REL/PHIL 303S   

TH 9:45-11:00 AM


Description of Course

This course will investigate the philosophical issues raised by the historical dialogue among the living world religions. Topics include concepts of a deity, revelation, religious truth, problem of evil and notions of salvation. This course will also investigate the historical and philosophical developments of Chinese Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. In addition, students will be assessed on four different types of oral presentations: 1) critique of a published article, 2) presentation of a philosophical argument 3) question and discussion and 4) scripted talk.

Nature of “S” (Speech) Course

“The oral presentation for a course fulfilling the requirements for a S (speech) course should consist of at least 45 minutes of total graded speaking time per student.  The presentation(s) should be critiqued and graded on content and speech delivery.  The speech(es) should contain prepared as well as spontaneous interaction to questions.  Evaluation sheets will be completed for each presentation.  Students with problems in speech presentation should have an opportunity to review critiques and make a second presentation.  The emphasis is to improve oral communication skills in English.  The professor will notify the Registrar of any students who fail to satisfy the S requirement.  No transferred courses will be considered for satisfying the S requirement of the College.”

 Course Objectives:

  • To gain an understanding of the variety of responses given to questions concerning the relationship between religion and rationality.
  • To gain an appreciation for some classic and contemporary philosophical texts from both Western and Eastern perspectives.
  • To further develop ones skills in identifying, evaluating and developing arguments.
  • To enhance public speaking skills by focusing on clarity, analytical and synthetic skills, critical thinking, non-verbal and verbal skills.
  • To improve ones ability to think and write clearly and critically.
  • To gain a more complete and refined understanding of one’s own intersection with religious issues

 Required Texts:

Fung Yu-Lan (1976). A Short History of Chinese Philosophy: A Systematic Account of Chinese Thought from Its Origins to the Present Day,
Derk Bodde, editor. New York: Free Press.

Peterson, M. et al. (2013). Reason & Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, Fifth Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. Hereafter known as “Text”

 Peterson, M. et al. (2010). Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, Fourth Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. Hereafter known as “Reader”

Wing-Tsit Chan (1973). A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Course Requirements

  1. Each student shall compose a notebook of typed responses to the study questions that appear at the end of each chapter in Text. Study questions for a particular chapter should be completed no later than 48 hours after the readings have been discussed in class. These notebooks should be brought to class. The professor will collect the notebooks at unannounced times throughout the semester for evaluation and grading. If you do not have your notebook A) in class or B) up-to-date, you will receive no credit for that collection period. Responses will be evaluated on content and rigor of engagements. FIVE SPOT CHECKS IN THE SEMESTER. EACH SPOT CHECK WORTH 50 POINTS. 250 POINTS POSSIBLE. ALL NOTEBOOK ENTRIES MUST BE TYPED; NO HAND-WRITTEN ENTRIES WILL BE ACCEPTED.

  2. Each student shall compose a 12-15 page research paper that documents a specific topic in one of the following areas of study:
    One of the Six Classic Texts of Confucianism
    Mohism (Classic or Latter)
    Aspect of the Tao-Te-Ching
    Mencius [Tiana Brown]
    Chinese Cosmology
    Chinese Cosmology
    Confucian Cosmology [Kayla Marion]
    Tibetan Buddhism [Lives of the Dalia Lamas - Jeremy Hall; Tantric Buddhism - Kayla King]
    All topics must be specific in nature and approved no later than THURSDAY, JANUARY 23 . It would be to your advantage to set up an appointment with me ASAP to discuss possible paper topics and source material. All research will use academic, scholastic sources. This course investigates religious concepts through the lenses of philosophy and logic. As a result, any confessional material will probably be inappropriate for the tasks at hand. NO INTERNET SOURCES WILL BE ALLOWED (except approved databases, such as JSTOR).  THIS ASSIGNMENT CANNOT BE SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED WITHOUT USING INTERLIBRARY LOAN.

    BIBLIOGRAPHY DUE NO LATER THAN TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 18. Bibliography should consist of at least three (3) journal articles from scholastic, academic sources; one chapter from a book (again, academic and scholastic in nature) and four books (academic and scholastic in nature). Again, it will be virtually impossible to complete this assignment without using interlibrary loan. Your textbooks may not be used as a source for this project.

