Philosophy of Religion, sample thesis statements
The final paper is a position paper, in which you give arguments for a position; it is not a research paper. If you want to bring in additional material from outside the class readings, you may do so, but only if it contributes to your argument. (However, you might want to check with me to see whether the material is appropriate.) You don't need to bring in additional material, and I don't want this paper to be an exercise in finding out and explaining what other people thought about the philosophers and topics we've studied. Instead, this is your chance to give your own arguments about the material we've studied.
I want you to give your opinion. However, you need to give reasons for your opinions, and your discussion should take, as its starting point, the arguments of the philosophers we've studied this semester. In addition, it should demonstrate an understanding of these arguments.
As always, you should explain things clearly enough that somebody not already familiar with the class material, like your ignorant but intelligent roommate, would understand what you're saying. Another good technique is to try to think of possible objections to what you're saying and to reply to those objections. What would Paley, or Aquinas, or Sartre, or Pike say against you? Having an actual ignorant roommate (or a classmate) look over your paper to raise objections, and to spot obscure passages, can be very helpful.
I've also posted additional paper writing guidelines
Note: These are only suggestions for possible paper topics, to get you thinking, plus some of the questions it might be helpful to address during the course of your paper. However, these aren't binding; feel free to adapt these to your own needs.
Some sample thesis statements:
- Is the divine command theory of morality acceptable?
- Does Aquinas' Natural Law theory require the existence of god?
- Is Aquinas' Natural Law theory consistent with God being omnipotent and sovereign over all things?
- Is it correct to ground morality about facts about reason and human nature?
- Is Sartre right that, if there is no God, there is no pre-set human essence to ground morality?
- Does Sartre make morality arbitrary?
- Does putting God outside of time really help with the problem of foreknowledge and freedom?
- Is the fact that God is necessarily omniscient pose special problems for reconciling God's foreknowledge and freedom?
- Is God's knowledge a cause of what God knows? If so, does this pose a problem for human freedom?
- Is Baker right that adopting a compatibilist view of freedom allows one to easily reconcile foreknowledge and freedom, as well as giving a satisfactory account of divine providence? Is Baker right that people are not 'puppets' under her view?
- Is it morally acceptable to believe in God on Pascal's grounds? Is it prudent? Is it possible? Generally speaking, does Pascal's argument work?
- Does Clifford's argument against believing things about God based upon your childhood upbringing succeed?
- Do James' objections to Clifford succeed?
- The Divine Command Theory of Ethics is not refuted by the type of question that Socrates asks Euthyphro. Actions can be right or wrong becauseGod commands or prohibits them. In fact, without God's commands, there can be no basis for ethics.
- The 'immoralities of the patriarchs' do not support the Divine Command Theory, even if we assume that the people in the Bible were morally obligated to do the things God commanded them to do. But I will argue that they were not obligated to do those things.
- Sartre does not show that God's non-existence has a huge impact on morality. Even with no god, there is a human essence that can be the basis for morality.
- Even if God is 'inside' of time, foreknowledge is compatible with free will.
- Theists should believe that every contingent event is caused by God's knowledge, as Aquinas argues, and this is compatible with human beings having libertarian free will.
- Theists should believe that every contingent event is caused by God's knowledge, as Aquinas argues. This is not compatible with human beings having libertarian free will, but theists should be compatibilists.
- Pascal's Wager fails because we have no reason to think that the 'payoff' for believing in God is higher than the payoff for not believing.
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