Philosophy of Religion
Course Materials (click on title)
Philosophy of Religion
This should be a minimum of three typewritten pages every time it is due: (1) Sept 9, (2) Sept 23, (3) Oct. 14, (4) Nov. 4, (5) Nov.30 (a total of at least 15 pages by the end of the semester), worth a possible 20 points.
PROVIDED BY CONTEMPORARY SCIENCE
A. COSMIC EVOLUTION
1) The primal explosion - the big bang - the genesis of time, space, matter and energy - when?
A All the energy that would ever exist in the entire course of time erupted as a single quantum B a singular gift B existence.@ (Swimme and Berry, The Universe Story, Harper-Collins, 1992, p. 17)
2) A million years later the primal fireball has cooled and expanded enough for more stable particles to scatter and begin the process of cosmic organization filling the unfolding of space and time. Stars, galaxies, galaxy systems - perhaps a hundred billion galaxies (A island universes@ ), each composed of a billion stars.
3) Several generations of stars have come and gone, increasing the complexity and the wealth of heavy elements available for subsequent generations of stars and for the evolution of life: the sun and solar system are born - when? In the 20th century, astrophysicists proposed the A cosmic anthropic principle.@ What is this principle?
B. EVOLUTION ON THE EARTH
1) The life process emerges on earth in the first one celled anaerobic organisms - when? Then aerobic organisms, then multicellular organisms in the oceans 600 million years ago. These multiply onto the as yet barren continents.
2) Mammals arise 200 million years ago and the earth swarms with innumerable life forms occupying billions of differing habitats. An immense creative journey intimately linked to the process of cosmogenesis itself.
3) Hominids arise 4 million years ago - creatures standing erect with hands free to use as tools. And then humans arise - when? - the free hands now make tools, tame fire, begin an immense creative journey called human existence.
C. EVOLUTION IN HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS
1) The longest mode of human consciousness B The Age of Primal Oneness B direct participation in the vast unconsciousness of nature B the originary immediacy of nature itself, without self-consciousness, for perhaps two million years.
2) 35-40,000 years ago B the power of picturing B the Age of Magic B the capacity for forming images in the seemingly evidenced in those very ancient cave paintings, found worldwide that begin in this period. In these cave paintings the first signs of the emerging split between subject and object that will lead to self-consciousness.
3) 10-12,000 years ago B the mythological relation to the cosmos and the living earth B the Age of Mythology B resulting from the invention of agriculture at this time. People begin living in Neolithic villages all over the planet. Later the great cities and River Valley Civilizations arise - 3-6,000 years ago - in mythic consciousness. Personal, empathic response to the phenomena of nature. Address nature as a A thou.@
4) 8-2nd century BCE B the A Axis Period in Human History@ B a few philosophers and religious thinkers all over the planet begin to challenge the mythological consciousness and establish a new consciousness: based on abstract thinking, philosophical reasoning, universal principles, and scientific investigation - The Age of Philosophy, Critical Reason, and Science. Human history had begun - the elaboration and development of this new mode of consciousness. The beginning of a systematic distinction between subjectivity and objectivity that became fundamental for the next 2000 years.
5) How was this done in Ancient thought? How was this done in Medieval thought? How was this done in Modern thought? In the 20th century, some thinkers (such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Samuel Alexander, Henri Bergson, and Errol E. Harris) have proposed the principle of A emergent evolution.@ What is this principle?
6) Today: encompassing of the abstract and scientific mode of consciousness by a larger awareness B holistic and ecological. Swimme and Berry call the former the A Technozoic@ and the latter the A Ecozoic@ (p.15). A new era in human awareness may be emerging, enlarging reason and abstract thought to a new sense of value and wholeness B an era that realizes the integrity and unity of nature and humanity living on planet Earth. We may call itThe Age of Integration and Wholeness.
A. REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE MIDTERM EXAM
1) Explain what John Hick means, in his book An Interpretation of Religion, by the A Soteriological Character of Post-Axial Religion.@ According to Hick, what happened during the Axial Period and how did it determine the nature of post-Axial religion? (There is no need to go into the specifics of each religion described by Hick, but rather on a general level, how were all the great world religions transformed during this period?)
2) Hick argues that Post-Axial religion took on both a A cosmic optimism@ (Chapter 4) and an orientation to A salvation/liberation as human transformation@ (Chapter 3). Explain what he means by each of these features of the modern world religions, and, in general, how these features apply to all the main world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism).
3) In Chapters 8, 9, and 10, Hick proceeds from a discussion of A natural meaning and experience@ to A ethical meaning and experience@ to A religious meaning and experience.@ Trace his argument through these three chapters. What is he arguing? How is the argument developed? What is his thesis regarding religion?
4) In Chapter 11, Hick distinguishes between religious realism and non-realism and develops an argument for religious realism. In Chapter 13, he argues for A the rationality of religious belief.@ It is rational to be a religious realist, he argues, and hold religious beliefs that are realist in character. Explain his arguments in these two chapters.
5) In his A Lectures on Religious Belief@ given during the late 1930s and early 40s, Wittgenstein develops a distinction between A the logic of religious belief@ and A the logic of factual or scientific belief.@ Explain his arguments in relation to this distinction. Based on these lectures, give a general account of Wittgenstein= s A philosophy of religion.@
6) In Martin= s article on A The Religious Nature of Wittgenstein= s Later Philosophy,@ discuss the ways in which Wittgenstein himself can be said to hold a A religious@ view of life. According to Martin, what was Wittgenstein trying to do in his later philosophy with respect to A our human situation@ ? Describe Wittgenstein= s A philosophy of religion@ in relation to the entire project of his later philosophy as this is given in the article.
7) Chapter 2 of The Essential Tillich consists of some of Tillich= s key writings on A faith.@ What is faith for Tillich? How is it centered? What is its source in human life? How can we say it is found in A authentic@ and A inauthentic forms@ in human life? How is it related to the holy? To doubt? To the A community@ ?
8) Discuss Tillich= s philosophy of religion in terms of his ideas about A symbols@ (what they are, how they function), his ideas about A depth@ in human life, and his ideas about A participation.@ Secondly, how do the concepts that form part of what he calls the A Protestant Principle@ (the Second Commandment, the Prophets, and the Cross of Christ) function within his philosophy of religion?
B. REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE FINAL EXAM
1) In The Essential Tillich,
Paul Tillich speaks of "the meaning of religion as living in the
dimension of depth" as opposed to "particular expressions of one's
ultimate concern" (p. 2). Discuss "the dimension of depth" in relation
to Tillich's philosophy of religion. What is it? How does it become
"lost" or found? What role does it play in authentic religion?
4) Chapter 14, of Hick's An Interpretation of Religion, presents his "pluralistic hypothesis" in terms of a Kantian model distinguishing between phenomenal and noumenal aspects of the world. What is this hypothesis and how does Hick derive it from the Kantian model?
5) In Chapter 15, Hick discusses "the Personae of the Real." What is his thesis and what are some of his primary examples? For Hick, what is the ontological status of the divine personae?
6) In Chapter 16, Hick discusses "the Impersonae of the Real." What is his thesis and what are some of his primary examples? How does Hick interpret mystical experience?
7) Discuss Harris' Chapter 8 of
Cosmos and Theos on "The Ontological Argument." What was its
classic formulation with St. Anselm? How was it defended by Descartes
and others? How was it criticized by Kant and others? How and why does
Harris view it as valid?
11) In Chapter 13, Harris discusses the symbolism of Christianity in the light of the most fundamental principles of contemporary physics. What is his interpretation in terms of the concepts of "the Logos," "the Light of the World," "the Incarnation," "the Son of God," and the "Quicunque Vult" (of being one substance with the Father)?