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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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Peterson, Bailie, , . Attributes of God
2018, 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Nathan Nobis

Abstract: Theists believe God exists, atheists believe that God does not exist, and agnostics suspend judgment on the issue. But what do each of these mean by ‘God’? What is the concept of God that underlies the debate? This essay explains three important features of a widely-accepted idea of God and discusses some puzzles and paradoxes related to their application.

Comment: An introduction to a traditional concept of God accepted by many theistic religions.
[This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Scrutton, Tasia, , . Divine Passibility: God and Emotion
2013, Philosophy Compass 8(9): 866-874.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: While the impassibility debate has traditionally been construed in terms of whether God suffers, recent philosophy of religion has interpreted it in terms of whether God has emotions more generally. This article surveys the philosophical literature on divine im/passibility over the last 25 years, outlining major arguments for and against the idea that God has emotions. It argues that questions about the nature and value of emotions are at the heart of the im/passibility debate. More specifically, it suggests that presuppositions about the dichotomy between emotions and reason (or the ‘heart and the head’) have negatively impacted the debate. It contends that the debate can only move forward in response to serious reflection on our affects as we experience them, aided by historical and anthropological as well as contemporary philosophical perspectives

Comment: A great paper to use when teaching non-classical conceptions of God. Could follow a lecture on the ‘omni’ God who is immutable, impassible, etc. It could also be interesting as a gateway to feminist Philosophy of Religion – i.e. the classical conceptions of God are typically ‘masculine’

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Scrutton, Tasia, , . Thinking through Feeling: God, Emotion and Passibility
2011, New York: Continuum.
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Added by: John Baldari, Contributed by:

Publisher: This book examines some of the primary questions for the impassibility debate through the lens of contemporary philosophy of emotion: is the property of being able to experience emotions a susceptibility and a weakness, or a capacity and a strength? What does it mean to experience emotions, and what sort of being is able to experience them? In examining these questions, it explores the relationship between emotions, body, will and intelligence, addressing questions concerning whether emotions are essentially physiological or cognitive, whether emotions detract from intelligence or may actually contribute towards it, and whether (and to what extent) emotions can be controlled and/or cultivated. The book moves away from some of the artificially extreme accounts of emotion towards a more subtle account that sees most emotions as on a spectrum between cognitive and physiological, voluntary and non-voluntary.

Comment: This book will be of interest to those working within contemporary philosophy of emotion, its primary value lies in applying these insights to the impassibility debate within theology and philosophy of religion.

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Stump, Eleonore, , . Knowledge, Freedom, and the Problem of Evil
1983, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 14(1): 49-58
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Introduction: The free-will defense successfully rebuts the claim that the presence of evil in the world is logically incompatible with God’s existence. But many people, theists as well as atheists, feel that the free-will defense leaves some of the most important questions about evil unanswered. If there is a God, the nature and quantity of evil in the world still remain a puzzle; and even if they do not support a conclusive argument, they still seem to provide strong evidence against the probability of God’s existence. In particular, natural evils such as diseases, congenital defects, earthquakes, and droughts, need to be given some plausible explanation which shows their existence to be compatible with God’s goodness. It is the problem of evil in this sense which Swinburne addresses in Chapter 11 of The Existence of God. In what follows, I will describe Swinburne’s solution and give reasons for thinking it unacceptable.

Comment: This paper is a great way to motivate the ‘what about natural evils?’ response to the problem of evil. It does this by responding to Swinburne, so it could be good to first set Swinburne’s chapter and then see whether can students can organically anticipate some of Stump’s lines of argument.

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Stump, Eleonore, , . Simplicity
1997, in Charles Taliaffero, Paul Draper & Philip L. Quinn (eds.) A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Blackwell Publishing.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Summary: An analysis of the concept of divine simplicity, including its origins, together and the traditional difficulties of attributing this mysterious attribute to God, both in a ‘stand alone’ way and in conjunction with other attributes that are commonly attributed to God.

Comment: Especially when we are finding that more and more students have studied philosophy of religion before University, it could be good to diverge from studying the classical ‘omni’ attributes of God in an introductory university course – so divine simplicity is an intriguing concept to examine. It can also be a great gateway into non-classical conceptions of God and feminist philosophy of religion. This chapter provides a great overview of divine simplicity which could definitely serve the above purpose.

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Stump, Eleonore & Kretzmann, Norman, , . Eternity
1981, The Journal of Philosophy 78(8): 429-458.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Introduction: The concept of eternity makes a significant difference in the consideration of a variety of issues in the philosophy of religion, including, for instance, the apparent incompatibility of divine omniscience with human freedom, of divine immutability with the efficacy of petitionary prayer, and of divine omniscience with divine immutability; but, because it has been misunderstood or cursorily dismissed as incoherent, it has not received the attention it deserves from contemporary philosophers of religion.’ In this paper we expound the concept as it is presented by Boethius (whose definition of eternity was the locus classicus for medieval discussions of the concept), analyze implications of the concept, examine reasons for considering it incoherent, and sample the results of bringing it to bear on issues in the philosophy of religion.

Comment: A key paper in philosophy of religion, and arguably the most influential paper in the debate over God’s relation to time. Would be a great one to discuss at Masters level if looking at metaphysics and philosophy of religion – especially because many are keen at first to dismiss the idea that God is ‘outside’ of time – and this paper provides a strong case to the contrary.

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Zagzebski, Linda, , . Omnisubjectivity
2008, Jonathan Kvanvig (ed.) Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion Vol. 1.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Summary: Zagzebski argues that traditional omniscience ought to be revised into ‘omnisubjectivity’, whereby God has ‘perfect total empathy’ with all conscious beings. She elaborates on what is meant by this, and makes the important qualification that when God has perfect total empathy, God is aware that God’s empathetic state is a ‘copy’. Zagzebski is motivated by conceiving of God as a personal being, who knows everything about God’s creatures – including their conscious states. An analogy is drawn to Jackson’s Mary the Colour Scientist – Mary’s does not know ‘what it is like’ to see in colour when confined to her black and white room, in spite of knowing all propositional facts about colour science and seeing in colour. Similarly, with classical omniscience, God knows the truth value of every proposition, but does not know ‘what it is like’ to be each of God’s creatures. Omnisubjectivity alleges to thus build on classical omniscience, whilst avoiding the worry that God (mistakenly) thinks that God actually is each conscious creature.

Comment: Very useful for teaching about classical vs non-classical conceptions of God (omnisubjectivity being a ‘non-classical’ version of omniscience).

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