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 (PHIL 202-012) PHIL 209


PHIL 209                PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION                  Spring 2005

K. Rogers
Office Hrs. 3-5 MW
Office: 204 in 24 Kent Way

Texts:  Perfect Being Theology, Katherin A. Rogers (PB)
 Reason and Religious Belief, Michael Peterson, et al. (R&R)

Requirements: Three tests, each worth app. 1/5 of grade.
  Three short papers, collectively worth app. 1/5 of grade.
  Quizzes every week on the readings, total worth app. 1/5 of grade.
  (Note: Quizzes may be on handouts as well as text books.)

 (I can take some account of improvement and class participation.)



8 Introduction

15  Religious Language: Simplicity, Immutability, Necessity and Impassivity: PB pp.1-53

22 Eternity: R&R pp. 58-76; PB pp.54-70; Handout Rogers,  "The Presence of a Timeless  God"


1 Omniscience and Omnipotence: R&R pp.154-169; PB pp.71-105.

15 Creation and Goodness: PB pp.107-134.

22 6:00 - 7:00 Test #1.


22 7:20 -8:40 Ontological Proofs: R&R pp.77-83.


5 Cosmological Proofs: R&R pp.83-91.  PAPER #1 DUE.

12 Teleological Proofs: R&R pp.91-98; Handout "Aquinas's Fifth Way".

19 Moral Arguments: R&R pp.98-100; Handouts C.S. Lewis, "The Moral Argument",  Rogers, "God and Moral Realism."

26 6:00 - 7:00 Test #2


26 7:20 - 8:40 The Problem of Evil: R&R pp.128-137.


3 Theodicy: R&R pp.137-149; PB pp.136-152; Handout, Augustine's "privative" theory of  evil. PAPER #2 DUE.

10 Belief without Proof: R&R pp.107-123; Handout, Pascal's Wager.

17 Pascal's Wager continued. (No quiz)


Test #3 during Final's Week.

PHIL 209: Class Notes

These notes outline the lectures for each class.  Paper requirements follow last class in each section.

Class 1, Introduction

I. What we're doing in here

A. Not comparative religion

B Philosophy of religion:  Does He exist?  If He exists, what's He like?

 1. The "religion" part. (Cool for believers and non-believers alike.)

 A. The Judeo-Christian God (not to entirely leave out Islam) -- though we will not  ordinarily focus on one or the other.

  1. He's the one we care about.

  2.  Some gods you just can't really philosophize much about.  E.g. If the question   is attempted proofs, it is possible to make an argument from reason, that the   Judeo-Christian God exists.  You can't do the same thing with Odin or Zeus.

  3. In fact, in the western tradition, it is this God who has been under scrutiny.

 B. Revelation?

  1.The believers in the debate do indeed accept the Bible as the word of God.    Some attributes which we standardly ascribe to God are, in the opinion of some,   attributes that we learn about through revelation.  I am thinking especially of the   claim which is what distinguishes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam from a number   of other philosophically informed religious views, and that is that God is an agent   who acts in history.

  2. So the assumption will be that we're not really talking about the God in    question if we cannot reconcile the description with the Bible.

  3. Having said that, we will not be citing scripture as evidence.

   A. Some issues it can't help.  E.g. Can we give a philosophical proof for    the existence of God?  A proof setting aside the question of whether or not    the Bible is trustworthy?

   B. One key problem is that we're discussing issues which are the subject    of debate, but scripture can be interpreted to support many different sides.

 2. The Philosophy Part: Bringing reason to bear...analyzing terms and concepts, asking for  evidence -- evidence that's generally available to everyone -- and proofs.

 A. The concept of God.  Is it even coherent?

 B. Can we prove the existence of God?

  1.Why do we have to do question (A) first? Know what we're talking about.

  2. If "God" is incoherent, then there's not going to be a proof.

 C. Evil, i.e. Does evil provide evidence to prove that there is no God?  And is there reason  to believe even if we can't prove God?

II. Format of course:

 A. Some lecture with lots of discussion.  Touchy topic. In the outside world it's rude to  argue about religion, but in here that's what we do.  It's just fine to say to me or your  fellow students,"I think you're wrong" so long as a reason is forthcoming.  And we  will not let the word "stupid" pass our lips.

 B. Normal class 2 and ½ hours, so probably we'll go for a while, take a ten minute break,
 go for a while more, and get out around 8:40...although I do reserve the right to go ‘till 9  if need be.

III. Requirements

 A. Three tests, one after each section. 3/5 of grade.

 B. Three short papers (2 pages) 1/5 of grade

 C. Quizzes every week on readings 1/5 of grade (everybody can miss one quiz).

 I can also take some account of improvement and participation. (Borderline cases)

IV. Text books

 A.  Reason and Religious Belief.  General.

 B. Perfect Being Theology Read pp.1-54.

Office hours: 3-5 MW.

GOD: The Classical tradition: Biblical God analyzed through categories of Greek Philosophy.  Overly "Hellenized"?

What is God Like?

I. Perfect and Unlimited

 A. Worthy object of worship

 B. Absolute source of all.

II. Only one (Two would limit each other)

III. Immutable

 A. Can't get better.

 B. Can't get worse.

 C. No room for "lateral" motion: God already has all the great-making properties.   Everything it's better to be than not to be. Can't change without gaining or losing some  property.

IV. Omnipotent

 A. Can God make a round square?

  1. Is He circumscribed by the laws of logic?

  2. Does He "invent" the laws of logic?

  3. No.  He's the standard.

 B. Can God forget His phone #?  Stub His toe?
  [Incorporeal] God cannot do anything for which weakness and limitation are a   prerequisite.

 C. Can God sin? No. He's necessarily Good.

V. Good

 A. Relationship of God to the order of value and morality.

  1. Is He circumscribed by the laws of morality?

  2. Does He invent the laws of morality?

  3. No. He is the standard.

 B. Just (Doesn't rule out merciful.)

VI. Omniscient: Everything, Past, present, and future

 A. Direct knowledge.

 B. Free will?

  1. The problem

  2.  I will argue that free will is really important.  LIBERTARIAN free will: You   sometimes make morally significant choices where a.) No necessitating causes   make you choose what you choose, so you could really do otherwise and b.) You   yourself are the sole originator of your choices.  Need this for moral responsibility.