    ROUGH DRAFT DUE NO LATER THAN TUESDAY, MARCH 18. What do I mean by a "rough" draft?
  •  The paper fits the parameters assigned [one inch margins, Times NewRoman 12pt. font, page numbers appearing at top right, no page number on first page, five character-space indention for start of each new paragraph, title page in MLA or Chicago format, bibliography and body of text in MLA format, first page starts at top margin, printed on 201b standard paper in black ink, obvious use of Writer's Cheat Sheet.]
  • The bibliography [which does not count toward the 12-15 pages] consists of at least the number and types of sources required (see above)
  • The paper meets the minimum page length requirement
  • The paper demonstrates moderate editing and may lack an introduction and/or conclusion.
  • Footnotes may require additional formatting.

    FINAL PAPER DUE NO LATER THAN TUESDAY, APRIL 8 . This paper will be used as the basis for a 20 MINUTE SCRIPTED PRESENTATION during the last week of the semester. For details on the presentation, see "Making an Oral Report".  Oral presentation will be assessed using the “Oral Presentation Rubric". Each student should schedule an appointment with the professor to evaluate the presentation.  Each presentation will be followed by a question and answer period.  

Do not even THINK of plagiarism.

3. You will also have a midterm and final examination. Each exam will consist of Fill-in-the-Blank, Identification of Term or Concept and essay questions. Each examination will be worth 200 points. Midterm Exam will be on TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 18.  And, yes, I realize your bibliography is due on February 18 as well; work in advance.

4. Each student will be asked to instruct the class in one of the following philosophical arguments:
  • Alston’s “Religious Experience as Perception of God”
  • Proudfoot’s “Religious Experience as Interpretative Accounts”
  • Swinburne’s Principle of Credulity
  • Aquinas’ Harmonious Relationship of Reason and Revelation
  • Kierkegaard's "Truth is Subjectivity" [Tiana Brown]
  • Evan's "Critical Dialog in Philosophy of Religion"
  • The Pascalian Wager
  • Clifford’s “The Ethics of Belief”
  • James’ “Will to Believe”
  • Hick's "God's Necessary Existence" [Kayla Marion]
  • Maimonides' "Negative Theology" [Kayla King]
  • Anselm’s Ontological Argument for the Existence of God
  • Hartshorne’s Contemporary Ontological Argument
  • Aquinas’ Cosmological Argument [Jeremy Hall]
  • The Kalam Cosmological Argument
  • Smith Incompatibility Argument (Big Bang not compatible with belief in God)
  • Behe's Argument for Intellegent Design [Amanda Price]

    Students will use the chalkboard, Power Point or other visual aid to list the premises of each argument, providing the reasoning behind each position.  Next, the student will ask for questions of clarification from the class and respond adequately to each question.  Finally, the presenter will offer a reasoned (and researched) critique of the argument, exploring its strengths and weaknesses.  Each presentation will be followed by a question and answer period. Each student should schedule an appointment with the professor to evaluation the oral presentation using the “Oral Presentation Rubric”.  Each presentation should be between 10-12 minutes, with three presentations assigned for each day.  PRESENTATIONS START JANUARY 28. One argument per student; no duplications.  Please select your topic and presentation date ASAP.
5.Write and present a critique of one of the articles found in the Reader. What is a critique? A critique is an analysis of a written text based on evidence, which is extracted from the document itself.
Initially, in assessing written works, the work itself must be understood. If the content is misunderstood, then the critique will be misapplied. Read your selected article at least twice- first for content and then for analysis. When analyzing text, it is important to mark areas that are of significance. Be aware that philosophers often use common words in uncommon ways. If you have a question about the meaning of a word, ask me.

Underline key terms and phrases. Also, if there are areas that are unclear or confusing, those sections should be marked. Be sure to ask questions about areas that are not fully understood as these may be critical to the analysis being conducted. Once the text has been read and understood, the text which has been analyzed can be broken apart, and a critique can be written.

