PHIL 270(F) Arguing about God (Same as Religion 283)

"Faith is a fine invention," according to Emily Dickinson's poem, "when gentlemen can see; but microscopes are prudent in an emergency." This course will see how far the microscopes of reason and logic can carry us in traditional arguments about the existence and nature of God. We will closely analyze classical arguments by Augustine, Avicenna, Aquinas, Anselm, Maimonides, Descartes, and others. Pascal's wager is a different approach: it argues that even though proof of the existence of God is unavailable, you will maximize your expected utility by believing. We will examine the wager in its original home of Pascal's Pensees, and look at William James' related article, "The Will to Believe." The millennia old problem of whether human suffering is compatible with God's perfection is called "the problem of evil". We will examine this issue in Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, classic sources and contemporary articles. Students should be aware that, in the classic tradition, this class will resemble a logic course. Format: seminar with some lectures. Requirements: frequent short assignments and a final paper. No prerequisites; open to first years. Some of the course materials overlaps with Philosophy 102 and 103. Students who have taken 102 or 103 need the permission of the instructor. No enrollment limit (expected: 20-25).