Philosophy of Religion

Phil 3230, CRN 17580
Spring 2015
MW 1:00-2:15 pm 25 Park Place (old Suntrust building) 1618
Instructor: Tim O'Keefe
Office: 1639 25 Park Place (old Suntrust building)
Phone: O: (404) 413-6108
e-mail: tokeefe AT gsu.edu
Office Hours: 2:20-3:50 TR and by appointment
Course description and objectives

In this course we will explore questions such as the following: if God has foreknowledge of actions, can I still be free and responsible? Can morality depend on God's will, and if there is no God, does this have an impact on morality? Is there an afterlife, and if not, is death something I should fear? Is it possible to be reincarnated as another person or another animal? Does the vast suffering in the world give us good reason to believe God does not exist? What is faith, and can believing in God on the basis of faith be justified? We will concentrate on developing the skills needed in order to understand the arguments offered by the philosophers we study, to evaluate those arguments, and to formulate cogent philosophical arguments of our own.

Class format

The exams will consist mainly of essay questions I will give you before the exam, plus a few short answers. The final paper will be a position paper--that is, a paper in which you advance arguments of your own in support of a thesis related to the topics we've been studying during the first half of the semester. In order to make the process of composing the paper fruitful for you, there will be two mandatory drafts of the paper due over the course of the semester before you turn in the final version. (Students who do not turn in complete drafts by the deadlines will have a penalty assessed on their final paper grade.) Our Writing Consultants will give you feedback on each draft before you turn in the final version.

In each class we'll have a member of the class contribute a short reading response paper. I will rotate the schedule of reading response papers, so that every class period two or so students will submit a paper, and each student will compose two of these papers over the course of the semester. These papers will typically involve setting out and evaluating one of the arguments in the reading for that class day. You will post this paper to the class bulletin board. Please post your paper the night before the class. Everybody will be responsible for reading the reading response papers before the class meeting and posting a reply to one of the papers, or a reply to one of the replies, even.

You can post several types of replies:

  1. Clarification request. You claim p, but I don't know what you mean by saying p. Please clarify. Do you mean by this p', p''...?
  2. Argument request. You claim p. I think I know what you mean by p. But why do you claim p? I don't see any argument for p, and I think you need to give an argument for it.
  3. Objection. You claim p (and maybe you argue for it). However, I think that p, (or your argument for p), is problematic. Here's my objection to p (or to your argument for p): q. What do you say in response to q?
  4. Assistance. You claim p. I agree with you that p, but I think the following additional reason (which you do not mention) can be given in support of p: q.
  5. Competing interpretation. You say that the reading claims that p. However, I don't think that this is exactly what it says. Instead, I think it says p' (and here's why I think this).
  6. Suggestion of parallels. You claim p. P (or your argument for p) reminds me of so-and-so's claim that q (or his argument for q). Are the two really similar? Does comparing p to q help illuminate p, or is it just misleading?
Sometimes, the bulletin board may be down. If so, please e-mail me your paper or question before class.

Typically, I will explain the material in the first part of the class, and the latter part of the class will be devoted to discussing the material, using the reading response papers and replies as a way to start the discussion. But this division is not meant to be hard and fast: discussions and evaluation will often break out during the first part of the class, and during the course of discussing the material in the second part, sometimes I may go back to clarify some points in the material.

The bulletin board also has a forum for posting questions about the material. If anything in the reading is unclear to you, or you have any other questions about the material, please post them in this forum. I will look over it before class.

The bulletin board, announcements, copies of this syllabus, regularly updated reading assignments, and a trove of other information is available from the course web site, http://www2.gsu.edu/~phltso/religionS15.html.

Texts: All texts will be posted to Desire2Learn.

EVALUATION:
Two in-class exams 40%
Final Exam 20%
Final paper (5-7 pages) 30%
Reading response papers and participation 10%

Important Dates (subject to change):

Exams:

February 17: First exam
March 31: Second Exam
Tuesday April 28 10:45 a.m.: Final Exam

Paper:
Thursday March 5: Paper thesis statement due
Thursday March 12: First paper draft due
Monday April 6: Second paper draft due
Thursday April 23: Final paper due

If you will be unable to turn in a paper when it's due or make it to an exam at its scheduled time, please let me know beforehand and let me know why you'll be unable to complete the assignment on time. We can arrange for an extension (although your grade will be reduced). I'm usually much more understanding of people who come to me before an assignment is due and say they'll have difficulty completing it on time than I am of those who tell me afterwards that they were unable to do it. However, if you miss the deadline for an assignment, please contact me as soon as possible to arrange to make it up. Unless there is some compelling excuse (e.g., you had to be rushed to the hospital the night before a paper was due), there will be a penalty for tardiness, and there is no guarantee that you will be allowed to make up the assignment.

You're also responsible for attending class regularly. If you know beforehand that you'll be unable to attend a class, let me know so that we can arrange for you to receive notes, discuss the material, or do anything else necessary so that you do not fall behind. If you miss a class without notification, you will still be responsible for knowing course content discussed in the class that day, learning about any announcements made in class, etc. Please turn off your cellphone before attending class, and do not use laptops or other electronic devices in class. I reserve the right to withdraw from class students who miss exams.

Please turn off your cell phone prior to the start of class. Laptops may be used only for taking notes, not for reading e-mail, browsing the web, or playing Angry Birds.

If you have a disability that requires special accommodations, I would like you to notify both me and Disability Services (Student Center, 2nd floor, suite 230, ph: 404-463-9044, web: www2.gsu.edu/disability). You will be asked to provide documentation concerning your disability to determine the appropriate accommodation.

Please also see the Philosophy department's general syllabus statement for more important information on matters such as withdrawal dates, academic honesty, etc.

Return to the philosophy of religion web site.
Return to the course materials index.
Return to Tim O'Keefe's homepage.