Philosophy of Religion: Final Paper
Post on 14-Feb-2017
Philosophy of Religion: Final Paper
This assignment has two parts.
The 2-page proposal is due in hard copy at the beginning of class on Tuesday, April 14th,and is worth 10% of your final grade.
The 8-10 page final paper is due by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon Friday, May 8. Itis worth 25% of your final grade.
Please dont write your name on your proposal or paper: use your USC ID number instead.
Late papers or proposals will be dropped one full letter grade for each day they are late. I canmake exceptions for extraordinary circumstances such as serious illness if you contact me with anexplanation no later than 24 hours before the deadline.
The final paper is much more open-ended than the midterm paper was. You may write your final paperon any topic that is part of the class. (This includes topics that are coming up later in the semester, butif you want to write on one of those topics you should definitely discuss it with me ahead of time. Also,if you have a paper topic in mind which youre not sure fits with the course, you should discuss that withme, too. And I recommend talking to me about your topic no matter what!)
Here are some example paper topics. You may write your paper about any of these topics, or come upwith your own.
Could the natural world include purposes without any purposeful agent behind them? How?
Can an action be both free and also known in advance?
Is the Principle of Sufficient Reason true?
Plantinga says that its logically possible that every possible creature is trans-world depraved. Ishe right? Would this be an adequate answer to the logical problem of evil?
Is there a plausible theodicy that would explain why a divine being might allow natural evil?
If there are evils such that we cant think of any reason that would justify a divine being in allowingthem, is this strong evidence that there is no justifying reason for those evils?
Can it ever be reasonable to choose to believe a proposition?
Does religious disagreement between different people show that nobody is reasonable in holdingreligious beliefs confidently?
Your paper shouldmake an argument for an interesting conclusion in the philosophy of religion. Itshould not just summarize ideas from the reading, or offer your own unsupported opinions or personalexperiences, or general musings.
A strong final paper will be narrowly targeted at a specific question. It will be carefully argued,paying attention to how conclusions logically follow from premises, and taking account of possible ob-jections and replies. It willmake intelligent use of relevant texts. It will be extremely clear.
Your proposal should tell mewhat you plan to argue for in your final paper, and how you plan toargue for it.
You shouldnot just explain what the general topic of your paper is. (For example, The free will defenseagainst the logical problemof evil.) Rather, you should explainwhat specific claimyouaregoing todefend. (For example, The free will defense does not succeed in showing that the existence of a divinebeing is consistent with the existence of evil, because free will is really compatible with God ensuringthat people never do evil.) And you should explain how you are going to defend that claim. (Forexample, Ill show this by arguing that there can be cases where someones good actions are determinedby the past and the laws of nature, but even so they are still free to do otherwise. The cases are like this)
Your proposal should be clear and succinct. You dont need to go into every detail of your argument,but you should say enough so that I can easily tell what the structure of your paper will be. What is yourconclusion? What premises will you use to support your conclusion? What objections will you consider?How will you reply to those objections?
In order to write this proposal, youll need to do a large amount of the thinking involved in writing thefinal paper!
Though the proposal is short, it should contain zero fluff. Every sentence should be carefully chosento convey your ideas.
Read Jim Pryors guidelines for writing philosophy papers: http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html
Dont try to write your proposal or your paper the night before theyre due. Write multiple draftsfor each stage. Take time in between drafts to think things over and come back for a fresh look.
Be brief. Dont include anything extraneous. You dont need a flowery introduction or conclusion:just jump right into the argument.
Some of our readings are written as dialogues. Dont write your paper in the form of a dialogue.This is a very difficult form of philosophical writing to do well.
Come to my office hours to talk about your ideas.
Philosophy of Religion: Final PaperGuidelinesProposalAdvice