PHIL 117
Arguing about God Fall 2022 (also offered Spring 2023)
Division II Writing Skills

Class Details

“Faith is a fine invention,” according to Emily Dickinson’s poem, “when gentlemen can see; but microscopes are prudent in an emergency.” This introduction to philosophy will see how far the microscopes of reason and logic can carry us in traditional arguments about the existence and nature of God. We will closely analyze classical arguments by Augustine, Avicenna, Aquinas, Anselm, Maimonides, Descartes, and others. Pascal’s wager is a different approach: it argues that even though proof of the existence of God is unavailable, you will maximize your expected utility be believing. We will examine the wager in its original home of Pascal’s Pensees, and look at William James’ related article, “The Will to Believe.” The millennia old problem of whether human suffering is compatible with God’s perfection is called “the problem of evil.” We will examine this issue in Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, classic sources and contemporary articles. Students should be aware that, in the classic tradition, this class resembles a logic course.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 1292
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: 5 short papers
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: first-years and sophomores
Unit Notes: meets 100-level PHIL major requirement
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
WS Notes: Five 4 or 5 page papers, evenly spaced throughout the semester. Students will receive timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.

Class Grid

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