Gillian Russell

Philosophy Professor

Phil 327 : Philosophy of Religion (Fall, 2010)

Class Times: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2.30-4pm
Location: Rebstock 215
Course Website:

The course website is the best place to find information about the course, including readings, written assignments, exams and deadlines.

Instructor: Professor Gillian Russell
Office hours: Tuesdays 4-5pm or by appointment
Office Location: 209 Wilson Hall
Email: grussell – at – wustl – dot – edu


This course is an introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. We will study some classic arguments and texts, beginning with the standard arguments
for and against the existence of a god or gods. Readings will include seminal work by Plato, Anselm, Aquinas, Pascal, Hume and Nietzsche as well as the writings of contemporary philosophers, such as David Lewis, Harry Frankfurt and Peter van Inwagen.


The textbook for this course is Philosophy of Religion: an anthology (5th edition) edited by Pojman and Rea, (ISBN 978-0495095040.) It is the only text you will need to buy. Second hand copies are fine. Any additional required reading will be available on a-res: You should bring this text to each class.

Readings , Topics and Homework Assignments – revised version (20/9/10)

Readings marked are in the course textbook. All others will be made available on the a-res page for the course.

Note from Professor Russell

As some of you already know, I will be having surgery on my knee on October 8th, and so will be away for some classes that I had not intended to be away for, and will in fact be here for some classes that I had intended to be gone for (because I’ve cancelled some talks that I had scheduled.) This new version of the schedule incorporates the changes that I have made so as to minimise disruption to the class – it replaces the original syllabus which I handed out on the first day of class. The most significant change is that the midterm has been moved up to Thursday 14th October. I will not be holding office hours on Monday 11th October, but since this is just before your exam I will schedule an extra office hour for 4pm on Thursday 7th October. I will also remain available via email, so feel free to get in touch if you have questions. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Tuesday 31st August, 2010 – Introduction

Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion.

Thursday 2nd September – Anselm’s Ontological Argument

St. Anselm, The Ontological Argument – Saint Anselm (1033-1109)
Gaunilo’s Criticism (from A Reply on Behalf of the Fool) – Gaunilo of Marmoutiers (11th C)
A Critique of the Ontological Argument (extract from The Critique of Pure Reason) – Immanuel Kant (1781/1787)

Tuesday 7th September – The Cosmological Argument

The Five Ways (extract from Summa Theologiae) – Thomas Aquinas (1274)
The Argument from Contingency – Samuel Clarke (1705)

Thursday 9th September

A Critique of the Cosmological Argument – Paul Edwards (1959)

Tuesday 14th September – The Teleological Argument

The Watch and the Watchmaker – William Paley (1802)

Thursday 16th September

A Critique of the Design Argument (extract from Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) – David Hume (1779)

Tuesday 21st September

A Scientific Argument for the Existence of God – Robin Collins (1999)

Thursday 23rd September

Extract from Dawkins’ The God Delusion (ares)

Tuesday 28th September

No class

Thursday 30th September

No class

Tuesday 5th October – Arguments from Religious Experience

Mysticism (extract from The Varieties of Religious Experience) – William James (1902)

Thursday 7th October – Pascal’s Wager

The Wager (extract from Pensees) – Blaise Pascal (lived 1623-1662)

Optional extra reading: Al Hayek – "Waging War on Pascal’s Wager"

Tuesday 12th October

No class.

Thursday 14th October

Midterm Examination

Tuesday 19th October

The Ethics of Belief – W.K.Clifford (1877)

Thursday 21st October

The Will to Believe – William James (1879)

Tuesday 26th October – The Problem of Evil

The Argument from Evil (extract from Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) – David Hume (1779)
Theodicy: A defense of Theism – Gottfried Leibniz (1710)
Rebellion (extract from the Brothers Karamazov) – Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)

Optional extra reading: Candide – the short novel by Voltaire (1759) (you’ll need to buy a copy of this

Thursday 28th October

J. L. Mackie – Evil and Omnipotence (1955)

Tuesday 2nd November

"Divine Evil," David Lewis (2001) in Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life, edited by Louise Anthony, OUP (Oxford, 2007.) This article is a little more difficult than most of the rest of the reading.

Thursday 4th November – Miracles

Against Miracles (extract from An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding) – David Hume (1748)

Tuesday 9th November

Of ‘Of Miracles’ – Peter van Inwagen (1998)

Thursday 11th November – Omniscience, Omnipotence, Free Will

The Logic of Omnipotence – Harry Frankfurt (1964)

Tuesday 16th November – Religion and Science

Science vs Religion – Richard Dwarkins (1996)

Thursday 18th November

Nonoverlapping Magisteria – Stephen Jay Gould (1997)

Tuesday 23rd November

Extract from Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought (2002)

Thursday 25th November


Tuesday 30th November – Religion and Morality

Morality and Religion (extract from the Euthyphro) – Plato (lived 428/427BC– 348/347BC)

Thursday 2nd December

Extract from On the Genealogy of Morals – Frederich Nietzsche (1887) (a-res)

Tuesday 7th December

"If God is dead, is everything permitted?" Elizabeth Anderson (2007) in Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life, edited by Louise Anthony, OUP (Oxford, 2007.) This article is a little more difficult than most of the rest of the reading.

Thursday 9th December

Review class.



20% – short paper (400 words max.) due Friday, September 17th. For this paper you will chose your own topic. It should be closely related to one of the issues we’ve studied. Feel free to run your idea by me before you get started.

40% – midterm examination on Thursday, October 14th
40% – long paper (2000 words max) (due Thursday, 16th December – the first day of exam week.) For this paper you may choose your own topic, but I will also be giving out a list of suggested topics.

There is no final exam.

Resources for Paper Writing

Academic Integrity

Students suspected of plagiarism or any other form of academic dishonesty or misconduct will be reported to the academic integrity officer for Arts and Sciences (currently Dean Killen), so that the incident may be handled in a consistent, fair manner, and so that substantiated charges of misconduct may be noted in students’ records.

Pass/Fail Option

For students taking the course pass/fail, the minimum letter grade required for a pass will be a C-.

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