RLG100Y1 Lecture Notes - Definite Description

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8 Nov 2011
1. To do philosophy of religion is to think philosophically about topics that are central to
religion: the difference between faith and first-hand knowledge; the existence and nature
of God; the “problem of evil”; the relation of divine commandments to morality.
2. What is it to think philosophically about such topics? Philosophers have no special
laboratory. They just have arguments. Some arguments are good, others are not. Some
prove their point, some do not. Some give rational support to their conclusion, others do
not. An argument can fail in several ways: invalidity, unsoundness, begging the question.
Read the notes on logic.
The need for clear ideas and clear language. Examples: 'universe' 'exist' 'God' 'good'
A note on the meaning of 'God'. Davies says that he takes 'God' to mean 'the God of
Judaism, Islam, and Christianity' (p. 1). What do Jews, Muslims, and Christians mean by
'God'? A preliminary working explanation: A divinity is a creator of everything other
than itself. 'God' is sometimes used as a common noun (word for a kind or sort, like
house, man, bird), as when one says, "There is only one God." But sometimes it is used
as a definite description, as when one says, "God is good." The word can be used in this
second way because Jews, Muslims, and Christians agree that there can be only one God
3. The mechanics of the course:
Essay topic: The Immutability of the Creator. You are to critically discull Brian Davies’
brief argument on p. 5 from the premise (a) that nothing can pre-exist the activity of God
as Creator to the conclusion (b) that God is immutable.
A 500-word draft is due on October 6. A more developed, 1000-word essay is due on
November 25.
Tests: The six tutorial/writing sessions will be designed to help you with the essay.
The Mid-term test will be held in the regular 9:10 a.m. class period and will consist of a
number of short-answer essay questions. The Final Exam will be a two-hour test, one half
of which will be like the mid-term, and the other half an extended essay question which
you will be given in advance of the exam.
Please note the rule about late submission of essays and excused absence from the
mid-term test.
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