This module studies some central questions in philosophy of religion, drawing on topics in metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. It begins by studying and critically assessing three of the 'classical' arguments for the existence of God—the ontological argument, the cosmological argument and the argument from design —which consider respectively whether reason, science or experience can show us that God exists. It goes on to consider the relationship between religion and morality, examining Kant’s moral argument, which appears to support a case for the existence of God, and Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma, which appears to tell against it. Finally, it considers some central topics in religious epistemology, language and philosophy of mind, including: miracles, the nature of religious experience, religious language and personal identity. One underlying question the module considers is whether the above arguments and topics could be used to support or tell against an argument for the overall rationality of religious belief.
2 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar each week for 10 teaching weeks
Also available at Level 5 (PL601)
Method of assessment
Indicative Reading List:
Philosophy of Religion: The Big Questions, edited by Eleanor Stump and Michael Murray, Blackwell, 1999. This anthology contains many of the specific readings we will consider in the module, including:
Van Inwagen, Peter, 'Necessary Being: The Ontological Argument', pp. 69-83
Rowe, William, 'Cosmological Argument', pp. 84-93
Plantinga, Alvin 'Is Naturalism Irrational?', pp. 125-138
Clifford, William, 'The Ethics of Belief', pp. 269-272
Alston, William, 'Perceiving God', pp. 142-150
The course also makes use of the following two introductions to the philosophy of religion:
An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (3rd edition) Brian Davies (OUP), 2004
Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, Robin le Poidevin (Routledge), 1996
See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)
11.1 By the end of this module, Level 5 students should be able to:Outline and show understanding through clear expression of the three classical arguments for the existence of God: the ontological, cosmological and teleological arguments.
11.2 Outline and show understanding through clear expression of the following moral arguments for and against the existence of God: Kant's moral argument; the Euthrypho dilemma and the problem of evil.
11.3 Outline and show understanding through clear expression of the following topics in religious epistemology, language and philosophy of mind: miracles; religious experience; religious language; personal identity.
11.4 Discuss the above arguments and topics with respect to the ways in which they relate to the question of the overall rationality of religious belief.
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