VII. Eternal (Outside of time)

 A. Presentism

  1. Either, God is mutable, and so not really eternal, timeless or...

  2. He is genuinely unaffected by time, but then He doesn't know what time it is   now.

 B. Four-dimensionalism: Yay!

VIII. Omnipresent (Ubiquitous)

IX. Simple (Anything composed of parts is in principle deconstructible.)

X.  Impassible

XI.  Necessary (as opposed to Contingent)

 A. Absolutely independent, a se

 B. No cause

 C. His very nature is to Be.

XII. Creator

 A. Out of what? Ex nihilo.

 B. Why? Love (Did He have to do the best?)

 C. When?  Even unto now!

XIII. Personal

 A. A person

  1. a thinking mind.

  2. An agent in the world.  (Contra Plato, Aristotle, Neoplatonists)

 B. Providential, i.e. He cares about individuals and has a plan.

Can we possibly prove that something like this exists?

Does the fact of evil show that He doesn't exist?

Class 2: Talking about God and the attributes of Simplicity, Necessity, Immutability, and Impassivity

Talking about God: Why is it a problem?

Possible Solutions:

I. Plotinus (205-270): God is soooo great that...

 1. Ascribing any property to Him (It) would limit Him.  God is not...

 2. We cannot speak correctly about God at all.  Mystical union.

--But this won't do for people of the Book.  Scripture and liturgy use positive terms --

II. Maimonides (1135-1204): We can use the words, but only equivocally. They have either...

 1. A causal meaning -- God is good = God causes good things...and don't think you can   say something about the nature of the cause!

 2. Or a negative meaning -- God is good = Well, He's not bad.

---But neither of these tells us what God is really like. Still can't say anything positive about God -

III. Aquinas (1225-1274) Aristotelian empiricist. Analogy.

 1. If not equivocal then univocal?  No.  We get our concepts from creatures.

 2. Analogical: Somewhat the same and somewhat different: The "Healthy" example.

IV. Anselm (1033-1109): Platonist Univocity.

 1.  We get some key concepts, e.g. good, from "divine illumination"

 2.  We can apply them on the most general level to good and creatures.

 3. A negative aspect, but different from Maimonides.  Sooooo x, that He's not-x.

V. Duns Scotus (1266-1308) Aristotelian Univocity.

 1. We do get our concepts from observing creatures.

 2. But the concepts per se do not entail the limitations under which creatures suffer.


I. What we mean

A. It is not the case that there is God in Himself, and then in addition to His very being, there are His properties.  No. It is not the case that God has any properties.  He does not have goodness, or wisdom etc.  Rather He just is Goodness per se, Wisdom, per se.

B. And all of these things that God is are identical!

II. Motivation

A. Incorruptible, even in intellectu.  (A thing made of parts can be dismantled.)

B. Absolutely independent, a se. (Otherwise, there's God and in addition, there's the property of x, omnipotence, let's say.   In order for Him to be God, He's got to possess this property.  But then His existence is dependent on something other than Himself. [Read Plantinga. P.26. N.b. Property, just sort of there as an "abstract object" (define) independent of God as a brute fact about the universe.]

III. Criticisms  [Read Plantinga p.27]

A. But God is a person, He can't be a property, which is an abstract object.

B. And the properties can't be identical!

IV. Re. A.  God is an Act.  The act of existing perfectly.

A. Weird to say that a person is an act?  Introspection.  What do we experience of ourselves?

B. Act of perfect existing.

1. But isn't existence the "thinnest' sort of thing to be.  Everything exists.

2. Yes, but God exists without limitations.  (The Oak Tree example)

V. Power = Knowledge

 (A paradox: Can God make a being with a secret unknown even to Him? Intended to prove that a being at once omnipotent and omniscient cannot exist.  But question misunderstands nature of God.  An existent caused but not thought by God is just impossible.)

VI. = Goodness (vs. Stalin)

VII. But doesn't God do and know all sorts of different things?  Yes...in one act.

N.b.  Importance of Eternity!

VIII. An interesting problem: If God is His act, and God responds to human freedom, then human beings help to construct God's nature?


I. Some definitions:

A. Logical necessity.

B. "Scientific" or "empirical" necessity.

C. Metaphysical necessity

II. Claim is that God's very nature is to exist. As opposed to "contingent".

III. Motivation?

A. Intuitively obvious.  Something which could not possibly not exist just better.

B. Absolute aseity.

1. For anything contingent, which might not exist, there is an explanation (cause?) for its existence.

2. God can't be like that.  His existence is "self-explanatory."


I. Review: Not better, not worse, no room for lateral change.

II. Aquinas: No potentialities in God.

III. But if God does not change then He cannot....

A. Think

B. Have purposes

C. Respond to prayer.

D. Even know what time it is.



Does God feel emotions?

I. What do we mean by "feeling emotions"?

A. Physically?  Then no.

B. Cognitively....okay, but...

II. We can distinguish between "negative" and "positive" emotions.  (I don't mean right and wrong, just more like emotions you'd ceteris paribus want to have.)

III. God loves, is happy (in a really elevated sort of a way) etc.  But He does not suffer.

---Do we really want a God who needs us?---

Class #3


I. The two options regarding God

A. Everlasting.  God is in time just like we are.  His past is gone, His future is not yet.  All there is is for Him is the present.

B. Genuinely Timeless (Outside of, unaffected by, time) That's how I'm using term "eternal".

II.  Two options regarding -- both are really bizarre.  No comfortable view of time.

A. Presentism (essentially tensed view of time) "Common sense" view?

1. Only the present instant

2. All that exists exists only at the present instant

3. Bizarre: the present is the extensionless point at with the non-existent future becomes the non-existent past.

B. Four-dimensionalism (eternalism, essentially tenseless view of time)

1. All of time is equally real

2. Temporally extended things exist across time as a series of "time-slices".  You do not exist whole at any point in time, rather the whole is the sum of all the temporal parts.

III.  God and Time

A. Everlasting > Presentism.  If God is in time, and the present is all there is for Him, and the past is gone for Him and future is not yet, for Him, then since He's what keeps things in being, all there is simpliciter is the present.