Critiques serve to examine an author's claim/argument. For this critique, each student will compose well-written responses to the following questions, using either MLA or Chicago Handbook style and proper citation of texts and carefully proofreading and editing the work using the Writer's Cheat Sheet.

•What is author's main claim or thesis statement?
•How clearly does the author present the problem or thesis statement?
•How does the author achieve the goal of the work? Does the author do so effectively? Why or why not?
•What is the particular evidence used to support the author's claim? Be sure to use citation from the text at this point.
•How well does the author describe methods or supporting evidence?
•Does the author logically support his/her argument with an organized structure and coherent development?
•Find one book review from an academic journal or book that supports the author’s claim and one article which rejects the central claim. You will need to use on line databases for this information.
Once these questions are answered, the critique can be written, analyzing the text that has been assessed. In writing a critique, both strengths and weaknesses of the argument should be acknowledged, beginning with the main claim of the specific text. After discussing the claim's efficacy, the supporting evidence should be examined for pertinence and importance. Has the supporting information been used appropriately and accurately? Each piece of "important" evidence should be addressed for strengths and weaknesses, but it is important to remember that when assessing individual pieces of evidence, each piece should be looked at individually or in one paragraph to avoid confusion in organization. Be sure that paragraphs transition seamlessly from one idea to the next.

The 10 minute oral presentation blends the articulation of your reading process with the completion of the critique. Each speaker will follow this outline:

1. State your name.
2.State title of article and the author
3.Provide a brief biography of your author, citing by what authority the author addresses the subject of the article.
4.Provide a brief synopsis of the article. This short statement should be based on your first reading of the article. Define any technical terms at this point in the presentation.
5.Move into the critique itself, starting with the first question.
6.Offer your audience a statement of significance: why should we care about this article?

You should be familiar enough with your written critique that you can maintain superior eye contact, only using the document as a reference. Do not read your document verbatim (save that approach for the scripted talk at the end of the semester). Each student shall schedule an appointment with the professor to view and evaluate the oral presentation using the “Oral Presentation Rubric”. CRITIQUES START FEBRUARY 27

 6.  On the class schedule, you will see six (6) days designated as “Talking Points/Questions Session”.  On each of these sessions, you will arrive in class with at least a one-page, single spaced typed series of bulleted key ideas from the day’s reading.  You will also bring a one-page, single spaced typed series of questions to be used to generate class discussion.
You must pen (actually type) the minimum number of inquiries for each type of question listed below.  Keep in mind that not all questions are stated as interrogative sentences:


KNOWLEDGE (two questions)
recalling identification
recalling information
who, what, when, where, how ...?


ANALYSIS (3 questions)
subdividing something to show how it is put together
finding the underlying structure of a communication
identifying motives
separation of a whole into component parts
what are the parts or features of ...?
classify ... according to ...
outline/diagram ...
how does ... compare/contrast with ...?
what evidence can you list for ...?


COMPREHENSION (two questions)
translating from one medium to another
describing in one's own words
organization and selection of facts and ideas


SYNTHESIS (2 questions)
Creating a unique, original product that may be in verbal form or may be a physical object
Combination of ideas to form a new whole
What would you predict/infer from ...?
What ideas can you add to ...?
How would you create/design a new ...?
What might happen if you combined ...?
What solutions would you suggest for ...?


APPLICATION (2 questions)
problem solving
applying information to produce some result
use of facts, rules and principles
how is ... an example of ...?
how is ... related to ...?
why is ... significant?
EVALUATION (one question)
making value decisions about issues
resolving controversies or differences of opinion
development of opinions, judgments or decisions
do you agree that ...?
what do you think about ...?
what is the most important ...?
place the following in order of priority ...
how would you decide about ...?
what criteria would you use to assess ...?

Each student will be required to respond to at least 20 questions during the six designated class sessions.  At least 12 of these responses must be to a question of analysis, synthesis or evaluation (I will identify the category of each question when I pose it).  Some questions will be designated for “discussion pairs”.  When I ask you to discuss in pairs, turn to another colleague and begin a conversation about the question.  After 4-5 minutes, I will ask each group to make a joint, informal oral report of their discussion and ask the dyad to pose a new question.  These new questions will be used to redirect further discussion.   Professor shall evaluate the oral participation of each student.  Students will receive a written evaluation from the professor within one week of each “Talking Points/Questions”session.  Evaluation will be based on he “Oral Presentation Rubric”.  Any student who wishes to discuss the professor’s evaluation of their oral participation is welcome to schedule an appointment at their convenience.

