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Heythrop

Heythrop - Philosophy of Religion

(Text as at 18/12/2010 12:00:00)

(For other versions of this Note, see the tables at the end)


This is the control document for my activities on the Philosophy of Religion module of the MA Philosophy and Religion course at Heythrop.

The module outline for 2010/11 is now on the web at Link (Defunct).

At the first lecture, we received a much more detailed 16-page “Reading List and General Matters” hand-out, key points from which follow those1 on the Module Outline:-

  1. Module Co-ordinator: Peter Vardy (Link)
  2. Module aims: To enable students to:-
    • Understand key themes in contemporary philosophy of religion.
    • Develop an understanding of issues affecting religious discourse from philosophic standpoint
    • Understand the basis of, and some difficulties with, different ideas about God's attributes and the way God may be said to relate to the universe.
  3. Learning outcomes: By the end of the course, students will be able to:-
    • Evaluate the Cosmological and Ontological arguments for the existence of God (specifically the Kalam argument and St. Thomas Aquinas' ‘Third Way') including the challenges of Hume, Kant and modern commentators.
    • Evaluate what it can mean to make truth claims about God's existence and the significance of different understandings of God
    • Engage in debate about the key attributes of God including Simplicity, Omnipotence and Omniscience and to probe alternative understandings of these attributes.
    • Evaluate how and in what manner God's interaction with the world can be explained based on different understandings of God.
  4. Module content: The learning outcomes set out above will normally be achieved through the following module content:-
    • Cosmological arguments:-
      … William Craig's revised Kalam philosophic argument;
      … The Third Way of St. Thomas Aquinas and
      … The cosmological argument of Frederick Copleston.
      … The challenges of Kant, Bertrand Russell and modern commentators including Swinburne and Mackie.
    • Realist and anti-realist understandings of God including the work of Don Cupitt, D.Z. Phillips and Gareth Moore OP.
    • St. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Luis De Molina and Gerard Hughes' understanding of God's omnipotence and omniscience.
    • The difference between God seen as wholly simple and God in time. Moses Maimonides, Ibn Saud and St. Thomas Aquinas on the simplicity of God together with criticisms of simplicity from Alvin Plantinga.
    • Maurice Wiles, Keith Ward, Janet Martin Soskice, Stewart Sutherland and Richard Swinburne on God's action through miracles and in answer to petitionary prayer.
  5. Learning and teaching methods:
    • 22 hours contact time + 178 hours private study = 2002 hours.
    • There will be one lecture each week and,
    • In the following week, a student led seminar which will be based on the lecture.
    • Full notes will be provided for students on every lecture.
    • Normally, each lecture will be accompanied by Powerpoint presentations.
    • Students will be provided with video resources which can be accessed via the College's intranet.
    • Students will be helped to critically engage with the material to be studied and will be provided with a broad view of the contemporary philosophy of religion subject area and will be encouraged to probe selected areas in greater depth.
  6. Essential3 Texts:-
  7. In-course feedback:
    • Coursework will be returned with comments and feedback.
    • An individual tutorial will be provided for the end-of-year essay.
    • The tutor is available by email or in person to deal with particular difficulties regarding the course which individual students may have.
  8. Assessment:
    • Book review 10%;
    • Course essay 2,500 words 30%;
    • Final Essay of 4,000 words: 60%.
  9. Additional teaching: An optional all-day Saturday session5 which, while not forming part of the assessable area of the course will allow students to broaden their knowledge base and write an essay on these topics as part of their summative assessment6.
    • 1. The problem of evil: Specifically the Augustinian and Thomist traditions and John Hick's Irenean theodicy as well as whether this is the best possible world. The challenge of Ivan Karamazov will also be explained and the reply to this of Job and Moltmann, and
    • 2. The relation between faith and reason7: Specifically considering Soren Kierkegaard's approach to God and his theory of the Stages.
Key Deadlines / Milestones
  1. Monday 18th October 2010: I led a seminar8 on the Ontological Argument.
  2. Monday 15th November 2010: Final deadline for the 1,000-word book review (of "Vardy (Peter) - What is Truth? Beyond Postmodernism and Fundamentalism").
    10% of the module marks. No tutorial, but it was returned with brief comments.
    … The Book Review is here9. It received 75%.
  3. Saturday 20th November 2010: Those attending the afternoon “Kierkegaard” session, were assumed to have read "Vardy (Peter) - An Introduction to Kierkegaard".
  4. Tuesday 30th November 2010: Effectively the final deadline for producing a 1-page essay-outline for the Course Essay (the 2,500-word one) and arranging a discussion, which can be in person or via email.
    … This is here10.
  5. Friday 17th December 2010: Final deadline for discussion of the 1-page essay-outline for the Course Essay (the 2,500-word one).
    … The write-up of the discussion (with Peter Vardy, on 13th December 2010) is here11.
  6. Monday 10th January 2011: Final deadline for submission of the 2,500-word Course Essay. 30% of the module marks.
  7. Friday 18th February 2011: Final deadline for submission of a draft of the 4,000-word Final Essay if a tutorial is required.
  8. Monday 13th June 2011: Final deadline for submission of the 4,000-word Final Essay. 60% of the module marks.
Essential Reading
  1. "Vardy (Peter) & Arliss (Julie) - The Thinker's Guide to God" (too easy)
  2. "Vardy (Peter) & Arliss (Julie) - The Thinker's Guide to Evil" (too easy)
  3. "Hughes (Gerard) - The Nature of God"
  4. "Davies (Brian) - Philosophy of Religion: A Guide to the Subject"
  5. "Davies (Brian) - Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology"
  6. "Hick (John) - Classical and Contemporary Readings in the Philosophy of Religion"
  7. "Peterson (Michael), Hasker (William), Reichenbach (Bruce) & Basinger (David) - Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings"
  8. "Quinn (Philip L.) & Taliaferro (Charles) - A Companion to the Philosophy of Religion"
  9. "Stump (Eleonore) & Murray (Michael J.) - Philosophy of Religion: The Big Questions"
  10. "Davies (Brian) - Aquinas"
  11. "Byrne (Peter) - God and Realism"
  12. "Vardy (Peter) - An Introduction to Kierkegaard" (essential reading for the Kierkegaard Saturday afternoon).
Lecture List

