PP2RL-Philosophy of Religion

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Dr Mark Tebbit

Email: m.w.tebbit@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
The course will cover a selection from the most important philosophical issues arising from the idea of God as understood by the mainstream monotheistic religions. Why is there something rather than nothing? Can a world just spring into being? Must there be a God for there to be anything at all? What do theists mean by God? We will be looking at questions relating to the origins of the universe, the evidence for design, order and purpose in the cosmos and the world around us, and the conflict between religious and scientific explanations for these features of the world. We will focus on arguments for and against the existence of God and consider the meaning of religious experience and belief. The perspectives of agnosticism and atheism will be as prominent as that of theism.

We will approach these questions through historical and contemporary sources, from the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, through to the leading theistic and atheist philosophers today. The emphasis will be on the logic of the arguments defended on either side. The course will be interactive: there will be ample opportunity for discussion and development of your own ideas.

Assessable learning outcomes:
To enable students to gain a critical understanding of key arguments and issues in the philosophy of religion, combining historical awareness of the most influential writings in the Western tradition with knowledge of more recent philosophical work. By the end of the module students should be able to give a critical account of the main arguments for and against God’s existence in the Western philosophical tradition, and should have a good grasp of some of the most important epistemological issues connected with religious belief and the relationship between belief, faith and evidence, including questions about possible evidence for the supernatural and the existence of miracles.

Additional outcomes:
Students will gain an overview of one of the central threads in the Western philosophical tradition, and should be able to connect what they have learnt with other aspects of philosophy, notably metaphysics, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of language, and ethics. The object of the module is not just to impart factual information but to encourage students to develop their own critical perspective on the issues.

Outline content:
Topics covered will include, but not be limited to:
• The Concept of God
• The Cosmological Argument
• The Ontological Argument
• The Argument from Design
• The Problem of Evil
• Religion and Morality
• Miracles and Testimony
• Religious Experience
• The Logical Positivist Critique of Theology

Introductory Reading
Brian Davies, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, 3rd Edition, OUP (2004) (Course Text) It is essential that you have a copy of this book. This is the central text which will be relevant to nearly all of the topics.
Keith Ward, The Concept of God
Peter Vardy, The Puzzle of God
William James, Varieties of Religious Experience.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The format for this module contains weekly lectures and seminars. Lectures will be more focused on communicating ideas to students, whereas seminars will allow them to explore these ideas in conversation, but questions in the lecture will also be encouraged. Hand-outs will accompany each lecture and will be available on Blackboard, along with some readings, the essay questions, and other relevant course materials.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Guided independent study 170
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 70
Written assignment including essay 30

Other information on summative assessment:
Two essays of 1500-2000 words each, worth a total of 30% of the module mark.

Electronic Submission
All coursework should be submitted electronically via Blackboard.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    One examination of two hours in length and worth 70% of the module mark. You must answer two questions from a choice of six.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination in August by written examination only.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 9 January 2017

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