PHL 320-F: God & Persons: Philosophical Reflections
Spring2010 Tues. Thurs. 9:30–10:45 am Prof. Stephens D. H. Humanities Center 1
office hours: Tues. Thurs. 10:50–11:20 am and 4:50–5:20 pm, and by appointment
office: D. H. Humanities Center 116 phone (with voicemail): 280-2632 email: stphns AT creighton DOT edu
What is God, exactly? Can we know that God exists? What reasons (arguments) are there for believing that God exists? What reasons are there for disbelieving in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good Creator of the universe? Are there reasons for believing in Fate or Providence whether or not one god or many gods exist? How does a Stoic think about God or the gods? Does morality or meaningfulness in life depend on belief in God? Could God be a Taoist? Is God one person, three persons, or not personal? What is a person? Who is a person? Are all human beings persons? Could dolphins be persons? Could apes or other primates be persons? Could artificially intelligent machines be persons? Are Replicants in the film Blade Runner persons? We will study these and related questions about the divine, the personal, and the relationship between the two. How, philosophically, are we to understand divinity and the meaning of life? Is it more reasonable to believe in deism (or polydeism) than traditional monotheism? We will study a dialogue that presents God and adult human beings, from a Taoist perspective, as conceivable either as personal or as impersonal. We will examine accounts of the person and personal identity by both influential Western philosophers and from a Buddhist perspective. The course’s concluding essay analyzes various Christian-inspired arguments that God is a person alongside various Muslim-inspired arguments that God is not a person.
Course Requirements and Grade Percentages
|Daily Class Participation and Quizlets (as many as are fated)||13%|
|Exam #1 (February 11)||19%|
|Exam #2 (March 25)||19%|
|Exam #3 (April 20)||19%|
|1400–@1700 word Paper due April 23; intro. ¶ due April 9||20%|
|Final Exam = Test on Legenhausen’s essay (May 3)||10%|
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, a new translation, with an introduction, by Gregory Hays (Random House, 2003) ISBN 0-8129-6825-5.
Lewis Vaughn, Writing Philosophy: A Student’s Guide to Writing Philosophy Essays (Oxford University Press, 2006) ISBN 0-19-517956-0.
Hampton Fancher & David Peoples, Blade Runner Screenplay (Feb. 23, 1981)
Internet Movie Database entry on Blade Runner (1982)
Standards of Evaluation for Letter Grades
F “Failure – no credit” (<60% average)
D “Work of inferior quality, but passing” (60 to <70% average)
C “Satisfactory work”
B “Noteworthy level of performance” Demonstrates all of the qualities of satisfactory work plus:
A “Outstanding achievement and an unusual degree of intellectual initiative” Demonstrates all of the qualities of noteworthy performance plus:
Punctuality is a virtue. Prof. Stephens strives to attend every class on time. He expects all of his students to attend every class, on time, every week, all semester long. Regular and punctual class attendance is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a good class participation grade. Five (5) or more absences (the equivalent of two and a half weeks) will result in an AF (failure due to excessive absence) for this course. Each absence fewer than six will incrementally lower your class participation grade. You are responsible for all material discussed and all announcements made in every class. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed. Being tardy twice counts as one absence. There are two kinds of activities that count as “participation”: inside of class and outside of class. Inside of class participation is raising your hand to be called on and making comments about the reading or the discussion, or asking questions about the reading or my lecture, or responding to questions I raise or comments made by other students. Outside of class participation includes (a) face-to-face (or telephonic) philosophical conversations with Prof. Stephens outside the classroom, whether in his office, in the hallway, or anywhere else, and (b) philosophically substantive electronic messages, including emails to Prof. Stephens or posts (or replies) in the BlueLine Discussion Forum for the course. You cannot really learn how to do philosophy by merely listening. You also need to actively think out loud orally inside class and outside of class in written electronic messages. Posting to the BlueLine Discussion Forum every week between Friday and Monday is probably necessary for earning an A for participation. Both quality and quantity of oral and electronic remarks count; I record both. Since we will be closely attending to the readings in our class discussions, it is important that everyday you bring to class your book (or a hard copy of the pdf article) containing that day’s reading assignment.
