give you topic questions in class, and they will also be posted here. Each essay will cover the main themes of the readings, e.g., the problem of evil, personal destiny, etc. The point of the essay is not merely to answer the questions, but primarily to justify your answers, using reasons drawn from the texts and from your reflections on these theories.
I will give a series of short quizzes, each of which will consist of short answer items in which I ask you to identify and explain important concepts and terms. I will expect you to explain these terms (briefly!) in the context in which they appear in our readings and discussion. For instance, suppose I gave you the term "the Good" on the quiz covering Plato. I will be looking for an explanation of what this term means in Plato's views, not merely an "ordinary language" or dictionary definition. We will identify and discuss these important ideas as we proceed. Watch the announcements page for quiz dates.
For fans of Bloom's taxonomy, the concept quizzes are at the knowledge and comprehension levels, and the essay questions go beyond comprehension to application (at least).
The paper will be a five-page exploration of a philosophical question regarding one of the semester topics. I am not stipulating a particular format for this paper; any standard format for term papers is acceptable (MLA, for instance). However, please note that I will not accept an unformatted paper. I will discuss term papers in more detail as the semester unfolds, and I will likely make topic suggestions in class. Please do not hesitate to contact me about your interests (email is good: email@example.com). I recommend that you hand in a rough draft at midterm. The final version will be due on Wednesday, December 9.
The presentation will involve your leading a discussion on a particular issue within one of the semester topics. You will hand out a draft of your paper to the class the week before your presentation. You will also write brief (one-page) critical reviews of two papers presented by others.
Please note that reading assignments are, in fact, coursework as well. In our class discussion, I will assume that you have done your readings (and thought about what you have read). I will announce reading assignments in class, and they will be posted.
You may submit written work done outside class by email. (In fact, I encourage you to use email.) If you do not have access to email, contact me. There are many free services in cyberland (Hotmail, for instance) that you can use in one of the computer labs. All you need to do is sign up. You can go to most any open lab and get help from the techs (they are great!).
Please follow these procedures when submitting questions, assignments, etc., by email.
1. Use a standard subject heading on all email
2. Send all work in the body of the email.
3. Save your work!
Check the PHL 1643 main page frequently for due dates and other announcements.
This page was last updated on 12/28/09 by mmd.