B. Eternal > Four-dimensionalism.  All of time is equally real and it's equally "present" to God.

1. 3 analogies: The circle, the viewer on the height, the 5th dimension

2. A number of philosophers of religion have tried to argue that God is timeless, but time is essentially tensed, but they run into all kinds of trouble.

3. This is the view that Perfect Being Theology entails, as we will see.

IV. Motivations:  Immutability

A. Not a desire to remove God from the world of time and space.  Au contraire!

B. Augustine's question, "What was God doing before He created the world?"

1. Supposed to prove that the Judeo-Christian God does not exist.

a. Immutable

b. Creator: But wouldn't a Creator have to change?

2. Not if He's eternal and time is essentially tenseless.  All of time is immediately "present" to Him, so He can do everything "at once".

C. What if we say that an everlasting being is immutable?  Then he can't interact with a changing world.

V. Motivations: Ontological superiority

A. Degrees of being (The Great Chain of Being, The more there is to you the better)

B. The citizen of tensed world vs. The citizen of tenseless world; the latter has more being.

C. God must possess the most being possible.  Outside of time and encompassing it all.

VI. Motivations: Omniscience

A. Solves the freedom and foreknowledge dilemma. Set up problem and save until next time.

B. More knowledge is superior to less knowledge.

C. Direct Knowledge is superior to Propositional knowledge; Things vs. Facts about things.

D. QED: If God is eternal He can have the most (past, present, and future) best (direct) knowledge.

VII. Motivations: Omnipotence -- a similar argument, an eternal God can act directly on EVERYTHING. (Possible problem to be discussed below.)

VIII. Problems: It's just too weird.

A. Truly weird in terms of our personal experience. The Time-traveling Bill example to make it seem a little less weird?

1. Distinguish between HST and PT

2. Time slices at different times (PT) equally real, with no inner access to each other, so why not time slices at different times HST?

IX. Problems: Means God cannot act in time.

A. E.g. How can God answer prayers?  Doesn't that mean you'd have to pray first, and then He'd answer?

B. Well, no.  Things can happen simultaneously.

C. How about making decisions?  Depends on what you mean.

---PBT: We act in time ----

X. Problems: Means we can't be free, since the future is "fixed".  No. (More to be said when we get to foreknowledge.)

A. It's true that things cannot be other than they are.  You can't change the future.

B. But that is consistent with saying that what happens is your free choice.

C. You can't change the present either, but that doesn't mean you don't do what you do freely. And the four-dimensionalist view is that it's ALL present.

XI. Problems: Omnipotence is not really enhanced by God's being eternal.  He may know the future, but He can't change anything.

A. No, but He can bring things about and access to all of time is a big help.

B. The Ted example.  No changing, but you can get more done!

X. Problems: It's not Biblical.

A. Problems of interpretation...difficulties for either view. E.g. Prophecy.

B. But 4-dimensionalism allows the Bible more relevance.

Class #4 Omniscience and Omnipotence

 Free Will

A. Determinism (Natural and Theological)

1. Advantage: Everything is in principle explicable, no violation of principle of sufficient reason

2. Disadvantage: No moral responsibility (In the universe of classical theism, if your choice is determined, who ultimately caused it?)

B. Libertarianism

1. non-determinism

2. Self-causation

3. Advantage: Moral responsibility

4. Disadvantage: choice intrinsically inexplicable

C. Compatibilism

Divine Omniscience

A. God's knowledge direct and causal

1. Does God know propositions?  Yes as the way we creatures think.

2. Does God cause evil? No.

a. Evil is not a thing.

b. But the choice? Anselm: God causes the creature and its will and its desires.  Moral choice is between conflicting desires.  It is up to us which "wins out".  But the winning out is not some new thing.

B The Future: The problem is free will.

1. No problem for compatibilists.  God could know the future through...

a. Knowing necessitating causes in the present.

b. Knowing what He Himself intends to do.

2. But with libertarian freedom...

The argument:

1. God knew yesterday that you will choose x tomorrow.
2. God cannot be wrong and the past cannot be changed.
3. So tomorrow you cannot do other than choose x.
4. The ability to do otherwise is necessary for libertarian freedom.
5. Therefore when you choose x, you do not choose it freely.

3. One option is to give up on God knowing the future.  (Open Theism)

a. He comes to learn things and changes His mind.

b. He knows everything that might happen, and how He would respond to each possibility.

c. This doesn't deny omniscience since we're still saying God knows everything there is to know.

C. Ockhamism: God is in time.  The future is absolutely non-existent, but....

1. True propositions about the future, even about future free choices, exist in the present, and God knows them.

2. How in the world is this possible?  Ordinarily we'd say that the truth of the proposition somehow depends upon the reality of the facts it states.  Severe "grounding" problem.

D. Molinism (seem to assume God is in time)

1. Middle Knowledge

a. Natural Knowledge

b. Free Knowledge

c. Middle Knowledge -- "counterfactuals of freedom"

d. So he knows the future by knowing c + b.
2. Advantages: Real sovereignty along with libertarian freedom.

3. Problems:

a. Grounding problem possibly more severe than with Ockham.

b. The problem of evil.

1. Solution: Transworld depravity.

2. Oh, please!

c. Cannot be reconciled with classical theism -- a world of "counterfactuals of freedom" just exists independently of God and circumscribes His actions.

E. Eternalist Solution

1. God knows you choose x tomorrow, only because you choose x tomorrow.

2. If it is your choice which caused God's knowledge, then although God's knowledge renders your choice "necessary" in a way, it is a non-causally determined and self-imposed necessity, so it cannot interfere with your libertarian freedom.

3. The ability to otherwise?  Well, nobody says that it must entail the ability to do other than you do, when you do it!

F. Knowledge de se

1. God cannot know everything just as a creature does.

2. No problem since He can't do the logically impossible.

3. Maybe He knows things better, e.g. the sane vs. the insance person.


I. The logically impossible?

A. Conforms to laws outside of Himself?

B. Creates the laws of logic?

C. Nope, they're a reflection of His nature.

D. Can God change the past?

II. Possible but requiring limitations?

A. Scratch His ear?

B. Make a rock too heavy for Him to lift?

III. Sin?

A.  Do evil? (The rock He's promised not to move)

B. Cause us to sin?

IV. Can God make a being so free He can't control it?

A.  (Anselm) Yes, He can make it.  But a controlled/free being is a logical contradiction, so no infringement on divine omnipotence.