For each of these lectures there is (or will be) a hand-out and I hope to add my own notes. Where these events haven’t taken place yet, there are dummies in the list below (with the reading-lists in the Notes12):-
  1. The Cosmological Argument: 27/09/10.
    "Vardy (Peter) - The Cosmological Argument"
    Note13.
  2. Aquinas and How Language Can Be Used About God: 04/10/10.
    "Vardy (Peter) - Meaning and Truth in Religious Language"
    Note14.
  3. The Argument from Religious Experience: 27/09/10.
    "Vardy (Peter) - Religious Experience: A Philosophic Perspective"
    Note15.
  4. The Ontological Argument: 11/10/10.
    "Vardy (Peter) - The Ontological Argument"
    Note16.
  5. The Reality of God and Forms of Life: 25/10/10.
    Note17.
  6. Kant — Religion and God: 18/10/10.
    "Fowler (Charlotte) - Kant and God"
    Note18.
  7. Aquinas on Evil: 01/11/10.
    "Vardy (Peter) - St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and the Traditional Catholic Approach to the Problem of Evil"
    Note19.
  8. Living Life Sub Specie Aeternitatis - A Modern Platonic View? : 15/11/10.
    "Vardy (Peter) - God, Jesus and Belief: A Realist's View of a Universe Without God"
    Note20.
  9. John Hick's Irenean Theodicy & the Free Will Defence: 20/11/10.
    "Fowler (Charlotte) - Hick's Irenean Theodicy"
    "Vardy (Peter) - The Problem of Evil - The Free Will Defence"
    Note21.
  10. Natural Evil and the Best Possible World: 20/11/10.
    Note22.
  11. Camus, Moltmann and the Grand Inquisitor: 20/11/10.
    "Fowler (Charlotte) - Evil and Suffering: Protest Atheism"
    Note23.
  12. Kierkegaard: 20/11/10.
    "Vardy (Peter) - An Introduction to Kierkegaard" (pre-reading)
    "Vardy (Peter) - Significant dates in Soren Kierkegaard’s Life"
    "Vardy (Peter) - Peter Vardy’s summary of his understanding of the condition, grace and faith in Kierkegaard"
    Note24.
  13. An Open Future?: 22/11/10.
    "Vardy (Peter) - Freedom, Determinism and God's Omniscience"
    Note25.
  14. God Almighty: 29/11/10.
    "Vardy (Peter) - Divine Choice"
    Note26.
  15. Death and Eternal Life: 06/12/10.
    "Vardy (Peter) - Death and Eternal Life"
    Note27.
  16. Prayer and Miracles: 13/12/10.
    "Vardy (Peter) - Prayer: Notes for Philosophy of Religion Students",
    Note28 (Prayer),
    "Vardy (Peter) - God's Action in the World and Miracles",
    Note29 (Miracles).
Essay Questions
  1. Identify and critically examine the key presuppositions on which any one version of the Cosmological Argument rests.
  2. Can God's necessity establish the existence of God? (This is on the Ontological Argument.) Note30.
  3. If God is wholly simple, what might it mean to say that ‘God loves us like a father'? (This is on analogy and metaphor.)
  4. One of:
    • a) 'God is nothing'. Discuss what this may mean and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of this statement.
      Or:
    • b) 'Religious beliefs are not discovered, they are made'. Evaluate this statement. (This is on anti-realism.)
      Or:
    • c) ‘God exists' compare and contrast two different understandings of what this might mean.
  5. Does Stewart Sutherland's understanding of a life lived Sub Specie Aeternitatis provide a philosophically convincing understanding of Christianity? In what sense is Sutherland a realist?
  6. Does religious experience serve as a convincing pointer to the existence of God?
  7. One of:
    • a) Is the Free Will Defense a satisfactory answer to the problem of evil? Note31.
      Or:
    • b) Outline and evaluate Aquinas' approach to the problem of evil.
      Or:
    • c) Outline and evaluate John Hick's Irenean theodicy.
      Or:
    • d) Could this be the best possible world?
  8. What does it mean to say that God is omnipotent? Defend your definition.
  9. What is the most philosophically convincing way of reconciling human freedom and divine omnipotence?
  10. Can a human being have eternal life? Note32.
  11. What, if any, criteria can be developed to differentiate between good and bad religion?
  12. Define a miracle. Critically evaluate your definition.
  13. What do you consider to be the most rationally defensible understanding of petitionary prayer?
  14. One of:
    • a) Compare and contrast Kierkegaard's aesthetic, ethical, and religious stages.
      Or:
    • b) Can a teleological suspension of the ethical ever be justified?
      Or:
    • c) Evaluate Kierkegaard's understanding of what it means to be an individual.



