PHIL 467 A: Philosophy Of Religion

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MTWThF 9:40am - 11:50am
MUS 219
Michael A. Rosenthal

Syllabus Description:

Philosophy of Religion (PHI 467)

Prof. Michael Rosenthal, Summer Quarter 2017 (A-Term)

MTWThF 9:40-11:50am (Music 219)

Office: Savery 382

Phone: (206) 685-2655


Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 2-3pm; and by appointment.

Home Web Page:

Canvas Course Web Page:



This course will survey the main topics in contemporary, analytic philosophy of religion. We will begin with arguments that attempt to prove the existence of God and then consider the attempts to disprove the existence of God through the so called “problem of evil.” We will consider the debates regarding the attributes of God and then turn to various philosophical problems that arise in revealed religions involving God’s relation to creation, such as how we can know God. The final sections of the course will look at contemporary challenges to revealed religions, including feminism, the existence of competing belief systems, and the possibility of secular ethics. We will also watch several segments of the film series, Decalogue, directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski, and discuss them. We will use these films to discuss the question of the presence of religious themes in everyday life as well as the problem of the artistic representation of religious and philosophical issues. Although we will cover a lot of material, the course cannot consider all points of view. The goal is to deepen your understanding of some key philosophical debates within religious traditions based on revelation.



Participation: All students are expected to do the assigned reading before class, to attend regularly, and to make every effort to participate in class discussion. Please note that while students are encouraged to argue and disagree with each other and the instructor, they are expected to treat the views of others in the class with respect.

Response Notes: On ten occasions during class over the quarter I will ask students to write short response pieces on the material we have been reading, viewing, and discussing. You can miss one response without penalty. In case of documented illness you can make-up up to three more assignments. The satisfactory completion of each response will be worth 10 points, for a total of 100 points possible. A minimum of 60 points is required to pass this assignment.

Two short papers: Each student is required to write two short papers, each five pages in length, on an assigned topic. The paper must, at minimum, present and critically discuss one or more arguments on the chosen topic. A good paper will have a thesis, which is explained and defended at length against the strongest objections possible. About two weeks before the paper is due I will hand out a set of questions from which you will choose your paper topic. The first paper is due at the beginning of class on Friday, June 30th. The second paper is due at the beginning of class on Friday, July 14th. Each paper is worth up to a total of 100 points. You are to electronically upload your paper to the relevant assignment page on the course Canvas site. After the first 24-hour period after the due date by which the paper is late, you will automatically lose 10 points from your final grade. Each additional day the paper is late after that you will lose 5 points for a maximum of 30 points that could be subtracted from your grade. The minimum passing grade for a paper is 53 points.

Final Exam: There will be a final exam during the last class period on Wednesday, July 19th in our classroom. This will be a closed book exam. All material from the assigned readings as well as class lectures and the films we view will be the subject of the exam. No make-up exams will be given except in documented cases of illness or death of a family member. Please bring a blue book. This exam will be worth 100 points of your final grade. The minimum passing grade for the exam is 53 points.

Tentative Grading Scale: For your information, the grading scale for the course is posted in the form of an Excel file on the course Canvas page, under “Files.”

Nota Bene: (1) Cheating in any form (including plagiarism, of course) will result in automatic referral to the Dean’s office. You are assumed to understand the university rules concerning inappropriate academic conduct. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the instructor.

(2) In order to pass this course students must satisfy both of the following requirements: (a) earn a minimum of 212 points total; and (b) complete satisfactorily (i.e., pass) three of the four graded components of this course. The four graded components of the course are: (i) response notes assignment; (ii) the first paper; (iii) the second paper; and (iv) the final exam. For example, a student who passes the debate and project note assignments, as well as one paper, but who fails one paper and the final, will not pass the course. Absolutely no exceptions will be made to this policy.



The following book is required and is available for purchase at the University Bookstore:


Kelly James Clark, editor, Readings in the Philosophy of Religion, Second Edition, Ontario, Canada: Broadview Press, 2008. ISBN: 978-1-155111-803-1


The following book is also required. It is available for electronic download from our library (for UW users) via open access at this link (

Badowska, Eva, and Parmeggiani, Francesca. Of Elephants and Toothaches : Ethics, Politics, and Religion in Krzysztof Kieślowski's Decalogue. First ed. Communications. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016.

