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Philosophy 474
Spring(?) '03
Prof. M.A. Rice

At the outset it should be made clear that this is not a course in the doctrine, history or comparative study of any one or group of religions, their beliefs, ceremonies, or ritual.  Neither is it a course on the Bible.  Although one can't help but make use of the particulars of religious belief as we proceed.  Our task in this course is to raise and answer several highly theoretical and technical questions that have been the traditional focus of philosophers.  Among these are epistemological questions about how  can one know that God exists, or that a particular religious text is conveying truth. Other questions are metaphysical in nature and try to answer what kind of thing religious belief is, is there genuinely such a thing and how does it differ from other important human endeavors such as science and politics.   Additionally such questions include investigations into human nature given that there is a God, such as how could we have free will in the light of God's nature, or how can we reconcile the existence of evil with God's dominion over the universe.

As the course will be run this term, we will investigate almost exclusively the epistemological side of these questions.  We will begin with some traditional attempts to demonstrate the existence of God from logic and mathematics and then for the remainder of the course involve ourselves in something called the "Intelligent Design" debate.  This a currently an intellectual "hot" topic that attempts to demonstrate that the world (i.e. the universe) exhibits the property of being designed by an intelligence.  Among other things, these arguments also attempt to demonstrate the impossibility of the evolutionary development of life.  We will examine a number of these arguments for their cogency.

If you have never taken a philosophy course before, you are strongly urged to procure a copy of Philosophical Analysis by Gorovitz and Hintikka and read chapter 9 of that text.  If you have never studied logic, it may also be a good idea to procure  some text on elementary logic and familiarize yourself with its salient concepts.  The aforementioned texts are available in our "library."  Much of the logic we need will be explained in the course, but due to the quite obvious limitations and focus of the course we will not go into deep expostions.  Weaker students may find themselves a bit left behind.


Pojman,  Philosophy of Religion, McGraw-Hill

Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hackett

Pennock, Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, MIT Press


At the bare minimum, we will have two hourly exams and a final of the essay variety. The tests will be drawn from a bank of questions passed out in advance.   There may also be quizzes if the need arises as well as written assignments. You are, of course, expected to come to class prepared to discuss the readings.  In this regard you should keep in mind the standing assignments of the General Syllabus.  Because this is an upper level course, I will de-emphasize lecture presentations.  Being unprepared for class is grounds for failure.

The schedule of readings, assignments, and topics to be covered will be announced in class.