B. (Augustine) No, He can't make it. If He makes it, there's this other causal power over which He does not have complete control, and that's a logical contradiction, so the fact that He can't make it doesn't infringe on divine omnipotence.

V. Could God do other than and better than He does?  For example, could He have made a better world than this one?  Could He have not created at all?

A. If you mean, could His action itself be better, no. He is the standard for good.

B. If you mean, could the effect be other and better....

1. Augustine and Anselm: no on both counts.

a. The good is necessarily self-diffusive

b. It necessarily produces the best it can

c. Anselm's qualification: We're free and God does the best within framework of our choices (Is this as much a limitation on God as the Molinist view?  NOOOOO!!!!! God chooses to make us free creatures. It's not that we're just there.)

2. Aquinas: yes on both counts

a. God might not have created at all.

b. He might have made a better world.

1. Our world is internally properly ordered, but....

2. Can't fault God for not making the best because there is no best.

3. Real advantage to arbitrary choice?

Class #5 Creation

I. Review Creation ex nihilo

A. What does God create "out of"?  Nothing!

B. When does God create?  Always.  God keeps everything in being from moment to moment.

II. No conflict between creation and evolution, (unless evolution entails no designing mind).

III. Theistic idealism

A. Everything is divine ideas.  Analogy of the author and his fictive character.

B. There is no underlying, unintelligible "matter" or "substance".

C. Not Pantheism

1. Whatever the fictive character is, is totally dependent on the author, but...

2. The character is not to be identified with the author.  What is true of the character, need not be true of, or otherwise about, the author at all.

D. Libertarian freedom?

1.  Well...it's a problem for everybody!

2. God is a mighty powerful thinker.

IV.  Why theistic idealism?  TI expresses ontological disparity between God and creation -- just as there is much, MUCH more to Shakespeare than to Hamlet, there is much, MUCH, MUCH more to God than to creation.

A. Answers the question about how God can be infinite and creation not be identical to Him, nor something added to Him.

B. Two radically separate levels of being which just don't "interfere" with or overlap on each other.

V. Secondary causation

A. Mere conservationism -- God makes things to exist, but not to do what they do.

1. Inconsistent w/ PBT where God sustains everything.

2. Incoherent notion of what it is to be something.

B Occasionalism: Defense

1. No logical necessary causal connection between things.

2. No observable causal connection between things.

C. Occasionalism: Criticisms

1. Same as problem with mere conservationism above -- without causal powers makes no sense to say that x is an object.

2. Subjective idealism: the actual existence of extra mental objects plays no role in what we experience, so why suppose they're there at all?  Not an incoherent position, but sure seems to violate common sense

3. Denigrating God's causal power.

4. God causes all the evil and suffering directly.

D. Concurrentism: the preferred answer

A. Both God and the secondary cause produce the effect, but...

B. Not by "working together" and each chipping in some of a similar sort of power.

C. But rather, each is a "complete" cause in its own order.

D. Moreover, God could certainly produce the effect without the secondary cause, whereas the secondary cause could not even exist were it not for God's sustaining activity.

Class #6 Divine Goodness

[We're a bit behind so we're actually doing Creation as per above, and Goodness in Class #6.]

I. Does God have "morally significant freedom"?

A. Why say that He does?  Well, we can't hold you responsible and worthy of praise and blame, so shouldn't we say the same of God?

B. What are the costs if we say that He does?

1. Abandon idea that God is Perfect Being.
2. God is not trustworthy.
3. Serious practical consequences for believer.

C. Why is "morally significant freedom" important for created agents?

1. A small measure of aseity for a creature whose being is entirely per aliud.
2. Completely irrelevant for God.

II. The Euthyphro dilemma

A. Does God conform to a set of external principles? No. Then He couldn't exist a se.

B. Does He invent or create the moral principles? Divine Command theory.

1. Advantage: His will is absolutely unlimited by anything but the laws of logic.

2. Disadvantages

a. Moral law arbitrary.  Hard to swallow!

b. "Good" ceases to be a term with positive content.

Requirements for Paper #1

DUE APRIL 5 (I will drop the grade by 1/3 for every day late)

 In Section I of this course we discussed the nature of God.  Pick one area of disagreement among philosophers of religion on this question, explain the issue, and defend one side or the other.  To defend means to give reasons for saying one side is right and/or the other wrong.  (That is, you can give a positive argument to show why a view ought to be accepted, and/or you can give a negative argument to show why a view ought to be rejected.) For example you might argue that God is, or is not Eternal, does or does not know the future, could or could not create a better world than ours, or pick another issue we've discussed over which there is debate.
  Your paper should be no more than two pages long, double-spaced.  This is a very short paper, so part of the job is to figure out how to say what you want to say succinctly.  A well-organized, well-written paper that gets everything correct, but does not go beyond what was said in class or the book would merit a B.  Only some new and creative thinking, which is really on the mark regarding the issue, will deserve an A.  So do take this opportunity to try out some ideas of your own.  I don't necessarily expect some entirely new argument, but even a very apt, and well constructed example that we didn't mention in class might suffice. If you have any questions about the paper get in touch: krogers@udel.edu.

Class #7       The Ontological Argument

I. Proofs?  Are there good reasons to believe that God exists?

A. Are there proofs, or powerful evidence for the existence of God?  (Our subject in this section)

B. Are there proofs or powerful evidence against the existence of God?

1. The very idea of God is incoherent, logically contradictory.

2. Evil!

C. Reasonable to believe without proofs or evidence?

1. Basic beliefs.  (Not every belief can be proved.)

2. Maybe in terms of evidence the scales are evenly balanced, but you have to choose, and there are prudential reasons to believe.

D. The competition: Naturalism (What's the more reasonable view?)

II. The Ontological Argument (A brief history)

The Proof (n.b. This is closer to Anselm than is R&R's version)

1. God is that than which no greater can be conceived. (Ttwngcbc...abreviated TTW)
This is simply a definition and doesn't tell us whether or not God actually exists.