Attendance Policy

First, I am not your parent, your brother or your best friend; I am a colleague in both teaching and learning. We need each other for this classroom tribe to function. Second, when you are not here, you will be missed (we are few but significant in number). Our community will be diminished. Sure, most of us will miss a class. But what happens when somebody misses more than three class periods this semester? As Convener of this Tribe, I will assume you have found a new community that requires your presence. So, due to my desire to live a life of total compassion, I will deduct one letter grade from your final course grade for each additional class period missed, thus encouraging you to be wherever it is you need to be other than our class.

Inclusive Language

Within this course you are encouraged strongly to utilize "inclusive language". What does this term mean? When we speak of humanity, avoid using the gender specific term "man" as a synonym. When you speak of a particular god or goddess, use their proper name. Find ways in which to demonstrate respect and dignity for all persons, both believers and seekers.

Role of Personal Religious Convictions

This course explores classical and contemporary philosophical arguments on such matters as the nature and existence of God, miracles and divine revelation. Any personal, confessional beliefs regarding such matters will not be our topic of exploration nor be applicable to our academic investigation (with the possible exception of the topic of fideism).  We will scrutinize all arguments via sound logic and reason, attempting to avoid all logical and ethical fallacies (especially the Cognitive Limitation Argument, AKA "We only have human eyes so we cannot know anything about God".)

Submission of Written Work

All work should be submitted as a Word document attached to an email sent to prior to the begriming of class.

Acceptance of Late Work

It is a requirement of this course that you submit written work on time; that is, in class the day a paper is due. A paper submitted five minutes after class starts is late. Late papers will result in the loss of a one letter grade for every day (a 24-hour period) after the due date (e.g., a paper with the grade of B will become a C if one day late, D if two days late, and so forth). A medical excuse (with the exception of hospitalization) or participation in any sporting or extracurricular event does not exempt you from your responsibility to submit work on time. Assignments can be turned in at any time before the final deadline.  And, yes, I am well aware that you have other courses than REL/PHIL 303. 

Accommodation Policy

It is the policy of Centenary College to accommodate students with disabilities, pursuant to federal law, state law and the College's commitment to equal educational opportunities. Any student with a disability who needs accommodation (for example, in seating placement or in arrangements for examinations, should inform me at the beginning of the course. Students with disabilities should contact Disability Services (a division of Counseling Services), located on the ground floor of Rotary Hall (869-5466/5424).

Office Hours

I am usually in my office by 8:10AM Monday through Friday and leave at 4:15 each afternoon. You may schedule an appointment with me at any time via email ( or phone (869-5051)

Editing Your Work

ALL WRITING MUST BE PROOFREAD USING THE WRITER'S CHEAT SHEET AND THE PARAMEDIC METHOD. Failure to edit you own writing prior to submission will result in a significant reduction in points. Do not know how to compose a sentence void of a being verb? Grammar not your "thing"? Set up an appointment to review your work prior to submission; I will be glad to assist you.

Changes in the Course

The syllabus can change at my discretion. Videos, readings and/or guest speakers may also be added. Changes will be make to the online syllabus.

What About Extra Credit?

Extra credit does not exist in this course. Make use of the credit available.

Can I Receive an "A" for Effort?

"Trying hard" is usually necessary, but not sufficient, to create good work. In short, I do not base a grade on "effort" but on the finished product.

This Class Requires So Much Reading!

I am well aware of the amount of reading for this course. You are expected to come to class ready to discuss the reading assignment for that day. If you attend class ill-prepared, I will mark you as absent. Remember: three unexcused absences can lead to significant consequences (see "Attendance Policy" for details). Further, I am aware that some of the material will be dense, requiring you to read it more than once. Plan your schedule accordingly. Are you a slow reader? Then plan in advance. This course is a 4-hour credit class for a good reason.

Scholastic Dishonesty & the Honor Court

As a student at Centenary College you agree to adhere to the Centenary Honor Code. I will carefully explain the nature of plagiarism the first day of class and, for each assignment, explain what is and is not permissible in terms of collaboration. If you have any questions, please ask rather than risk a problem. Also, I would advise you to retain all note cards, drafts, final papers etc. for each assignment in your writing record in case asked to prove your case. As explained in the Student Handbook, every assignment you submit must have the following statement written in your own handwriting accompanied by your signature: "I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this paper (or examination), nor have I seen anyone else do so." If you have received unauthorized aid or witnessed an honor code violation, you must follow the statement with: "...except as I shall report immediately to the Honor Court." Please understand that I cannot grade any assignment lacking this honor code statement. Please also read Chapter 16 in the St. Martin's Handbook (it is a paperback book you should have kept from your FYE course).

Points Available

Five Notebook Checks – My Discretion

250 points

Paper Topic Approved – January 23

 10 points

Bibliography Due – February 18

100 points

Rough Draft of Paper – March 18

200 points

Final Paper Due – April 8

100 points

20-30 Minute Scripted Oral Presentation – 
April 21-23

100 points

Midterm Exam – February 25

200 points

Final Exam - TBA

200 points

Article Critique –  February 27

100 points

Critique Oral Presentation on Reader - February 27

100 points

Six “Talking Points/Questions” Sheets

300 points

Six “Talking Points” Oral Participation

300 points

Oral Presentation of Arguments –  January 28-30

100 points


2060 Points


Evaluation Table









1235 or below










January 9

Introduction to Course
Review Assignments and Syllabus

January 14

In Search of God and Religious Experience (I)
Read Text, Chapters 1-2

January 16

In Search of God and Religious Experience (III)
Read Reader, pp. 35-86
Read Text, Chapter 3


January 23

Faith and Reason (I)
Text, Chapter 4
Read Reader, pp. 87-121

#1 Intelligent Design [Amanda Price]
Faith and Reason (II)
What is the Pascalian Wager?
Discuss Ibn Rushd's ideas of The Harmony of Philosophy and the Qur'an

January 30

#1 Kierkegaard's "Truth is Subjectivity" [Tiana Brown]
#2 Hick's "God's Necessary Existence" [Kayla Marion]
#3 Aquantis' Cosmological Argument [Jeremy Hall]
#4 Maimonides "Negative Theology" [Kayla King]

February 4 Making Effective Oral Presentations
Divine Attributes (I)
Read Text, Chapter 7
February 6  The Divine Attributes (II)
  Read Reader, pp 123-164
February 11 Theistic Arguments (I)
Read Text, Chapter 5
February 13

Theistic Arguments (II)
Reader, pp. 163-239

February 18

Evil and the Non-Existence of God (I)
Read Text, Chapter 9

February 20




March 4


March 11 Evil and the Non-Existence of God (III)
Read Reader, pp. 269-342
March 13 Knowing God without Arguments
Read Text and
Reader, pp. 241-268
March 18

Divine Action
Read Text, Chapter 8
Read Reader, pp. 343-393

March 20

Early Chinese Philosophy (I)
Read Fung, Chapters 1-8
Read Wing-Tsit, pp. 211-231

  March 25 Early Chinese Philosophy (II)
Read Wing-Tsit, pp. 3-114; 177-231

March 27

Power Point Presenation on Taoism
Bring your Reader to Class

April 1

Early Chinese Philosophy (III)
Read Fung, Chapters 9-12
Read Wing-Tsit, pp. 136-176

April 3

Early Chinese Philosophy (IV)
Read Fung, Chapters 13-21

April 8 Early Chinese Philosophy (V)
Power Point Presentation
April 10 Early Chinese Philosophy (VI)
Read Fung, Chapters 22-24
April 15 Early Chinese Philosophy (VII)
Read Fung, Chapters 25-28
April 17 Buddhism
#1 Amanda Price
#2 Kayla King
#3 Kayla Marion
#1 Jeremy Hall