Philosophy 224 Meaning and Religious Belief Syllabus
003 Stevenson 350A Tuesday, Thursday 2-3:15
The course is an examination of the philosophical issues surrounding the existence and nature of God and religion, through the analysis of arguments offered for and against various positions taken in the history of philosophy. This is not a history or sociology of religion, but rather deals with philosophical implications and assumptions. The issues will be dealt with as problems requiring an answer, so that through a critical appraisal of stances one might take, the students' own solutions to the problems can become more clear and rigorous.
The Official Departmental Description: Each normal adult person at a given time has a set of attitudes towards life&endash;ways of seeing his or her place (or lack of it) in the grand scheme of things&endash;ways of thinking or refusing to think about mortality. These attitudes, or ways of thinking, do not operate merely at the intellectual or cognitive level, but rather constitute both a basis for cognitive understanding of the world as well as a way of being .. an overall ethos, if you will. In this course we will examine in detail the general character of religious ways of thinking in relation to religious ways of being .. that is, religious ethos .. and explore how one might responsibly think about and evaluate such ways. We do not explore in any substantial way various world religions, but rather we examine how to think about religious perspectives, how to understand their complexity and force, how to look at a religious perspective "from the inside", how to begin to evaluate what point of view&endash;religious or antireligious&endash;it would be reasonable to take. Thus, in this course, we examine one of the most central aspects of life for a human being.
By the end of the course, the student should have a more cogent foundation for their beliefs about God, having experienced different views on major religious issues. Their critical thinking skills will be enhanced by awareness of these issues and having to argue for their own position on them.
Louis Pojman, ed. The Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology. 6th Ed. Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1998. (Other editions are also acceptable, but some cross referencing will be required). Pojman's book constitutes required reading.
Handouts will be provided Various local and remote internet pages will be recommended or required reading (URL to follow, linked from the 224 Reggienet page).
Online notes on the text are available in Reggienet. A guide to reading my online notes is at 'argument.htm', also in Reggienet.
Apart from beginning with a problem of religious ethics (the Euthyphro, on Reggienet), we will more or less follow the order of problems as they are arranged in the text. The online notes based on the text are available on Reggienet. The detailed reading schedule will be available on-line at ISU224sch.htm and via Reggienet.
As you read the assigned readings for each class, you should summarize in prose or argument form the main conclusion from each source, and why the author believes it to be true. I will call upon you at random to provide your outline of the article covered for each class. For this reason, attendance at each lecture is important: you could either be called upon to present or could receive good advice about your understanding of the reading. The summaries need not be more than 500 words, and can often be much less, but 100 words is about the minimum. Two such summaries (on separate pieces of paper or via Reggienet) are required within the term, for 10% of the final grade. These should be typed and handed in subsequent to the class in which the reading is discussed, but may be submitted shortly after. You can pick your own best outlines, or resubmit if you've already achieved the required number and written a better account of a later paper.
Two in-class exams (tentatively late February and late March) and a final will occur at major divisions of the course. See the links below for advice on how to approach these. Make up exams are possible only with medical certification or a very good excuse. Students with relevant special needs are also invited to discuss them with me or with the Office of Disability Concerns (see below).
Please note that instructors are legally forbidden from sending scores by email, or communicating them by telephone. Scores are generally posted on Reggienet when they become available. Also, contributing your work via email attachments must be by approval. If approved, they must be 'saved as' Word 2001 or earlier (i.e. no '.docx').
"Illinois State University provides a welcoming atmosphere for individuals with disabilities by assisting each in functioning independently within the University community and providing equal access and opportunity in accomplishing educational, professional and personal goals." If you need an accommodation because of a documented disability, you are required to register with Disability Concerns preferably at the beginning of the semester. Contact their Counselors at 350 Fell Hall or call (309) 438-5853 to make an appointment..
Useful and Worthy Aids to Work in Philosophy include: (in order of length)
How to Write Philosophy Exams, by Michael Menlowe
How to Write Philosophy Papers, by Ronald Hepburn
How to Write Philosophy Papers, by Doug Mann
How to Write Philosophy Papers, by James Pryor
Go to Jeffrey Carr's Page
Go to the ISU Homepage