2. TTW exists in the understanding.
1. We are capable of thinking of it, so we can discuss it in an argument.
2. We can safely say that its existence is at least possible...there is nothing impossible about it.
3. It exists at least as a fictive being, the object of thought.

3. It is greater to exist in the understanding and in reality than just to exist in the human mind alone.
There are degrees of existence (harken back to theistic idealism). A fictive object is radically dependent, and simply has a less ontological status than an extra-mental object.

4. If TTW existed only in the understanding, but not in reality, it would not be TTW.
Reductio ad absurdum. Assume TTW is only in the mind, then TTW is not TTW, therefore it cannot be the case that TTW is only in the mind.

5. Therefore God exists in reality.


1. (Gaunilo) Premise 2 is false.  God is so great that we can't really think about Him.
We don't have to fully comprehend His nature.  We are capable of some understanding of God.
All we really need to know is enough to get the definition so we know when something doesn't fit it.

2. (Gaunilo) Using your form of argument, Anselm, we can prove that things we know don't exist, exist! Lost Island!
You cannot construct a coherent concept for that island than which no greater island can be conceived.

A. Things having a maximum?  How about a thousand dollar bill?  Well, given inflation the question is what would the greatest conceivable $1,000 bill be worth, and there's no maximum to that. . Also, since all we're interested in here is the $1,000 hard to discuss differences in degrees of goodness. But there's more to the issue.

B. Different islands have different good properties, and some are mutually exclusive.

3. (Kant) Existence is not a predicate.
Yes it is, and it admits of degrees of greatness.  Anselm himself is not comparing something existent to something non-existent.  He's comparing two things with different degrees of existence.

4. (Aquinas) Well, you just can't move from what's entailed by a concept, to making claims about what actually exists in the world.
Yes you can.  How about square circles?  A non-existent God is like that.


-- Arguments to the best explanation for the existence of the whole --

The Kalam Argument (There's a temporal beginning to our physical world)

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.

2. The universe begins to exist.

3. Therefore the universe has a cause of its existence.


Premise 1: The principle of sufficient reason.  "Nothing comes from nothing." Conceptually obvious assumption, underlying our ordinary thinking about things, and basic premise of science.

Premise 2

A. Conceptual argument.  Can't have an actual infinity of really existent things.  (As opposed to an actual infinity of abstracta, as with the number system, or a potential infinity as when we propose that the future is infinite -- on a presentist account of time --.

1. Proof:  Reductio ad absurdum. (P.85)

2. Criticism: On presentist account, do we have an actual infinity if the past does not exist?

B. Scientific argument.  There is a beginning at the Big Bang.

1. Oscillating universe?

2. Infinitely expanding universe

3. Criticism: maybe you can get a Big Bang out of nothing.  (The "nothing" your text describes (p.86)  doesn't sound a bit like nothing to me.)

4. Alternatively: maybe you just can't talk about the Big Bang at all.  Science starts a tiny fraction of a second "afterwards".

The Atemporal Cosmological Argument (Maybe the universe always existed.)

1. A contingent being exists.

2. This contingent being has a cause of its existence.

3. This cause is something other than the contingent being itself.

4.  This cause is either contingent or not (i.e. necessary).

5.  You cannot go to infinity in the chain of contingent causes. (A chain of contingent beings, even an infinitely long one, does not explain how the contingent being came to be.)

6. Therefore there must be a first cause which is a necessary being.

7. Therefore a necessary being which is the cause of the contingent beings exists.


Premise 2: Essentially a version of the principle of sufficient reason.  Deny it and the universe is unintelligible.   Well, maybe the universe is unintelligible!  Okay, so long as you're willing to accept skepticism and give up on science.

Premise 3: Can't be itself...no explanation at all.

Premise 4: Necessary truth (either A or -A)

Premise 5: The mirror analogy.

But have we proved GOD?

Class #9           Teleological Arguments: The order of the universe implies an orderer.

Remember our question: What better explains the phenomena, theism or naturalism?  Physical universe plus God, or physical universe alone.  Prima facie naturalism has two advantages -- empirical and parsimonious.

I. Paley: The Analogical Teleological Argument.  The watchmaker from the watch.
The argument: If we saw a watch, from the fact that the different parts work together for a purpose we would conclude that there must have been a watchmaker who designed and made it.  Just so, noting the universe with all its parts so beautifully ordered, we must conclude that there is a universe maker who designed and made it.


1. Reason we believe in watchmaker from watch is repeated observation.  We haven't observed even 1 universe being made.

2. How close is the analogy?  Universe may be more like a vegetable (i.e. something which "just grows") than like something which is made.

3. Suppose, just for the sake of argument, we allow that there is a universe maker.  Why say there's only 1?  Why say it's anything like the J-C God?  With all the mess there is, perhaps ours is the first attempt of an infant deity.

II. Aquinas' Fifth Way: Rogers First Version

1. Things which are not rational act for purposes.

2. A thing does not act for a purpose by chance, but rather by design.

3. A thing which is not rational, must be guided by reason.

4. Therefore there is a designing mind behind the system.

The big criticism.  Evolution.  Sufficient explanation.  What appears to be purposive behaviour really is not. (Remember no conflict between evolution and theism.  Question can be; Is it more likely that there is evolution with or without God?)

Recently several challenges to theory that it's evolution alone, chance and not design.

III. The Anthropic Teleological Argument.  Universe seems designed for human beings.

Given what we actually know now about the natural history and the material constituents of the universe, we know that the odds against things falling together by chance to allow for life and consciousness are so astronomical as to constitute a statistical impossibility.  That being the case, it is more reasonable to accept that a divine designer saw to it that things fell out as they should to allow for the existence of human beings.


1. Well we just don't know enough yet.  (Weak because it allows that the scientific evidence as it stands is on the side of theism.)

2. There are an infinite number of universes.  In an infinite number of universes all possibilities are realized.

A. Abandon advantage of empirical availability.

B. Isn't God a possibility?

--We meant all possible combinations of the same sort of stuff we have here.  Why say that?  It's most parsimonious.

