Topics for Paper #1

    What follow are suggestions only.  But if you want to write on something that’s a significant departure from this list, please check with me first, to make sure your proposed topic is viable.

    1.  Write on a topic in philosophy of science only if you have some independent knowledge of philosophy of science.  (Our own two-week introduction to the subject was too superficial to give you a basis for useful paper-writing--though if you have read the article “Explanation and Epistemology” and are fairly confident that you understand it, you may have a basis.)

    2.  You might discuss one of Aquinas’ “ways,” either examining the relevant anti-infinity premise or investigating some other aspect of the argument.  (But no Aristotle scholarship, please.  It’s OK to allude to Aristotelian doctrine, but I am not qualified to evaluate papers in Aristotle interpretation.)

    3.  Attack or defend Clarke’s cosmological argument, based on our class discussion.

    4.  Discuss the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

    5.  CHALLENGE for the ambitious:  The handout “Two Arguments For The Existence Of God” contains an error.  The parenthesized statement in the middle of p. 2, beginning “Note that the material world itself…,” is incorrect.  (It’s the result of too hasty adaptation of an older handout.)  Correct the error, and address yourself more generally to the question of whether the material world (as we’ve been using that phrase) could be the independent being.

    6.  Attack or defend Paley’s teleological argument, based on our class discussion.

    7.  Rebut or defend one of Martin’s atheistic teleological arguments; or compare and contrast if that proves to be useful.

Topics for Paper #2

    As before, what follow are just suggestions; but if you want to write on something that’s a significant departure from this list, please check with me first.

    1.  If you like, you may write on one of the previous topics that you did not write on for Paper #1.

    2.  Address the Problem of Evil, either defending a way out for the theist or attacking one or more of the theist’s alleged ways out.

    3.  If you happen to have read my Lewisian theodicy (n.b., not required reading or even recommended reading for the course), subject it to a ferocious critique.

    4.  Take issue with anything maintained by P. Kitcher in Abusing Science.  E.g., has he been fair to each of his opponents?  Can you make some rejoinders on one or more of the opponents’ behalf?

    5.  Discuss SIDC.  Argue for it; or argue against it; or evaluate the argument against it put forward by PK in class (cf. my recent e-mail headed “Evil again”).

    6.  Discuss any issue raised by Smart.

    7.  After our class discussion on miracles, write something about miracles:  E.g., defend or attack Hume’s argument, or argue that there is or there isn’t a conflict between miracles (of a religious nature) and science.

Topics for Paper #3

    1.  Write on one of the previous topics that you did not write on for Papers #1 or #2.

    2.  Engage P. Kitcher on the "historical subversion" front.  Attack or defend the idea that claims to religious knowledge on the basis of tradition are undermined by historical evidence.

    3.  Criticize the Argument from Religious Diversity, either using one of the three strategies mentioned in class or in some further way.  Or, defend the ARD against one or more objections that have been offered.  (You may want to address the epistemological issues discussed in my handout, "Vs. 1", but you certainly need not.)

    4.  If you’re fairly familiar with Explanationism, what should be the Explanationist response to the ARD?

    5.  Discuss Craig's new Cosmological argument, attacking or defending.

    6.  See what you can make of Davies' design argument (or suggestion), in light of class discussion.  Or, see what you can make of his "intelligibility" argument, ditto.

    7.  If you have enough background in physics and are willing to read an outside source, assess some version of the Argument from Fine-Tuning.  (Some background and references may be found in the Stanford Encyclopedia article, "Cosmology and Theology".

    8.  Try to make sense of the issue(s) regarding the "anthropic principles."   ("Cosmology and Theology" will help here too.)

    9.  Take up any remaining issue raised by Drees.

Topics for Paper #4

    1.  Write on one of the previous topics that you did not write on for Papers #1, #2 or #3.

    2.  Discuss some aspect of Pascal’s Wager.

    3.  Evaluate Clifford’s position and his argument for it.  Or, evaluate the subtler version of Clifford sketched in class by P. Kitcher.

    4.  Evaluate James’ position and his argument for it.  Or, referee a James-Clifford debate.

    5.  If you feel up to it, discuss our selection from Kierkegaard.  (A little outside reading might help here.  I can recommend Robert Solomon’s From Rationalism to Existentialism (Harvester Press, 1972).)  If you feel even better than up to it, try defending Kierkegaard against Mackie’s criticisms.

    6.  Say something of your own about the nature of faith.

    7.  Formulate and assess some interesting version of a theistic Argument from Religious Experience.  Or, compare and contrast two or more versions.

    8.  Discuss any other issue raised by Hepburn.

    9.  Evaluate James’ concluding position and the argument he gives for it.  Or, discuss some other aspect of his chapter.

    10.  State and evaluate Martin’s argument against (certain) Arguments from Religious Experience.