In the event of disruption of normal classroom activities due to an H1N1 flu outbreak, the format for this course may be modified to enable completion of the course. In that event, you will be provided an addendum to this syllabus that will supersede this version. Moreover, in the event of an H1N1 flu outbreak, you will be granted up to two (2) days of missed class attendance without a doctor’s note so long as you inform Prof. Stephens immediately when you become ill. If you miss more than two (2) class days, you must provide a doctor’s excuse. A necessary condition for a class absence being counted as excused due to illness (or emergency) is email (or telephone) notification to Prof. Stephens BEFORE class begins (at 9:30 am) the day of the absence. Ordinarily, email (or telephone) notification of illness (or emergency) preventing class attendance being given prior to class is also sufficient for that absence to count as excused, but this is ultimately up to the discretion of Prof. Stephens.
Quizlets and a Good Dictionary
To encourage you to do the assigned reading faithfully before each and every class, Prof. Stephens will sometimes, without prior announcement, at the beginning of class, give a small “pop” quiz on the reading assignment. These quizlets are usually about ten true/false items. If you are late to class or absent, then you miss the quizlet, get a zero for it, and cannot retake it. To compensate for a missed quizlet you can boost your participation in class. Sometimes Prof. Stephens rewards students for bringing their books to class by giving an open-book quizlet. Get into the habit of using a dictionary to look up every word you are not 100% certain you understand the exact meaning of in each and every sentence you read in every single reading assignment. Prof. Stephens is known to put vocabulary questions on quizlets. If you want to do well in this course, buy a good dictionary to carry with you to class, every class, and use it often every week outside of class to grow your vocabulary. You cannot understand what a philosopher writes unless you understand each and every word in every sentence of that philosopher’s essay.
Students who have not previously written a THESIS DEFENSE PAPER for Prof. Stephens should get their hands on the How to Write Philosophy Papers manual. Read it closely and carefully follow all its guidelines in writing your paper. You should also read Vaughn’s Writing Philosophy, which expands upon Stephens’ manual. Throughout the course, you should be thinking up a good paper topic. Discuss your topic idea(s) with him between March 16 and April 6. April 9 you will bring to class the first draft of your introductory paragraph, neatly typed and proofread. He will comment on, but not grade, your draft introductory paragraph to help you shape your paper. You can get additional assistance at the Writing Center (in Creighton Hall, phone 280-4707). The finished, polished, carefully edited, and meticulously proofread paper should be 1400 to approximately 1700 words in length. (You are permitted to exceed 1700 words within reason, but please don’t abuse this latitude.) Papers of fewer than 1400 words will receive a zero (F). On the cover page print your NAME, the COURSE number, section, and name, the name (properly spelled) of your PROFESSOR, a clever and descriptively accurate TITLE of your paper, and the WORD COUNT (exclude from this word count the words on your cover and Works Cited pages). Include a WORKS CITED page at the end.
For help finding information specific to your paper topic, go to http://reinert.creighton.edu/services/instruction/rap/rap.htm and complete the form with details of your paper assignment. Our terrific librarians can assist you.
Submission Policy and Late Penalty
Deliver your paper to Prof. Stephens’ office, Room 116, in the Philosophy Department suite, Dowling Hall Humanities Center, first floor west. “Your paper” means a hard copy, that is, thin, 8½ by 11" rectangular sheets made from wood pulp, stapled together in the upper left hand corner, with 12 point font, dark, easily legible printing on them. An electronic file on a storage device or an email attachment is ordinarily not acceptable. Approval for submitting your paper electronically must be explicitly granted by Prof. Stephens. Late papers will be penalized ten (10) points (one full letter grade) per weekday late. A necessary condition for being granted an extension is requesting it at least three full weekdays prior to the paper’s due date.