C. Is infinite # of universes really more parsimonious than One universe plus God?

--Yes, because we've still got the least # of kinds of things.

--Do you?  Not clear.  Those things in the other universes are very different from anything we have access to, in that everything we have access to bears some spatio-temporal relationship to us.  Those things are not like that.  Also, God is not exactly a totally new kind of thing.  He's like us in being a person, although He's a mighty unusual person.

IV. Intelligent Design Teleological Argument: Irreducibly complex systems can't evolve. (This is similar to my first reading of Aquinas' Fifth Way.)

There are systems in nature which function to contribute to the survival of organisms.  But they are irreducibly complex, i.e. if you remove any element from the system it ceases altogether to perform its function.  But this means that such systems could not have evolved slowly because the survival enhancing nature of the system is an all or nothing affair.


A. We can doubt whether there really are such irreducibly complex systems.

B. If may be that such systems can evolve.

Overall criticism of 2 above arguments: "God of the gaps", we can always say that the problem is just our own ignorance and new info will turn up to offer a "natural" explanation.

V. Aquinas' Fifth Way revisited.  Why is there order rather than random chance?

The real issue is the fact that things behave in a determinate way at all.  Things follow these ordered patterns...but the patterns themselves are contingent.  We can imagine things behaving otherwise...we can imagine that the physical constituents of our universe behaved randomly --as some say that sub-atomic particles do.  So it's the patterns themselves that need to be explained. [Opponent: No they don't they're just brute phenomena.]  Either chance or design.

Here's the analogy: You hit me right between the eyes with a bb from your bb gun.  If it happens only once, I have to admit that it might have been chance, in which case your weren't aiming at me at all.  How about if it happens every time you fire the bb gun, and you fire it 1 million times?

Class #10 The Argument from Morality: The best explanation for our moral order is God.

I. No God > No objective morality.  (Very popular in 19th and 20th centuries.)

A. Entails: Objective morality > God.

B. Two avenues of attack

1. There is no objective morality.

2. You can get objective morality without God.

II. No objective morality?

A. Intuitively obvious that that claim is false.  --What if you don't see it?--

B. Not an inherently inconsistent position, nor does it conflict with any scientific claims.

C. However, there's no good argument for it.

1.  It is not the tolerant position!

2. Standard argument for Cultural Relativism: Different Societies have different beliefs about values > there are no objective moral truths.

a. Premise may be mistaken, as Lewis suggests.  What look like differences may really not be.

b. Even if premise is true, conclusion is non sequitur.

D.  And -- pragmatic argument, helpful when science and philosophy otherwise leave it an open question -- conclusion is anything goes.

III. Morality in a naturalist universe?  Naturalist Theories: There are facts about the world around us which can ground an objective morality.

A. "Strong moral realism"

1. Objectivity

2. Normativity (If you appreciate the truth of the facts which ground the moral claim, you have an irrefusable reason to conform to it.)

B. Evolution?

1. No. Not right sort of objectivity.  X enhances survival of species (or your genes) does not = X is morally right.

2. Doesn't provide any normativity at all.  If you care about survival....

C. Contract theory?  We all agree to play ball, realizing that's the way for most satisfaction....

1. Objective relative to certain society or situation.

2. But some can succeed better without playing ball.

D. Aristotelian: The good is flourishing in this life.

1. Have to allow possibility of other goods as well. As evidenced by fact that we sometimes think that fatal self-sacrifice is the moral thing to do.

E. Promotion of certain social goods?  Only if we happen to value them, and if we don't there's no reason we should.

F. Human sensibilities?  We just subjectively "perceive" the value, (secondary quality like color) and feel the pull.  But if we don't nothing to say we should.

IV. Nagel's Kantianism: We must act, and practical reasoning dictates adherence to moral norms.

A. Step 1: Recognize generality of practical judgments. (If we have reasons to act, the same would apply to everyone)

    Step 2: Reasons egoistic or altruistic?

  Egoism is unreasonable because 1) I matter and 2) others are equal

  So I matter > everyone matters.

B.  But:

1. Do we have to admit to generality of reasons at all...i.e. do we have to cogitate upon our practical reasoning at all?

2. a.  Why not say "noone matters > I don't matter".

    b.  Why not reject "others are equal to me"?

V.  Platonism (weird schizophrenic universe)

a. Objectivity

b. But not normativity.

VI. Divine Command Theory?  No

a. Arbitrary

b. "God is good" becomes vacuous.

VII. God just sees the moral order which exists outside of Himself.  Maybe, but we can do much better.

VIII. Classical Theism

A.  Moral order is a reflection of God's nature as creative and loving.  Objectivity.

B. Normativity: ultimate happiness.

C. Kantian criticism?

D. God's role:

1. Doesn't conflict with all the other reasons already adduced for good behaviour.

2. Can make a practical difference

a. The parties concerned must include God

b. Evaluate the situation differently.

E. Argument from evil, FOR God.

Class #11 The Problem of Evil

I. Moral Evil vs. Natural Evil
II. Logical Problem:

A. It is logically inconsistent to hold

1. An omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good God exists


2. There is evil.

B. Free Will Defense (Plantinga) : A "defense" means just showing that there is not necessarily an inconsistency.

1. Creatures with significan freedom are a very good thing.

Why?  Can't really be good without choosing good.

2. But choice requires options.

Some choose evil.

C. Criticism: But a world containing creatures who choose only the good is logically possible, so God could make it.

1. No.  Such a world IS logically possible, but it is not logically possible for God alone to bring it about.  If we are free it is logically impossible that God control our choices such that He ensures the world in which creatures only choose the good.

2. Note: Free Will Defense requires incompatibilist view of freedom.  Morally significant freedom is not compatible with determinism.

D. Criticism: But the free will defense seems to ignore Natural Evil.  Well, it's POSSIBLE that all the pain and suffering is caused by evil spirits who choose do to it and so it's really moral evil.  (Not too likely, though!)

III. Evidential Problem

A. Evil makes existence of God unlikely, more rational to believe God doesn't exist.

B.1. There is pointless evil: Some evil x which does not itself produce some outweighing good.
    2. God would prevent pointless evil.
Therefore, there is no God.

