Do you believe in God?
If you are a philosopher, then you are already stymied by the question. First you’ll want to know what I mean by the word ‘God.’ So, let me ask, more precisely, whether you believe in the existence of a being with personal qualities, who created the universe, who is all-knowing, wholly good and loving, and infinitely powerful. But, don’t answer this question; your answer would only be a bit of autobiography — like whether or not you like tomatoes — and so not philosophically interesting.
One question that is of interest to philosophers is whether one rationally ought to believe in the existence of such a being. Is the belief rational, justified, or supported by the evidence? (And what should count as evidence here, anyway?) Now that is a question worth answering, for if the belief is justified, then it would be irrational not to believe in God.
But maybe it is too much to demand reasons or evidence for every belief. Isn’t it sometimes perfectly rational to believe something on faith rather than evidence? Often, of course, it is clearly irrational to believe something on faith (like when you’re on the jury in a murder trial). So, if faith is sometimes appropriate, when is it so? These are also questions worth answering.
On the other hand, doesn’t the undeserved suffering that saturates human existence show that the existence of a loving (etc.) deity is literally impossible? If so, then it would be irrational to believe in God’s existence no matter one’s faith or reasons.
The aim of this class is to answer, if possible, such questions. We'll read and discuss some of the most important modern work on these subjects by professional philosophers. There will also be reading quizzes, a midterm exam, two short papers, and a final.
Only first-year students, including those with sophomore standing, may pre-register for First-Year Seminars. All others need permission of instructor.