Faith and Reason: Historical Perspectives
PL350-01 | Spring 2014
MWF 9am | Room: Humanities Center, Room 050A
Dr. Jeffrey C. Witt | jcwitt [at] loyola [dot] edu | ext. 2947
Philosophy Department 050M
Office Hours: Wed 2-3, Th 1-3, and by appointment
This class will focus on the perennial tension between reason and faith and the history of philosophy's attempts to understand and articulate this relationship.
The course will begin with an introduction to philosophy's efforts to define the criteria of true knowledge. We will quickly see that faith is typically defined as those beliefs that fail to meet the requirements of genuine knowledge. In failing to meet these requirements, we are left with the question: what are we to do with claims of faith and revelation? Can such claims be trusted? What is their value? And what is the connection between these claims and the claims of scientific reason?
The rest of the course will focus on the medieval and modern responses to these questions that form the backdrop of any contemporary discussion.
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason within the Bounds of Religion, Second Edition (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI, 1984)
Saadya Gaon, The Book of Doctrines and Beliefs, Translated and Abridged by Alexander Altmann (Hackett: Indianapolis, 2002)
Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, Translated by Chaim Rabin (Hackett: Indianapolis, 1995)
Anselm, Proslogion, Translated by Thomas Williams (Hackett: Indianapolis, 2001)
Aquinas, On Faith and Reason, Edited by Stephen F. Brown (Hackett: Indianapolis, 1999)
David Hume, Diaogues Concern Natural Religion, Edited by Richard H. Popkin, Second Edition (Hackett: Indianapolis, 1998)
Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, Translated by Allen Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge, 1999)
Moodle Readings (MR)
In class participation: Be a present and active participant in seminar discussions. The primary goal of a seminar course is not to come together to merely survey or review the contents of the required readings. On the contrary, class time is an opportunity for us to engage in a critical discussion and to evaluate the merits and implications of the day's reading. To that end, I expect that you come to the class after both reading and preparing notes (comments, questions, concerns) about the text that you can share during the seminar. Reading with a pencil and notebook in hand is a great practice for reading difficult texts and should become your regular habit. Outline the text as you read, marking questions and concerns as you go. Then, always bring your text and your notes to class. During our time together, I expect to be able to ask you not merely what the day's reading said, but what your reactions are to the argument of the text. What concerns do you have about the argument? What questions do you have about what the author said? What do you think the implications of the argument are? Occasionally, I may ask you to complete short reflections exercises and these will be included as a part of your in-class participation grade.
Discussion Board Participation: Regularly (at least once a week) post a substantial question or comment (100 words or more) in response to the day's reading. At least one contribution should be made for at least 10 of our approximately 15 weeks together. In order to count towards your participation grade, posts must be made prior to the class discussion of the reading in question. Additional comments and questions are encouraged and will positively impact your overall participation grade. This should be viewed as a forum to air topics of interest, questions, and frustrations that you would like to discuss during our seminar.
Research Paper (50%)
Problem Paper: A short reflection paper that identifies the major problems, challenges, concerns that are characteristic of the debate surrounding the relationship and (in)compatibility of religious faith and scientific reason.
Research Brainstorm: A brief description of your ideas for your research paper to date and an annotated list of secondary sources (at least 10) that may assist you in the development or refinement of your question and/or thesis. Your annotations should briefly explain the potential relevance of each resource to your research paper.
Polished Proposal: A polished prose proposal that 1) articulates the main question you will pursue, 2) the status of the current scholarly conversation about the question or problem, 3) a provisional thesis, 4) an outline of how you will demonstrate and support your thesis, 5) a notes section that indicate aspects of the paper you are still thinking about, struggling with, or are confused about. The proposal is a chance for you to collect your developing thoughts into a presentable form that allows me to give you the best feedback I can. Thus, the proposal will not simply be graded on participation, but on the quality and thoughtfulness of your proposal. The more prepared you are at this stage, the more I can you help you produce a quality finished product. The proposal should be no more than three pages long, double spaced.
Final Paper (30%):
A central task of this class is to produce a polished philosophy research paper. The paper is an invitation to participate in the larger historical debate over the proper relationship between faith and reason. The paper is your chance to pursue, in depth, a specific topic or question that really interests you.
