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Adams, Marilyn McCord, , . Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God
1999, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
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Publisher’ Note: When confronted by horrendous evil, even the most pious believer may question not only life’s worth but also God’s power and goodness. A distinguished philosopher and a practicing minister, Marilyn McCord Adams has written a highly original work on a fundamental dilemma of Christian thought – how to reconcile faith in God with the evils that afflict human beings. Adams argues that much of the discussion in analytic philosophy of religion over the last forty years has offered too narrow an understanding of the problem. The ground rules accepted for the discussion have usually led philosophers to avert their gaze from the worst – horrendous – evils and their devastating impact on human lives. They have agreed to debate the issue on the basis of religion-neutral values, and have focused on morals, an approach that – Adams claims – is inadequate for formulating and solving the problem of horrendous evils. She emphasizes instead the fruitfulness of other evaluative categories such as purity and defilement, honor and shame, and aesthetics. If redirected, philosophical reflection on evil can, Adams’s book demonstrates, provide a valuable approach not only to theories of God and evil but also to pastoral care.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on philosophy of religion or atheism. It is most likely that this would serve as a secondary rather than primary reading, but would be particularly useful for students who feel that discussions of the problem of evil for theism are carried out at too high a level of abstraction to get to what is really central to the problem.

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Ali Mobini, Mohammed, , . Earth’s Epistemic Fruits for Harmony with God: An Islamic Theodicy
2013, in The Blackwell companion to the problem of evil (eds J. P. McBrayer and D. Howard-Snyder), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford. Chapter 20.
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Publisher’s Note: The best life is realized when all existents are in such harmony with one another that all can play their assigned roles. Suffering always comes from disharmony. The vital harmony of life is harmony between creatures and Creator; and the way in which a creature fits with the existence of the Creator is a necessary condition for the creature’s survival. Among all creatures, human beings are able to have comprehensive knowledge of God and achieve an active harmony with God in all aspects. The earth is a testing ground in which humans can prepare themselves epistemically and then practically to contribute actively to harmony with God. Since a laboratory has its own rules, we should not expect an ideal life in the earthly laboratory. After the laboratorial role that one plays in the present world, one still is on the watch and can share in the experiences of living people and develop epistemically so that one receives an epistemic safe point that is necessary for harmony with God.

Comment: A great chapter to use when teaching about theodicies, especially because it can be hard to find non-Christian theodicies in mainstream Philosophy of Religion literature. The laboratory analogy is particularly interesting, and it could be good to have a couple of seminar questions relating specifically to the strength of this analogy.

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Anderson, Pamela Sue, , . Feminist Challenges to Conceptions of God: Exploring Divine Ideals
2007, Philosophia 35 (3-4):361-370.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by:

Abstract: This paper presents a feminist intervention into debates concerning the relation between human subjects and a divine ideal. I turn to what Irigarayan feminists challenge as a masculine conception of the God’s eye view of reality. This ideal functions not only in philosophy of religion, but in ethics, politics, epistemology and philosophy of science: it is given various names from a competent judge to an ideal observer (IO) whose view is either from nowhere or everywhere. The question is whether, as Taliaferro contends, my own philosophical argument inevitably appeals to the impartiality and omni-attributes of the IO. This paper was delivered during the APA Pacific 2007 Mini-Conference on Models of God.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Anne Conway, , . Selections from the Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy
1994, in Margaret Atherton (ed.) Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period. Hackett Publishing Company. [originally written 1677]
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Added by: Alison Stone, Contributed by:

After the SEP: Anne Conway’s treatise is a work of Platonist metaphysics in which she derives her system of philosophy from the existence and attributes of God. The framework of Conway’s system is a tripartite ontological hierarchy of ‘species’, the highest of which is God, the source of all being. Christ, or ‘middle nature’, links God and the third species, called ‘Creature’. […] Anne Conway denies the existence of material body as such, arguing that inert corporeal substance would contradict the nature of God, who is life itself. Incorporeal created substance is, however, differentiated from the divine, principally on account of its mutability and multiplicity even so, the infinite number and constant mutability of created monads constitute an obverse reflection of the unity, infinity, eternity and unchangeableness of God. The continuum between God and creatures is made possible through ‘middle nature’, an intermediary being, through which God communicates life, action, goodness and justice. […] The spiritual perfectionism of Anne Conway’s system has dual aspect: metaphysical and moral. On the one hand all things are capable of becoming more spirit-like, that is, more refined qua spiritual substance. At the same time, all things are capable of increased goodness. She explains evil as a falling away from the perfection of God, and understands suffering as part of a longer term process of spiritual recovery. She denies the eternity of hell, since for God to punish finite wrong-doing with infinite and eternal hell punishment would be manifestly unjust and therefore a contradiction of the divine nature. Instead she explains pain and suffering as purgative, with the ultimate aim of restoring creatures to moral and metaphysical perfection. Anne Conway’s system is thus not just an ontology and but a theodicy.

