Introduction to God and Persons (PHL 320)
Policy Sheet and Syllabus
Instructor: Dr. Jinmei Yuan, Associate Professor
Office: Humanities Center, Room 114
Class Meetings: MWF: 9:30-10:20 (A); 11:30-12:20 (C)
Office Hours: MWF: 8:30-9:20 pm., 10:30-11:20 pm., and by appointment
Prerequisites: PHL107 or 109 and one of the following: a) any 200-level philosophy course
(except PHL 201), b) PHL 320, PHL 323, PHL 328 and PHL 331
Peterson, Michael. Et al., eds. Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings. 4nd ed or
later. NY: Oxford U. P., 2010
Malhotra, Ashok Kumar Transcreation of the Bhagavad Gita, NJ: Prentic
Thich Nhat Hanh Living Buddha, Living Christ, Penguin, 2007 ISBN
This course explores the role of reason in answering basic question related to God and
Human nature. It will cover the central questions involving the concept of God, the meaning of
human life, and the relation between the two. The topics will be addressed in the course are:
religious experience, arguments for the existence of God, faith and reason, the problem of evil,
miracles, life and death, religion and science, and religious diversity. These questions have
been discussed for centuries. Works by many philosophers examine a range of views from
theism to skepticism and fideism. We will read the works of several key historical
philosophers, examining how they viewed the answers to these questions and how they arrived
at their theories. Zen writings on enlightenment are interspersed throughout the course.
Ultimately the goal for the students is to think about these issues for themselves.
Course Requirements and Grading
Three exams: Exam material will be taken from lectures, handouts and reading
assignments. Exams will include objective questions, as well as a written portion
including some definition and short answer/essay questions. Reviews for the final exam
will be given in class.
Written Assignments: Criteria for your papers will be identified in my web-notes.
Please read them carefully.
Two Papers (The short one-3 pages; the final paper-8 pages): You will choose
two topics among the 8 issues listed in your tentative Schedule to write your papers.
You need to develop your own arguments in your both papers.
Activities and Participation:
Group activities: A list of group activities, such as short writings, creative thinking
etc. will be involved in the classes.
One unexpected quiz: I might give students a quiz according to the needs. No
Presentation: Students need to do one oral presentation to report their research.
The instructor will give the students a list of research topics at the fifth meeting.
Presentation can be done as groups. No group should be more than four persons.
For the oral presentation, the instructor’s evaluation will be based on:
a. Good preparation
b. Specific topic
c. Good understanding and personal thinking
d. Good skills of leading a discussion
e. Good conclusion
The schedule for your presentation will be arranged at the fifth class.
Grading: Your course grade will be based on the following assignments:
Exam 2………………………………100 points=30%
Written Assignments: (20%)
Final Paper……………………………………… 15 %
Group or writing activities………..(2points each, 30points total)10 %
Quiz 1………………………….………………………………….2% (if no quiz, this 2% will
be added to your presentation)
Presentation……….……………….……………………...………8% (possible 10%)
Expectations and Policies
Course Format and Learning activities:
The format of the class is lecture/discussion with group activities.
Academic honesty: Academic honesty is an important policy for this class. No
cheating is allowed in any exams and quizzes, as well as your written assignments. Any
paper or essay copied from internet will not be accepted. For the University’s Policy on
Academic Honesty and the College’s procedures you can look at
Exams: Exams must be taken with the group. If you cannot take an exam due to an
excused absence, you will not be penalized. You need to take the make-up exam within
a week. “Travel Arrangements” are not acceptable excuses for missing an exam. If you
fail to take an exam for an unacceptable reason, you will receive a zero for that exam.
Class Attendance/Participation : The only way to succeed in college is to attend class.
Your attendance and participation in class are very important in this class as much of
the learning and application of concepts are conducted in class. No more than two
absences are allowed before your grade is affected. Each absence thereafter will result
in 0.5 % deducted from your final grade. There may be exceptions at the discretion of
the instructor for absences.
Missing a quiz counts as missing two classes. There will be no make-up quiz.
If you have problems throughout the semester, please contact me at the beginning of the
semester. Instructor needs to be informed as soon as possible if your absence is related
to extreme circumstances (family emergencies, hospitalization).
Date Topic Reading Assignment and Assignment Due
We will read one or two stories from
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones or handouts at the
class when we have extra time.
01/11 (W) General introduction I
C.S. Lewis’“On Obstinacy in Belief” Handout
01/13 (F) General introduction II:
The Nature of Religion Peterson, pp. 5-9
Definitions and theories of religion and theology
and the interrelationship between religion, theology
01/16 (M) Hume’s Dialogues (part) Handout
1. Religious Experience
01/18 (W) Saint Teresa Peterson, pp.40-42
William James on mysticism
01/20 (F) Thich Nhat Hanh Living Buddha, Living Christ
01/23 (M) Wayne Proudfoot on the interpretative Peterson, pp. 39-67
aspect of religious experience
01/25 (W) Discussion session on the video:
“Can We Know God Through Experience?” Intelecom #11
2. Religious Faith and Reason
01/27 (F) Aquinas on religious faith & reason Peterson, pp. 92-95
01/30 (M) Pascal’s wager Peterson, pp. 96-98
02/01 (W) William James on the right to believe Peterson, pp. 104-101
02/03 (F) Sciences and rationalism (possible) Handout
02/06 (M) Kierkegaard on truth is subject Peterson, pp. 111-115
02/08 (W) Kierkegaard continue Handout
02/10 (F) Gita Gita
Discussion session on faith, reason and ethics
3. Science and Religion
02/13 (M) Gould on the two separate domains Peterson, pp. 515-522
4.Arguments for the Existence of God
02/15 (W) The Upanishads, Atman Is Brahman (possible) Peterson, pp. 160-161
02/17 (F) Exam 1
02/20 (M) Thomas Aquinas on the Classical Cosmological Argument
Peterson pp. 184-186
02/22 (W) Davies’ critique of the modern cosmological Peterson, pp.231-141
Short papers due
02/24 (F) Taylor’s argument for a necessary being Handout
02/27 (M) Discussion session: video “Does God Exist?” Intelecom #10
03/01 (W) David Hume sets the stage (possible) Peterson, pp. 417-426
6. The problem of evil
03/03 (F) Augustine on Evil Handout
03/05-03/10 Spring Break
03/12 (M) Film: Water or other one (undecided) Peterson, pp.297-315
03/14 (W) Film: Water or other one (undecided)
03/16 (F) End of film and discussion
7. Human Destiny and the meaning of life
03/19 (M) Zen Buddhism Handout
03/21(W) Zen Buddhism Handout
03/23 (F) Class Discussion on Zen
8. Religious diversity
03/26 (M) Dalai Lama on Buddhism and other Religions Peterson, pp. 557-580
Early Final Papers Due Date (you are encouraged to submit your final
03/28 (W) Your own practice
03/30 (F) Your own practice
04/02 (M) Film, Himalaya
04/04 (W) Film, Himalaya
9. Life after death
04/11 (W) H. H. Price on Soul and it function after death Peterson, pp.465-473
04/13 (F) Richard Swinburne on Soul and Brian Peterson, pp. 474-482
04/16 (M) Discussion on Life after death
04/18 (W) Your Presentation
04/20 (F) Your Presentation
04/23 (M) Your Presentation
04/25 (M) Your Presentation
04/27 (F) Review
04/30-05/04 Final Semester Examinations
11:30 class (C): test time: 10:00-11:40am, May 2 (W), 2012
12:30 class (D): test time: 8:00-9:40am, May 2 (W), 2012