Over the quarter we will also view several segments of the following film series:

Kieślowski, Krzysztof, Dekalog [also known as Decalogue], New York, N.Y. : The Criterion Collection, 2016.  (Call Number: DVD CRIT 935)

I will show the relevant segment in class, but I have also asked to have the DVD series put on reserve in the library. 



All page numbers refer to the required text. Please note that that the instructor reserves the right to make changes to this schedule as he sees fit.


6/19     M         Topic 1: Arguments for the Existence of God

                        The Ontological Argument (13-28)


6/20     Tu        The Cosmological Argument (29-58)


6/21     W        The Argument from Design (59-96)


6/22     Th        Moral Arguments (97-118)

                        The Balance of Probabilities (149-160)


6/23     F          The Argument from Religious Experience (119-132)

                        The Decalogue: One


6/26     M         Topic 2: The Problem of Evil

The Problem Stated (297-98)

Theodicy (309-340)

Evil and Soul-Making (152-159)


6/27     Tu        The Free Will Defense (299-308)

                        The Evidential Problem of Evil (341-362)


6/28     W        Topic 3: The Attributes of God

Divine Language (387-404)

Does God Suffer? (405-416)


6/29     Th        Prayer (417-428)

                        Is There a Hell? (429-448)


6/30     F          [FIRST PAPER DUE]

                        Decalogue: Six

Eva Badowska, “States of Exception: Politics and Poetics in Decalogue Six (140-164)


7/3       M         NO CLASS – Holiday weekend


7/4       Tu        NO CLASS – Independence Day


7/5       W        Topic 4: Faith and Reason

                        The Need for Evidence (191-200)

                        Reformed Epistemology (201-214)


7/6       Th        Wittgensteinian Fideism (215-228)

                        Pragmatic Justification (229-240)


7/7       F          Decalogue: Two

William Jaworski, “Rules and Virtues: The Moral Insight of The Decalogue” (15-29)


7/10     M         Topic 5: Critiques of God

                        The Hermeneutics of Suspicion (263-287)


7/11     T          Decalogue: One

Moshe Gold, “Decalogue One: Witnessing a Responsible Ethics of Response from a Jewish Perspective” (30-50)


7/12     W        Topic 6: Feminist Theology

                        Feminist Theology (465-490)


7/13     Th        Topic 7: Religious Pluralism

                       Religious Pluralism (449-464)


7/14     F          [SECOND PAPER DUE]

                        Decalogue: Seven

Francesca Parmeggiani,“Decalogue Seven: A Tale of Love, Failing Words, and Moving Images” (140-164)


7/17     M         Decalogue: Eight

Emma Wilson, “Decalogue Eight: Childhood, Emotion, and the Shoah” (181-196)


7/18     T          General Discussion and Review

Decalogue: Ten

Regina Small, “Laughter Makes Good Neighbors: Sociability and the

Comic in Decalogue Ten” (216-230)


7/19     W        FINAL EXAM









Plagiarism is defined as the use of creations, ideas or words of publicly available work without formally acknowledging the author or source through appropriate use of quotation marks, references, and the like. Plagiarizing is presenting someone else’s work as one’s own original work or thought. This constitutes plagiarism whether it is intentional or unintentional. The University of Washington takes plagiarism very seriously. Plagiarism may lead to disciplinary action by the University against the student who submitted the work. Any student who is uncertain whether his or her use of the work of others constitutes plagiarism should consult the course instructor for guidance before formally submitting the course work involved. (Sources: UW Graduate School Style Manual; UW Bothell Catalog; UW Student Conduct Code)


An incomplete is given only when the student has been in attendance and has done satisfactory work until within two weeks of the end of the quarter and has furnished proof satisfactory to the instructor that the work cannot be completed because of illness or other circumstances beyond the student’s control. (Source: UW General Catalog Online, “Student Guide/Grading”)