Comment: This chapter could be used in a history of philosophy course as one week’s reading. The author has a metaphysics that is often seen to anticipate that of Leibniz so one could, e.g., include a week on Conway in advance of a week or two (or three) on Leibniz.

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Anserson, Pamela Sue, , . Gender and the Infinite: on the Aspiration to be All there Is
2001, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 50(2-3): 191-212.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Introduction: In this essay I would like to offer a feminist rethinking of a core topic for a more inclusive philosophy of religion. I advocate a gender-sensitive approach to the topic of the infinite.

Comment: A paper that sets the scene surrounding feminist philosophy of religion, and would therefore be a great introduction to this topic as a whole – in particular, following on from studying ‘classical’ conceptions of a God who is infinite – given that Anderson talks about gendered conceptions of the infinite.

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Antony, Louise M, , . For the Love of Reason
2007, in L. Antony (ed.) Philosophers Without God: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life. Oxford University Press: 41-58.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Summary: Antony talks about the mysteries to do with religion and philosophy of religion that have always troubled her – for instance, the Euthyphro dilemma, the state of ‘limbo’, and original sin.

Comment: A personal and very accessible reflection by an atheist philosopher of religion on why she does not believe in God. Could be nice to include before a debate on atheism/agnosticism/theism, for instance. It is very much an accessible introduction to the topic – yet, one written by a philosopher of religion. Could help to combat stereotype threat for female undergraduates in that this is a personal piece written by a female philosopher of religion.

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Buchak, Lara, , . Can it be Rational to Have Faith?
2012, in Jake Chandler & Victoria Harrison (eds.) Probability in the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press: 225-247.
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Abstract: This paper provides an account of what it is to have faith in a proposition p, in both religious and mundane contexts. It is argued that faith in p doesn’t require adopting a degree of belief that isn’t supported by one’s evidence but rather it requires terminating one’s search for further evidence and acting on the supposition that p. It is then shown, by responding to a formal result due to I.J. Good, that doing so can be rational in a number of circumstances. If expected utility theory is the correct account of practical rationality, then having faith can be both epistemically and practically rational if the costs associated with gathering further evidence or postponing the decision are high. If a more permissive framework is adopted, then having faith can be rational even when there are no costs associated with gathering further evidence

Comment: A great paper for an intermediate philosophy of religion course, especially because many arguments from students are to the contrary: it’s irrational to believe in God when we don’t have satisfactory evidence. It could be nice to set up a debate centering around this paper. It could work particularly well towards the end of the course.

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Buchak, Lara, , . Faith and Steadfastness in the face of Counter-Evidence
2017, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 81(1-2): 113-133.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: It is sometimes said that faith is recalcitrant in the face of new evidence, but it is puzzling how such recalcitrance could be rational or laudable. I explain this aspect of faith and why faith is not only rational, but in addition serves an important purpose in human life. Because faith requires maintaining a commitment to act on the claim one has faith in, even in the face of counter-evidence, faith allows us to carry out long-term, risky projects that we might otherwise abandon. Thus, faith allows us to maintain integrity over time.

Comment: This would be a great paper to set for further reading, with Buchak’s ‘Can it be Rational to Have Faith’? as a primary reading. It could alternatively be a primary reading, but in a more specialised Philosophy of Religion course – for instance, one that is specifically on Religious Epistemology or on Faith and Reason.

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Buchak, Lara, , . Rational Faith and Justified Belief
2014, in Laura Frances Callahan & Timothy O’Connor (eds.) Reigious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. Oxford University Press: 49-73.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: In ‘Can it be rational to have faith?’, it was argued that to have faith in some proposition consists, roughly speaking, in stopping one’s search for evidence and committing to act on that proposition without further evidence. That paper also outlined when and why stopping the search for evidence and acting is rationally required. Because the framework of that paper was that of formal decision theory, it primarily considered the relationship between faith and degrees of belief, rather than between faith and belief full stop. This paper explores the relationship between rational faith and justified belief, by considering four prominent proposals about the relationship between belief and degrees of belief, and by examining what follows about faith and belief according to each of these proposals. It is argued that we cannot reach consensus concerning the relationship between faith and belief at present because of the more general epistemological lack of consensus over how belief relates to rationality: in particular, over how belief relates to the degrees of belief it is rational to have given one’s evidence.

Comment: This could be a great paper to set for further reading, with Buchak’s ‘Can it be Rational to Have Faith?’ as a primary reading. If being discussed as a primary reading, it would be good to get very clear on Buchak’s four candidates for the relationship between belief and degrees of belief: perhaps by splitting the room into four groups, and getting each group to discuss one proposal – as well as what follows about the relationship between faith and belief according to that proposal.