In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: I’ve taken the liberty of re-ordering a few points where the module outline seemed a bit scruffy

Footnote 2: As noted elsewhere, in the document (Click here for Note) controlling the MA as a whole, I think there should really be 300 hours in total per course unit.

Footnote 3: I think photocopies of the essential passages will be distributed, but where available, and economically sensible, I’ve obtained the full texts.

Footnote 4: Peter Vardy can let us have an electronic copy of this book.

Footnote 5: The Module Outline claimed there were two whole Saturdays, but the two seem to have merged into one (on 20th November 2010) – Kierkegaard was in the morning, and The problem of evil was in the afternoon.

Footnote 6: I’m not sure this quite makes sense – no part of the course is assessable unless you chose to write on it. Maybe it’s just stressing that you won’t be failed for not turning up.

Footnote 7: Why the focus on Kierkegaard? For some reason, the best of the books on the introductory-reading list ("Peterson (Michael), Hasker (William), Reichenbach (Bruce) & Basinger (David) - Reason and Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion") is not mentioned.

Footnote 12: I’ve not decided how to structure my notes on philosophy of religion yet – but the jumping-off point for them is here.

Footnote 30: This is my agreed topic for the “Course Essay” – 2,500 words – though, if I can get the hang of it, I will (following my tutorial with Peter Vardy - Click here for Note) answer the question “Critically evaluate Gödel’s Ontological Argument for the existence of God”.

Footnote 31: My agreed topic for the “Final Essay” – 4,000 words – was originally a combination of two titles in this area, ie: “Compare and contrast the Free Will Defense as an answer to the problem of evil with Hick’s Irenaean theodicy. Is either successful?”. However, following my tutorial with Peter Vardy (Click here for Note), I’m now minded to choose a topic in the area of post-mortem survival.

Footnote 32: This – or some topic like it – will be the subject of my Dissertation of 12-15,000 words. While it can’t be used as an essay question for this course, I can choose a sub-topic such as dualism.


Live Version of this Archived Note

Date Length Title
18/12/2010 12:00:00 12280 Heythrop - Philosophy of Religion


Table of the 2 Earlier Versions of this Note

Date Length Title
10/12/2010 07:16:19 11726 Heythrop - Philosophy of Religion
20/11/2010 07:23:31 11760 Heythrop - Philosophy of Religion



This version updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
18/12/2010 12:00:00 None available Heythrop - MA Philosophy and Religion



Summary of Notes Links from this Page

Aquinas on Evil Can God's necessity establish the existence of God? Cosmological Argument Death and Eternal Life Free Will Defence
Grand Inquisitor Human Freedom Kant Kierkegaard Miracles
Natural Evil Omnipotence Ontological Argument (2) Prayer Religious Experience
Religious Language Review - Vardy: What is Truth? Sutherland The Reality of God and Forms of Life Vardy_101213

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Summary of Note Links to this Page

Heythrop - MA Philosophy and Religion Islam 2 Status: Philosophy of Religion (2010 - December), 2 Status: Philosophy of Religion (2010 - September), 2 Status: Philosophy of Religion (2011 - December), 2
Status: Philosophy of Religion (2011 - June), 2 Status: Philosophy of Religion (2011 - March), 2 Status: Philosophy of Religion (2011 - September), 2 Status: Philosophy of Religion (2012 - December), 2 Status: Philosophy of Religion (2012 - June), 2
Status: Philosophy of Religion (2012 - March), 2 Status: Philosophy of Religion (2012 - September), 2 Status: Philosophy of Religion (2013 - December) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2013 - June), 2 Status: Philosophy of Religion (2013 - March), 2
Status: Philosophy of Religion (2013 - September), 2 Status: Philosophy of Religion (2014 - December) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2014 - June) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2014 - March) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2014 - September)
Status: Philosophy of Religion (2015 - December) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2015 - June) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2015 - March) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2015 - September) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2016 - December)
Status: Philosophy of Religion (2016 - June) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2016 - March) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2016 - September) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2017 - December) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2017 - June)
Status: Philosophy of Religion (2017 - March) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2017 - September) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2018 - December) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2018 - June) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2018 - March)
Status: Philosophy of Religion (2018 - September) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2019 - December) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2019 - June) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2019 - March) Status: Philosophy of Religion (2019 - September)
Status: Summary (2010 - December) Status: Summary (2011 - December) Status: Summary (2011 - June) Status: Summary (2011 - March) Status: Summary (2011 - September)

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