Grade Appeal Procedure

A student who believes he or she has been improperly graded must first discuss the matter with the instructor. If the student is not satisfied with the instructor’s explanation, the student may submit a written appeal to the chair of the Department of Philosophy with a copy of the appeal also sent to the instructor. The chair consults with the instructor to ensure that the evaluation of the student’s performance has not been arbitrary or capricious. Should the chair believe the instructor’s conduct to be arbitrary or capricious and the instructor declines to revise the grade, the chair, with the approval of the voting members of his or her faculty, shall appoint an appropriate member, or members, of the faculty of the Department of Philosophy to evaluate the performance of the student and assign a grade. The Dean and Provost should be informed of this action. Once a student submits a written appeal, this document and all subsequent actions on this appeal are recorded in written form for deposit in a School file. (Source: UW General Catalog Online, “Student Guide/Grading”)

Concerns About a Course, an Instructor, or a Teaching Assistant

If you have any concerns about a Philosophy course or your instructor, please see the instructor about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the instructor or not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact the chair of the program offering the course (names available from the Department of Philosophy, 361 Savery Hall).

If you have any concerns about a teaching assistant, please see the teaching assistant about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the teaching assistant or not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact the instructor in charge of the course. If you are still not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact the chair of the program offering the course (names available from the Department of Philosophy, 361 Savery Hall), or the Graduate School at G-1 Communications Building (543-5900).

For your reference, these procedures are posted on a Philosophy bulletin board outside the Department of Philosophy main office on the 3rd floor of Savery Hall.


Equal Opportunity

The University of Washington reaffirms its policy of equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, or status as a disabled veteran or Vietnam-era veteran in accordance with University of Washington policy and applicable federal and state statutes and regulations.

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The University of Washington is committed to providing access, equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education and employment for individuals with disabilities. For information or to request disability accommodation contact: Disabled Students Services (Seattle campus) at (206) 543-8924/V, (206) 543-8925/TTY, (206) 616-8379/Fax, or e-mail at; Bothell Student Affairs at (425) 352-5000/V; (425) 352-5303/TTY, (425) 352-5335/Fax, or e-mail at; Tacoma Student Services at (253) 552-4000/V, (253) 552-4413/TTY, (253) 552-4414/Fax.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as the use of one’s authority or power, either explicitly or implicitly, to coerce another into unwanted sexual relations or to punish another for his or her refusal, or as the creation by a member of the University community of an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or educational environment through verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

If you believe that you are being harassed, seek help—the earlier the better. You may speak with your instructor, your teaching assistant, the undergraduate advisor (363 Savery Hall), graduate program assistant (366 Savery Hall), or the chair of the Philosophy Department (364 Savery Hall). In addition, you should be aware that the University has designated special people to help you. They are: University Ombudsman and Ombudsman for Sexual Harassment (for complaints involving faculty members and teaching assistants) Susan Neff, 301 Student Union (HUB), 543-6028; and the University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office, 616-2028. (Sources: UW Graduate School, CIDR, Office of the President)

Office of Scholarly Integrity

The Office of Scholarly Integrity is housed in the Office of the Vice-Provost. The Office of Scholarly Integrity assumes responsibility for investigating and resolving allegations of scientific and scholarly misconduct by faculty, students, and staff of the University of Washington. The Office of Scholarly Integrity coordinates, in consultation and cooperation with the Schools and Colleges, inquiries and investigations into allegations of scientific and scholarly misconduct. The Office of Scholarly Integrity is responsible for compliance with reporting requirements established by various Federal and other funding agencies in matters of scientific or scholarly misconduct. The Office of Scholarly Integrity maintains all records resulting from inquiries and investigations of such allegations. University rules (Handbook, Vol. II, Section 25-51, Executive Order #61) define scientific and scholarly misconduct to include the following forms of inappropriate activities: intentional misrepresentation of credentials; falsification of data; plagiarism; abuse of confidentiality; deliberate violation of regulations applicable to research. Students can report cases of scientific or scholarly misconduct either to the Office of Scholarly Integrity, to their faculty adviser, or the department chair. The student should report such problems to whomever he or she feels most comfortable. (Sources: UW web page (; minutes of Grad School Executive Staff and Division Heads meeting, 7/23/98)

* Adapted from material prepared by the UW Department of History and used with permission.

Additional Details:


Catalog Description: 
Study of selected topics and problems in the philosophy of religion, such as: arguments for the existence of God; the problem of evil; atheism; faith; religious experience and revelation; the attributes of God; miracles; immortality; and the relation between religion and morality. Readings from historical and contemporary authors.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:27pm