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Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry

ReadMe 2

Abstract: Study for Philosophy of Religion is briefly discussed

Welcome to Philosophy of Religion!

Your first assignment in this part of the course is to …

  1. read a short introduction to our next topic of study, the Philosophy of Religion. Notice that the study philosophy of religion is distinctly different from the study of religion.
  2. For some students, this part of the course will be the most difficult part because you are asked to put your own religious beliefs aside and consider whether some specific fundamental religious beliefs can be proved from a philosophical point of view.
  3. One good way to approach this topic is by the principle of charity. You are asked to suspend your own beliefs and consider whether reasons, grounds, and evidence can show that some religious beliefs can be proved. So, in a sense, this part of the course might be best approached by some students as a "thought experiment."
  4. It's important to understand that philosophy and religion as studied in this course are different fields of interest with some overlapping ideas.
    1. On the one hand, we have defined philosophy as an inquiry into the basic assumptions of any field of endeavor. Essentially, philosophy is based on reasoning—i.e., the attempt to demonstrate by logical argumentation the truth of specific statements. So the field of philosophy of religion is mostly involved with investigating and understanding the existence of God, the nature of God, and consequent religious concepts from a logical point of view. Empirical evidence is relevant as part of an argument structure but usually not decisive for a philosophical point of view.
    2. Religion, on the other hand, is based on faith and revelation, rather than empirical, rational or logical proof. That's what faith the nature of faith is essentially. Since religion is a set of beliefs, rituals, and traditions concerning the divine, transcendent, and sacred, those beliefs are held to be true regardless of whether or not they can be rationally or scientifically proven. So to have faith is essentially to believe even though there might not be empirical evidence, logic, or reasons in support of those beliefs.
  5. Continue to post to the Lander's Blackboard Discussion Board at least the minimum number of critical comments on the reading assignments as stated in course policies.
  6. You might be surprised as to what can be known through philosophical inquiry. Even though many persons first coming to philosophy think that philosophy is a matter of opinion, historically much of philosophical knowledge has founded the origin of the sciences. However, in the case of the philosophy of religion, unfortunately, few of the constructs of religious thought can be proved with any sort of philosophical certainty. Consequently, when we come to the next section of this course, ethics, we will not attempt to base ethics on religion, but, instead, we will try to justify it on the basis of providing good reasons for acting in certain ways regardless of one's personal religious beliefs.

Try not to fret too much over the Anselm reading. Anselm worked on this argument with so many revisions, that it's practically unreadable the first time you look at it. It might be best to study the tutorial notes before attempting to wade through his Ontological Argument. Fortunately, the remainder of the readings are much more straightforward.

Again, please permit me to remind you that students who study daily, do well; students who study only on weekends, or study only just before tests, historically do not do well.

As stated in a previous Readme, anyone can do well in this course if he or she approaches the course in the same way as one approaches playing a sport, playing a musical instrument, or learning a language. Just as it is difficult to "cram" the night before a soccer game, a tennis match, or a recital, so likewise it is difficult to "cram" the day before a philosophy test. Both kinds of activities required spaced, intermittent practice.

If you have personal questions about this section of the course, email me at larchie (at) philosophy.lander.edu and I'll be glad to help you. If your questions are relevant to other members of the class at well, please post to the Discussion Board.

Further Reading:
  • Philosophy of Religion. A quick, short overview of the philosophy of religion organized in terms of main questions, nature of God, evaluation of beliefs, and major philosophers from Wikipedia emphasizing Western thought.

  • Philosophy of Religion.info. A useful well organized introduction to the philosophy of religion from a Western perspective complementing the approach in this course with essays on arguments for God's existence together with additional topics by Tim Holt.

  • Philosophy of Religion is a description by Prof. Charles Taliaferro of Olaf College in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy of some of the central topics in the philosophy of religion from the point of view of the various divisions of philosophical inquiry. The sections discussing meaningfulness of religious language and Wittgenstein's non-realism are especially of interest.

  • Philosophy of Religion Resources includes lecture notes, significant reading from well known philosophers on the topic, and links to other resources all from the perspective of philosophy of religion in the West.

  • Eastern Philosophy introduces an number of Eastern religions: noteworthy here is the discussion of East Asian philosophies including Confucianism and Taoism, Indian philosophies including Hinduism and Buddhism, Iranian philosophies including Zoroastrianism and Bahá'í from Wikipedia.

Top of Page

So in Greek culture the functions of religion that we now consider central were divided between philosophy and religion.… The effect of this split continues in the division between philosophy and religion in the West. Eastern religion and philosophy has no such split.

Linda Zagzebski, The Philosophy of Religion (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2007), 11.

Relay corrections, suggestions or questions to
larchie at lander.edu
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This page last updated 10/02/12
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