As this is a philosophy paper, it must include some important formal features. A good philosophy paper starts from a genuine question or puzzle. Your paper must identify a specific problem or issue that you ultimately hope to address or clarify in some way. However, before your paper can offer a response to that puzzle or question, it needs to take stock of the larger ongoing conversation regarding this topic. Here, engagement with secondary sources is particularly important. Your paper must aim to contribute to an ongoing conversation. Finally, your paper needs to offer a thesis in light of the problem at hand and the scholarly conversation surrounding it. Your thesis should introduce a strategy for moving this conversation forward. This does not always mean (in fact it usually does not mean) arguing for a definitive answer to the problem at hand. Often it means offering a helpful perspective, a criticism of potential answers, or insight into a promising route forward. In the context of our class work, your strategy for moving the conversation forward should involve some engagement with one or more thinkers that we have spent time with in class.
For example: your paper might propose the thesis that 'a close examination of the way Anselm uses his faith and his reason in tandem offers us a model of how faith can assist reason and at the same time avoid many of the conflicts that currently put the compatibility of faith and reason in doubt.' A paper with a thesis like this would need to do two things. 1) It would need to provide a clear and thoughtful analysis of Anselm's position and 2) it would need to demonstrate how this approach avoids some of the obstacles you would have presumably outlined in your introduction.
Your paper could offer a very different kind of approach as well. It could claim: 'consistent flaws repeatedly occur in historical attempts to harmonize faith and reason and this suggests (this will be a large part of what you need to prove) that it is doubtful that faith and reason can every really be harmonized.' Here again, the body of your paper would need to clearly show the repeated flaws that occur in the historical accounts you choose to survey, and then persuasively show that this is evidence of the essential incompatibility between religious faith and scientific reason.
Your paper should be 10-15 pages, double spaced, following Chicago Manual of Style formatting. It should strategically use primary and secondary sources. Most of all, it should be evident that this paper is the product of a semester's worth of thought and work and not the result of last minute harried composition.
Final Exam (35%)
Thinker summaries (5%): "Thinker summaries" are encyclopedic-like reports that are meant to be an occasion for you to consolidate your notes, fill in gaps, and generally help you to prepare for the final exam throughout the semester rather than merely at the end. This is an assignment designed to help you help yourself. Thus, I will primarily be looking to see that a number of formal features are present. 1) A biographical introduction highlighting information relevant to the thinker's unique perspective on the relationship between faith and reason. 2) A list and description of distinctive positions taken by the thinker in question, including book and page references for further consultation, and 3) a annotated list of three or more useful secondary articles, at least one of which was not assigned as part of the class reading.
Final Exam (30%): The cumulative final exam aims to assess the degree to which you've grasped the basic positions and ideas of the thinkers we've studied, as well as perennial themes and concepts that emerge throughout our survey. It will include multiple choice questions, quotation identification, short answer, and an essay question.
Final Grade Distribution
93% A, 90% A-, 88% B+, 83% B, 80 B-, 78% C+, 73% C, 70% C-, 68% D+, 60% D
Honor Code and Plagiarism
Students are expected to follow the university's honor code:
"The Honor Code states that all students of the Loyola Community have been equally entrusted by their peers to conduct themselves honestly on all academic assignments. The Students of this University understand that having collective and individual responsibility for the ethical welfare of their peers exemplifies a commitment to the community. Students who submit materials that are the products of their own minds demonstrate respect for themselves and the community in which they study. All outside resources or information should be clearly acknowledged. If there is any doubt or question regarding the use and documentation of outside sources for academic assignments, your instructor should be consulted. Any violations of the Honor Code will be handled by the Honor Council."
See the honor code for further information. http://www.loyola.edu/academic/honorcode.aspx.
Computer, Cell Phones and Email Policy
I ask you not to use your computers or cell phones in this class. They are almost always a distraction: if not to you, then to me and to others. (If there is a special reason that you need a computer please let me know, and we can most likely work something out.) Students using cell phones in any capacity will find their participation grade negatively affected. If you find this policy frustrating, then I encourage you to watch the Frontline documentary: Digital Nation http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/view/?utm_campaign= viewpage&utm_medium=grid&utm_source=grid.
Papers will not be accepted via email. Please print out hard copies and turn them in during class. If, for some reason, this is not possible, a hard copy in my mailbox is the next best option. Email is useful for setting up appointments or informing me about emergencies, but about most other things, I prefer to meet with you face to face. This is what office hours are for. Do not be scared; I am nice! If my office hours conflict with your schedule, I will be glad to work with you to find a time that does fit.
