Philosophy of Religion: The Existence and Nature of God

Campus: 
Vienna
Academic Year: 
2019-2020
Term: 
Fall
Credits: 
2.0
ECTS Credits: 
4.0
Course Description: 

We will look at some of the major arguments for the existence of God, in both their historical forms, and in the more modern versions. This will include especially the ontological argument, the first cause argument, and the argument from design. Then we will move on to consider some of the properties traditionally attributed to God, and problems that follow therefrom. For example we shall consider His supposed simplicity, His timelessness, His omniscience (and its consequences for human freedom) and how one reconciles His goodness – or not – with the existence of evil.

The goal of the course is to draw the students into a sophisticated discussion of the topics just mentioned. After a period during which these issues were ignored by analytic philosophy, concern with them has revived on a large scale, and respect for the traditional scholastic approaches is back in fashion.

Learning Outcomes: 

The outcome should be that the students are able to participate in professional-level discussion of the topics mentioned and will have formed their own view about the soundness of the arguments under discussion. They will  be able to form their own opinion about whether modern science and cosmology reinforces the traditional arguments and whether understanding the logic of the concept of existence can validate Anselm’s intuitions. They will also be able to form a view on whether the notion of an absolutely simple but divinely perfect being makes sense, whether His omniscience is compatible with human freedom, and whether the existence of evil is compatible with His goodness.

Assessment: 

Final evaluation will be based on an essay of 2,000 words. The crude American marking system we employ  (A, A-, B+, B, B-, etc) is insufficiently sensitive. I shall mark essays according to a finer grain, but adjust to a permitted mark on the basis of contribution in class. For example, if I think and essay is worth B+?+ and the writer said little in class, he or she will receive a B+, but if they have shone in class, it will be an A-.