C. Criticism: Question premise #1

1. Premise #1 is false. All evils have a purpose, produce a greater good.

2. Premise #1 cannot be proved to be true. Because of our epistemic limitations we are not in a position to say whether or not there are pointless evils.

3. But note that there is a problem with saying that each evill produces some greater good.  It makes it seem like we should not try to prevent them, or worse, that we should even cause them.

D. Criticism: Question premise #2

1.  God permits evil because permitting it is necessary for some greater good.  Note that this does not say that the evil itself is necessary for the greater good, only God's permitting it is.

2.  So, if we take free will to be a very great good, and we argue that it cannot exist unless God leaves open the possibility that we can choose between good and evil, then if we choose evil, God must permit it, in order for there to be free will.

Requirements for Paper #2

DUE May 3rd.  I will drop the grade by 1/3 for every day late without legitimate excuse.

 Pick an argument for the existence of God and show why you think it fails, or else defend it against a possible criticism.  Otherwise, requirments are the same as last time:
  Your paper should be no more than two pages long, double-spaced.  This is a very short paper, so part of the job is to figure out how to say what you want to say succinctly.  A well-organized, well-written paper that gets everything correct, but does not go beyond what was said in class or the book would merit a B.  Only some new and creative thinking, which is really on the mark regarding the issue, will deserve an A.  So do take this opportunity to try out some ideas of your own.  I don't necessarily expect some entirely new argument, but even a very apt, and well constructed example that we didn't mention in class might suffice. If you have any questions about the paper get in touch: krogers@udel.edu.

Class #12 Theodicy

Difference between a theodicy and a defense?


The Problem: If God is all good He'd want to get rid of evil, and if He's all powerful He'd be able to.  Yet there's evil.  Doesn't this show there is no God?

Moral versus natural evil.  Moral evil = sin, wickedness, and the suffering that results from it.  Natural "evil" = the pain and suffering which are not the results of moral evil, but are just the inevitable result of the natures of sentient beings (beings that can feel pleasure and pain).

Moral Evil

God is the Creator of everything.  Is God the Cause of Evil?

I. Some bad answers.

A. God made evil.

B. Evil is an illusion

II. A bad answer, popular in Augustine's day and cropping up from time to time: Manicheanism

1. Two equal and opposite forces, God (basically the Judeo-Christian God) good = light and spirit, evil=darkness and matter

2. Human being is the battleground: evil body and good soul

3. Procreation the worst thing you could do...Suicide not so bad.

4. You've heard this view: George Lucas, Heaven's Gate

(Turning point in Western thought...what if generations of folks had thought that the physical world, including the human body was just bad...science, medicine....)

III. Manicheanism has to be rejected: Same as saying there's no God (Can't possibly have an equal and opposite to God.)  If God is omnipotent, everything is made by God.  Matter is not evil, it's good.

IV. Evil is a privation, a failure, a lack, a corruption of the good.  Totally parasitic on good.

---But obviously there's moral evil, destruction, corruption....Where does it come from?--

I. Free Will...we're the source of moral evil.

II. Wouldn't it have been better if God had made us so that we would always be morally good?

A. Logically impossible...can't be good without choosing good, and can't choose without options.

B. So why didn't he just make some other kind of creature that would always behave well, even if it's not exactly morally good?  Wouldn't that have been a better world?

C. No.  We're made in the image of God.  We're a really valuable kind of thing.  Worth the price of Auschwitz.

Natural Evil

--Four arguments which, when taken altogether, may do the job--

I. Most "natural" evil is really moral evil.

A. At the present

B. The history of man (The fall?)

C. Won't do the whole job since there's still some evil left over.

II. Soul-building.

1. In order to even be moral agents at all, we need to exist in a physical world with "hard edges", natural laws.  And that entails some suffering.

2.   Would it really be a better world if there were no pain and suffering?  What is the world for.

3.  Part of soul-building involves knowledge aquisition: Science.  For that we need a universe with natural laws.

III. Given importance of secondary causality, need a physical universe to get US at all.

--But what about animal pain? --

IV. The "evil" is an inevitable part of the physical universe and the physical universe is worth keeping.

A. The physical universe and what's in it are really good.

The fox and the rabbit.

Let's make the fox a herbivore in order to spare the rabbit suffering.

That's to say, no fox....and no rabbit.

Well, I can think of a better universe that does all that our universe needs to do, but has less suffering.  Can you indeed?

B. For a physical object to exist it must be part of a consistent and unified system of cause and effect.

1. Part of what it means to be x, is to do y.

2. It's good that things have causal powers.

C. Our system of cause and effect is a really good thing.

D. The things that produce natural "evil" are the inevitable result of this causal system.

--Therefore, to say that the natural "evil" shouldn't exist is to say that this really good thing, the spatio-temporal universe as we know it, should not exist.

V.. And in any case, though we may not see how, God can bring good out of evil.

Class #13       Belief without persuasive evidence

Reformed Epistemology: Perhaps Belief in God is among our Properly Basic beliefs.

I. Strong foundationalism

A. Belief is justified only if it is self-evident or incorrigible, or is logically derived from beliefs that are self-evident or incorrigible.  (Standard modern position, e.g. Descartes)

B. Problems with this position.

1. It's self-refuting.  Strong foundationalism is neither self-evident, nor incorrigible, nor etc.

2. We'd have to say that we're wrong about most of what we think we know.

II. Move to a broader foundationalism

A. Still make distinction between basic and derived beliefs.  The latter are still derived from the former.

B.  And distinguish between properly basic, i.e. beliefs it is legitimate to hold without further proof, and those which it might be unreasonable to hold without further proof.

C. The best way to assess whether or not some belief is properly basic is to reflect upon some standard examples, and see if the belief in question seems similar. Some examples:

1. Perceptual beliefs

2. Memory beliefs.

3. Other minds.

D. So properly basic does not equal "true."

E. And  a properly basic belief need not be incorrigible.  If you trusted your memory and then learned from some reliable source that your memory was likely to mislead, you might reject the belief that you had formerly, and rationally, held as properly basic.
D. So how about belief in God?

