Gillian Russell

Philosophy Professor

Phil 327 : Philosophy of Religion (Spring 2010)

Class Times: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2.30-4pm
Location: Psychology Building 251
Course Website:

Instructor: Professor Gillian Russell
Office hours: Monday 1-2pm or by appointment
Office Location: 209 Wilson Hall
Email: grussell – at – wustl – dot – edu

Teaching Assistant: John Gabriel
Office Hours: TBA
Office Location: downstairs in Wilson Hall
(go right at the bottom of the stairs and continue along to
the double doors at the end of the corridor)
Email: jgabriel – at – artsci – dot – 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:

Readings , Topics and Homework Assignments

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

Tuesday 19th January – Introduction

Introduction to the course.

Thursday 21st January

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 26th January – The Cosmological Argument

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

Thursday 28th January

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

Tuesday 2nd February – The Teleological Argument

The Watch and the Watchmaker – William Paley (1802)

Thursday 4th February

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

Tuesday 9th February

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

Thursday 11th February

Inverse Gambler’s Fallacy: The Argument from Design – Ian Hacking, Mind, 96: 331–340 (a-res)

Tuesday 16th February – Arguments from Religious Experience

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

Thursday 18th February

No class.

Tuesday 23rd February – Pascal’s Wager

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

Thursday 25th February

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

Tuesday 2nd March

The Will to Believe – William James (1879)

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

Thursday 4th March


Tuesday 9th March


Thursday 11th March


Tuesday 16th March – 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 spring break reading: Candide – the short novel by Voltaire (1759) (you’ll need to buy a copy of this

Thursday 18th March

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

Tuesday 23th March

"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 25th March

No class.

Tuesday 30th March – Miracles

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

Thursday 1st April

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

Tuesday 6th April – Omniscience, Omnipotence, Free Will

Pascal Boyer, author of Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought, will present some of his work and answer your questions. It’s very important that you read his paper (on a-res) beforehand.

Thursday 8th April

The Logic of Omnipotence – Harry Frankfurt (1964)

Tuesday 13th April – Science

Science vs Religion – Richard Dwarkins (1996)

Thursday 15th April

Nonoverlapping Magisteria – Stephen Jay Gould (1997)

Tuesday 20th April – Morality

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

Thursday 22nd April

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

Tuesday 27thth April

"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 29th April

Review class.



20% – short paper (400 words max.) due Thursday, February 4th

40% – midterm examination on Thursday, March 4th
40% – long paper (2000 words max) (due Thursday, May 6th)

There is no final exam.

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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