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Chung-Yuan Chang, , . Immeasurable potentialities of creativity
2011, In Chung-Yuan Chang (ed.). Creativity and Taoism: A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art, and Poetry. London & Philadelphia: Singing Dragon.
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Added by: Meilin Chinn, Contributed by:

Summary: A study of the Taoist (Daoist) concept of creativity as a non-instrumental process in which all things create themselves. Chang argues for the foundational place of this understanding of self-emergent creativity in the aesthetics of Chinese art.

Comment: Can be used as both an introduction to Daoism and to Chinese aesthetics.

Related reading:

  • Laozi, Tao Te Ching. D. C. Lau, trans. New York: Addison Wesley, 2000.
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Clack, Beverley, , . Feminism and the Problem of Evil
2014, in Justin P. McBrayer & Daniel Howard Snyder (eds.) The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil (Wiley & Sons): 326-339.
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Abstract: Feminists have challenged the claim that gender is irrelevant to the discussion of evil and suffering in the world. This chapter considers a range of approaches offered by feminists to the problem of evil, suggesting something of the innovation that considering gender issues bring to the discussion of evil. In describing a variety of feminist perspectives, I intend to highlight the way in which feminist theories invariably turn to the practical solutions that might be made to evil and suffering in our world.

Comment: Useful for an introduction to philosophy of religion course – especially after looking at traditional theodicies to get students re-thinking the whole framing of the problem of evil.

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De Cruz, Helen, , . The Enduring Appeal of Natural Theological Arguments
2014, Philosophy Compass 9/2: 145-153.
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Abstract: Natural theology is the branch of theology and philosophy that attempts to gain knowledge of God through non-revealed sources. In a narrower sense, natural theology is the discipline that presents rational arguments for the existence of God. Given that these arguments rarely directly persuade those who are not convinced by their conclusions, why do they enjoy an enduring appeal? This article examines two reasons for the continuing popularity of natural theological arguments: (i) they appeal to intuitions that humans robustly hold and that emerge early in cognitive development; (ii) they serve an argumen- tative function by presenting particular religious views as live options. I conclude with observations on the role of natural theology in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on philosophy or religion, metaphysics (where arguments for and against the existence of God are being considered), epistemology or religious epistemology. The paper is clear and non-technical. It does not provide arguments for or against the existence of God but considers the debate as a whole. It may then be useful for scene-setting, or for placing previously considered arguments in their context.

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Deane-Drummond, Celia, , . Gaia as Science Made Myth: Implications for Environmental Ethics
1996, Studies in Christian Ethics 9(2): 1-5.
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Content: Offers a critical discussion of the Gaia hypothesis in the context of human responsibility for climate change.

Comment: Might be useful for environmental ethics, or as further reading on methodology of science and the dangers of confusing science and myth.

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Deng, Natalja, , . Religion for Naturalists
2015, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 78(2): 195-214.
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Abstract: Some naturalists feel an affinity with some religions, or with a particular religion. They may have previously belonged to it, and/or been raised in it, and/or be close to people who belong to it, and/or simply feel attracted to its practices, texts and traditions. This raises the question of whether and to what extent a naturalist can lead the life of a religious believer. The sparse literature on this topic focuses on (a position recognizable as) religious fictionalism. I also frame the debate in these terms. I ask what religious fictionalism might amount to, reject some possible versions of it and endorse a different one. I then examine the existing proposals, by Robin Le Poidevin, Peter Lipton, Andrew Eshleman and Howard Wettstein, and show that even on my version of religious fictionalism, much of what has been described by these authors is still possible.

Comment: Could be very useful for a Philosophy of Religion course where atheism and agnosticism have already been explored, to provide an interesting alternative. I’ve seen religious fictionalism work as a stimulating topic for students, but only if the paper is clear and accessible – like this one.

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Ekstrom, Laura W, , . Religion on the Cheap
2015, Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (Jonathan Kvanvig (ed).) Vol. 6: 87-113
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Introduction: The project of this chapter is to address this question: is it sensible to live a life that involves religious practices and experiences and involvement in religious community within a traditional monotheistic religion that affirms the existence of God, without oneself having a commitment to the existence of God—that is, with being a religious agnostic? It is argued that it is not. It is further argued that there are real costs associated with rejecting the claim that the proposition, ‘God exists’, realistically construed, is true. But one should be prepared to absorb these costs rather than trying to have it both ways – rather than getting religion on the cheap.

Comment: Useful for an introductory philosophy of religion course element on agnosticism and fictionalism, perhaps as a secondary reading in response to a paper that argues for religious fictionalism (e.g. by Natalja Deng – also recommended in the DRL). Alternatively, both of these readings could be set as core readings, and students could be set the task of defending one of them, and giving reasons why they think that particular account is stronger.

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