1. But shouldn't all rational people have roughly the same properly basic beliefs?

No.   The set of examples which seem appropriate candidates for proper basicallity will be different from person to person due to their different pre-philosophical committments.  (I am uncomfortable with this as it seems to downplay the value of attempting to find a common ground.)

2. But what about the Great Pumpkin?  In principle, couldn't belief in anything be rational as properly basic.  Plantinga's answer seems to be yes.

Pascal's Wager

Proofs for God don't work, but nonetheless the reasonable course is to believe in God.

I. The three kinds of people
A. Found God: Wise and happy.

B. Seeking God: Wise and unhappy.

C. Not caring: Unhappy and stupid

II. In terms of the evidence, the scales are evenly balanced between the two viable world views.

A.  There's reason to believe in God (e.g. order of the universe)

B. There's reason to believe there's no God (e.g. disorder, lack of evidence)

III. The human condition

A. Compared to the infinite universe we are as nothing, compared to the infinitesimally small constituents of our physical being we are all. We are "A mean between all and nothing,..."(p.82)

B. We are terribly ignorant...we know little of the world around us, and even our own natures are incomprehensible to us. (p.84)

C. And yet we are superior to the universe in that we do think. "...a reed which thinks." (p.84)

IV. All men seek happiness (Here's a piece of certain knowledge that we can cling to and that can start us towards really getting somewhere.)

V. Real happiness only to be found in God.

A. Only God supplies ultimate meaning and purpose to the universe.

B. All other goods can be lost.

---This doesn't mean there is a God.  Maybe we're destined never to be happy.  What should we do to maximize our chances to be happy?---

VI. The Wager

A. Reason leaves you balanced, yet you have to choose one side or the other...theism or atheism

1. Why these two?  They're the viable options..the world views there's some reason to take seriously...unlike e.g. belief in Odin.

2. Why can't you sit the fence and be an agnostic?

a. choosing means committment to a life style.  Pascal takes it that people will buy the proposition that "No God means no objective morality."

Question: The virtuous atheist?

Pascal: 1.) Fuzzy thinking 2.) Committment to an objective moral order is basically committment to God.  (He might combine the two answers and say that the "virtuous atheist" is really a fuzzy thinking theist.)

b. either you commit to God (and objective morality) or you don't.  In practice agnosticism is basically the same as atheism.

B. Pragmatic decision...look at the consequences of accepting each side

1. Choose God

a. You're right, there's a God.  You win eternal happiness.

b.  You're wrong, there's no God.  You still lead a happier life than you would have otherwise.  (The father in Crimes and Misdemeanors.)

c. So if you bet on God you can't lose anything.

2. Choose atheism.

a. You're right, it's all atoms and the void.  You don't win anything except the freedom to be a creep.

b. You're wrong, there's a God.  You lose eternal happiness.

c. So if you bet against God you can't win anything.

VII. But what if I can't just force myself to believe in God?

A. Act like you do and you'll come to see the truth of it.

B. That is, committ yourself to there being objective value, morality and meaning to things.  As you practice these values you will come more and more to see that they are really there in the universe.  And so you will come to see that there must be a God.

Requirements for Paper #3

DUE May 23.  You may leave the paper in my mailbox in the department office, or e-mail it to me.  I will drop the grade by 1/3 for every day late without legitimate excuse.

In this last section we have looked at two issues, the problem of evil and belief without persuasive evidence.  You can write on either issue.  For the first, the question would be: Is the existence of evil good evidence that there is no God?  Why or why not?   For the second it would be: The reformed epistemologists hold that belief in God may be rational in the absence of evidence as a properly basic belief.  Do you think they're right?  -- or -- Pascal thinks that given that the scales of evidence are balanced between God and no-God, the most reasonable course is to believe in God. Do you think he's right? Otherwise, requirements are the same as last time:
  Your paper should be no more than two pages long, double-spaced.  This is a very short paper, so part of the job is to figure out how to say what you want to say succinctly.  A well-organized, well-written paper that gets everything correct, but does not go beyond what was said in class or the book would merit a B.  Only some new and creative thinking, which is really on the mark regarding the issue, will deserve an A.  So do take this opportunity to try out some ideas of your own.  I don't necessarily expect some entirely new argument, but even a very apt, and well constructed example that we didn't mention in class might suffice. If you have any questions about the paper get in touch: krogers@udel.edu.

 Contemporary Moral Problems
 PHIL 202-012

Kate Rogers                                                                                   Spring 2001
Office hours: MWF 2-3, Office #204 in 24 Kent Way

Text: John Arthur, Morality and Moral Controversies, Fifth Edition (very important!).

Class notes: My notes are on line, and you may use them if you wish.  Go to http://www.udel.edu/rogers, then course materials, and the rest is self-explanatory.  These notes are the outline from which I teach.  They will not substitute for good class notes of your own, but they should help you keep track of what's crucial to know, and how the arguments and examples fit together.

Requirements: The course will be divided into four parts.  There will be four multiple choice tests, one after each section, to be weighted equally in figuring final grade. (A=93-100, A-=90-92, B+=87-89, B=83-86, B-=80-82, etc. except for D- which = 55-62.)


6 Introduction

 I. Ethics

8 The Problem of Relativism (no readings)

13 Utilitarianism (John Stuart Mill) pp. 34-41

15 Duty Ethics (Immanuel Kant) pp. 24-33

20 No class

22 Kant cond. (O'Neill) pp. 47-51

27 Aristotle pp. 7-13 + a note on Feminist Ethics


1 Intuitionism (Ross) pp. 42-47

6 Test #1

 II. Abortion

8 Fetal Development and Roe v. Wade pp. 166-171

13 The Classic Conservative Argument (no readings)

15 Thomson pp.171-179

20 Warren pp. 180 - 186

22 Warren cont.


3 Sherwin  pp.196-202

5 Test #2

 III. Capital Punishment

10 Intro and Gregg v. Georgia pp.109-115

12 Kant (no readings)

17 Glover pp. 116-121

19 Perlmutter pp.122-129

24 continued. (no readings)

26 Test #3

IV. Sexuality


1 The Vatican/Aristotle (no readings)

3 Kant pp.481-485

8 Goldman pp.485-493

10 Pineau pp.493-504

15 Paglia pp.501-504

 Test #4 during finals week