Week 1: Introduction

Tuesday, January 16:       An introduction to some philosophical problems

Compulsory reading: none

Thursday, January 18:      God's essence and existence

Compulsory reading: Grant_Ontological Argument (posted on Canvas): this is a two page excerpt from

     Stephen Grant “On the ontological argument”, Richmond Journal of Philosophy 3 (Spring 2003).

It gives a brief description of both of Anselm's arguments and Descartes's argument, and one major objection (Gaunilo's).

Optional reading: if you get interested in this topic for the purposes of writing a term paper on it then Anselm's original statement of his two arguments can be found as chapters 2 and 3 of his Proslogion which is freely available on the internet at:

You can scroll down to the relevant sections. They are brief but very very dense.

Descartes's version of the argument is laid out in his Meditations on First Philosophy (Meditation V) which is available online at:

There is also a quite good introduction to the argument and various objections at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The relevant sections are: 1, 2a, 2b and 3.

A very thorough and advanced survey of different ontological arguments can be found in Oppy, Graham, "Ontological Arguments", ˆ (Summer 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

Week 2:  Two arguments for the existence of God

Tuesday Jan 23:      Why is there something rather than nothing?

Compulsory reading:

An excerpt from chapter 7 (“God”) of Richard Taylor’s book Metaphysics (Prentice Hall, 1963). Taylor_Cosmological (posted on Canvas):

Optional reading: If you get interested in this as a topic for your term paper then you can browse the Stanford Encyclopedia article available at:

Thursday, Jan 25: Explaining apparent design

Compulsory reading: An exerpt entitled Paley’s Watch (posted on Canvas) from: William Paley Natural Theology

Optional reading: The contribution to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy is OK: Section 1.

A new version of the design argument is called “The fine tuning argument”. The idea is that there are many fundamental physical magnitudes (like the strength of the force of gravity, or the electromagnetic force of the strong nuclear force) such that if they were even a tiny bit different the Big Bang would not have resulted in a universe that would support life. They give the appearance of being fine-tuned to make the university hospitable to life. For a pretty good summary and analysis I have posted the article:

“The design argument, cosmic “fine turning” and the anthropic principle” by John Jefferson Davis (Philosophy of Religion 22 (1987): 139-150) on  Canvas.

Week 3: The disvalue of suffering and the value of belief

Tuesday Jan 30: God and evil

Compulsory Reading: J.L. Mackie “Evil and Omnipotence” in Mind Vol. 64, (1955), pp. 200-212. Available on the web at:

Richard Swinburne “The Freewill Defense” on the Canvas site.

Optional reading:  G. Schlesinger “The Problem of Evil and the Problem of Suffering” American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Jul., 1964), pp. 244-247 (posted on the D2L site as Schlesinger “Evil and Suffering”)

Thursday Feb 1: Pascal's wager

Compulsory Reading: Lycan and Schlesinger “You bet your life”. Originally published in Feinberg Reason and Responsibility (8th edition) pp. 100-108. Uploaded to Canvase

Optional reading:  Alan Hajek has a very good summary of the argument and of the objections in his contribution entitled “Pascal’s Wager” on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website:

The entry in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy is also not bad: