Faith and the Will

REL965
Spring 2017
W 1:30pm - 3:20pm
Area: 
Area V
Professor: 
Permission Not Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

An investigation of questions concerning the nature of religious faith, the relationship of faith to the will and to desire, and the merits of various prudential, moral, and existential arguments for and against religious faith. Questions to be treated include the following: Is faith in some sense “meritorious” (to use Aquinas’s language)? Do the commitments of faith essentially involve believing propositions? Can belief be voluntary? Can trust or hope be voluntary? Should we hold religious beliefs to the same epistemic standards that apply to more mundane beliefs? Or should we persist in faith even if these beliefs do not meet conventional rational standards? We will explore these questions through writings by Aquinas, Pascal, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, James, Freud, Wittgenstein, and various contemporary philosophers.

Objectives: In addition to acquainting students with important debates concerning the nature of faith and its relationship to the will, the seminar will also facilitate critical engagement with cutting-edge philosophical work, deepen students’ understanding of how theology and philosophy mutually inform and challenge one another, and provide students with opportunities to practice and improve in their philosophical thinking and communication.

Background Expected: 

Previous philosophical work helpful but not required.

Course Requirements: 

Approx. 80-100 pages/wk reading, seminar participation, five 2-3 pg. response papers, & either two 6-8 pg papers OR one 15-20 pg. paper.

Basis of Evaluation: 

Participation (10%), short response papers (30%), paper(s) (60%)