Mon 1/13 Introduction
Wed 1/15 Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason within the Bounds of Religion, cc. 1-4, pp. 15-34
Fri 1/17 Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason within the Bounds of Religion, cc. 5-6, pp. 35-55
Mon 1/20 Martin Luther King Day [No Class]
Wed 1/22 Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason within the Bounds of Religion, cc. 7-9, pp. 56-70
Fri 1/24 Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason within the Bounds of Religion, cc. 10-13, pp. 71-97
Mon 1/27 Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason within the Bounds of Religion, cc. 14-17, pp. 98-108
II. Medieval Jewish Thought: Saadya and Maimonides
Wed 1/29 Daniel Frank, "New Introduction," pp. 1-10; Alexander Altmann, "Translator's Introduction," pp. 11-22
Fri 1/31 Saadya Gaon, Book of Doctrines and Beliefs, Prolegomena, pp. 25-47 (Due: Problem Paper)
Mon 2/3 A. Heschel, "The Quest for Certainty in Saadia's Philosophy," pp. 265-313 (MR)
Wed 2/5 Saddya Gaon, Book of Doctrines and Beliefs, Chapter 3, pp. 93-114
Fri 2/7 A. Heschel, "Reason and Revelation in Saadia's Philosophy," pp. 391-408 (MR)
Mon 2/10 Julius Guttman, "Introduction," pp. 1-36 (Due: Thinker Summary 1)
Wed 2/12 Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, Book I, pp. 51-71
Fri 2/14 Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, Book I, pp. 71-87 and Book I, cc. 71-73, (MR)
Mon 2/17 Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, Book II, pp. 89-126
Wed 2/19 Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, Book II, 32, 35-40, 42, pp. 126-147
Fri 2/21 Rynhold, Daniel, An Introduction to Medieval Jewish Philosophy, c. 4, "Prophecy," pp. 104-130 (MR); Altmann, A., “Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas: Natural or Divine Prophecy?,” 1–19 (MR);
III. Medieval Christian Thought: Anselm and Aquinas
Mon 2/24 Introduction, pp. vii-xi; Anselm, Proslogion, pp. 2-25 (Due Thinker Suammary 2)
Wed 2/26 Anselm, Proslogion, 28-46
Fri 2/28 Paul Helm, "Anselm's Proslogion" in Faith and Understanding, pp. 104-127 (MR)
Mon 3/3 Spring Break
Wed 3/5 Spring Break
Fri 3/7 Spring Break
Mon 3/10 Frederick Copelston, "St. Thomas Aquinas I," "St. Thomas Aquinas II: Philosophy and Theology," pp. 302-323 (MR) (Due: Thinker Summary 3)
Wed 3/12 Aquinas, "The Scientific Aspects," Summa Theologica I, q. 1 in Faith and Reason, pp. 9-24 (Due: Research Brainstorm)
Fri 3/14 Aquinas, "The Declarative Aspects" Commentary on De Trinitate of Boethius in Faith and Reason, pp. 25-42
Mon 3/17 Aquinas, "Dimensions of Faith," Summa Theologica, IIa-IIae q. 1, aa. 1-5, in Faith and Reason, pp. 43-50, q. 2, aa. 1-10, pp. 64-81
Wed 3/19 Aquinas, "How God is known by us," Summa theolgoica, I, q. 12 (MR)
Fri 3/21 Aquinas, "God's Existence," Summa Theologica, I, qq. 2-4, in Faith and Reason, pp. 113-147
Mon 3/24 Buijs, J. A. "Religion and Philosophy in Maimonides, Averroes, and Aquinas," 160–183 (MR)
IV. The Modern Period
Wed 3/26 David Hume, Miracles, part 1, pp. 107-112 (Due: Thinker Summary 4)
Fri 3/28 David Hume, Miracles, part 2, pp. 112-125 (Due: Paper Proposal Due)
Mon 3/31 C.S. Lewis, Miracles, c. 13, pp. 159-171 (MR)
Wed 4/2 David Hume, Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion, Parts I-III, pp. 1-22
Fri 4/4 David Hume, Dialogue, Parts III-VI, pp. 23-43 (Paper Proposals Returned)
Mon 4/7 David Hume, Dialogue, Parts VII-IX, pp. 44-57
Wed 4/9 David Hume, Dialogue, Parts X-XI, pp. 58-76
Fri 4/11 David Hume, Dialogue, Parts XII, pp. 77-89
Mon 4/14 Introduction to Kant, vii-xxxii (Due: Thinker Summary 5)
Wed 4/16 Kant, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, part 3, 105-129
Thurs 4/17 Kant, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, part 3, 129-147 (Due: Final Paper in my box by 5pm)
Fri 4/18 Easter Break [No Class]
Mon 4/21 Easter Break [No Class]
Wed 4/23 Kant, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, part 4, 151-170
Fri 4/25 Kant, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason part 5, 170-191 (Due: Thinker Summary 6)
Mon 4/28 [Review Day]
Final Exam: Wednesday, April 30th, 9am