Academic Honesty Statement
|If you plagiarize any part of your paper, then you will receive an F for the course. Students are required to produce their own original work, ideas, arguments, and sentences in their papers. Students may NOT work with others, and may NOT borrow from others, in writing their papers. Citations on the paper should follow the guidelines in How to Write Philosophy Papers. If you cheat on an exam, then you will receive at minimum an F (zero) on that exam; in cases judged to be flagrant by the instructor, the punishment is an F for the course. See the Creighton College of Arts & Sciences Academic Honesty Procedures.|
Keep in Contact with the Instructor throughout the Course
|If anything hinders you from doing the assigned reading, attending class, participating in discussions, studying for quizzes, or writing your paper, please come see me or call me or email me or leave a note in my mailbox or under my office door. Whatever happens to you, please keep in contact with Prof. Stephens. Failure to do so can have unhappy consequences. Together we can work any problem out, but it is your responsibility to read and reply to any emails from me. I will notify students of revisions to the syllabus and make other announcements via email and/or BlueLine. Consequently, students are expected to check their email inboxes DAILY.|
Jan. 14 Introduction to course and Rowe, Introduction (1–3)
Jan. 19 Rowe, Ch. 1: The Idea of God (4–18);
quizlet on syllabus
Jan. 21 Rowe, Ch. 2: The Cosmological Argument (19–36)
Jan. 26 Rowe, Ch. 3: The Ontological Argument (37–53)
Jan. 28 finish Rowe, Ch. 3 (reread 37–53)
Feb. 2 Rowe, Ch. 4: The
Design Argument (read 54–68); Simon Blackburn, “An
Feb. 4 Rowe, Ch. 6: Faith and Reason (91–111)
Feb. 9 Rowe, Ch. 7: The Problem of Evil (112–132) Review
Guide for Exam #1
Feb. 11 Exam #1 ۞ BRING A #2 PENCIL ۞
Feb. 16 Stephens, Ch. 28: R. M. Smullyan, “Is God a Taoist?” (241–254)
Feb. 18 Stephens, Ch. 3: Cicero (17–21), Ch. 4: Epictetus (22–29)
Feb. 23 Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Introduction, Chronology,
Index of Persons, Books 1–3, and relevant Notes (vii–lvii, 5–34; 171–174)
Feb. 25 Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Books 4–6 (37–82)
March 2 Marcus Aurelius,
Meditations, Books 7–9 (85–128)
March 4 Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Books 10–12 (131–170)
March 16 Stephens, Ch. 6:
Contra Eutychen §§ 2–4 (32–37)
March 18 Stephens, Ch. 23: C. D. Broad, “The Validity of Belief in a Personal God”(187–198)
March 23 Finish Broad
Review Guide for Exam #2
March 25 Exam #2 ۞ BRING A #2 PENCIL ۞
March 30 Richard
April 1 class cancelled
April 6 Stephens, Ch. 34: Mary
Midgley, “Persons and Non-Persons” (313–320);
Jonathan Leake, “Scientists say dolphins should be treated as non-human persons,” The Sunday Times, 3 Jan. 2010
April 8 Stephens, Ch. 42: The Boyd Group, “The Moral Status of Non-human
Primates: Are Apes Persons?” (409–415) and
Nicholas Wade, “Scientist Finds the Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior” The New York Times, 20 March 2007 (.pdf file)
April 9 at 12 noon: introductory
¶ of paper
Before you write your paper, read closely Vaughn, Chapters 3–6 (43–102) and re-read Stephens, How to Write Philosophy Papers
April 13 Finish
The Boyd Group essay; Ch. 39: Oswald Hanfling, “Machines as Persons?” (379–386);
lecture on Hanfling (32 mins. 8 secs.)
Ideally before 3:30 pm view Dr Bucher’s Powerpoint lecture (in 3 parts) “Style and Meaning in Blade Runner” on BlueLine (under “Lessons”)
3:30 to 6 pm Screening of Blade Runner (1982) in
Blade Runner (on reserve in Reinert Library) on your own if you do not
the April 13 afternoon screening.
April 15 Stephen Mulhall, “Picturing the Human (Body and Soul): A Reading of Blade Runner” Review Guide for Exam #3
BRING A PENCIL
April 22 Stephens, Ch. 35: Gary Legenhausen, “Is God a Person?” (321–335)
Friday April 23 at 12 noon: Paper DUE
April 27 Legenhausen (continued)
April 29 last class; finish Legenhausen Legenhausen Review Guide
Monday May 3, 1–2:40 pm
Final Exam = Test
on Legenhausen ۞
BRING A #2 PENCIL
* The instructor reserves the right to make minor changes to this syllabus during the course including scheduling of due dates and assignments.
updated 8 April 2010
Copyright © 2010 William O. Stephens