Philosophy of Religion: Final Paper

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  • 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 jeff.russell@usc.edu by noon Friday, May 8. It is worth 25% of your final grade.

    ⢠Please donât 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 can make exceptions for extraordinary circumstances such as serious illness if you contact me with an explanation no later than 24 hours before the deadline.

    Guidelines

    The final paper is much more open-ended than the midterm paper was. You may write your final paper on any topic that is part of the class. (This includes topics that are coming up later in the semester, but if 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 youâre not sure fits with the course, you should discuss that with me, 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 up with 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 itâs logically possible that every possible creature is âtrans-world depravedâ. Is he 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 canât think of any reason that would justify a divine being in allowing them, 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 holding religious beliefs confidently?

    Your paper shouldmake an argument for an interesting conclusion in the philosophy of religion. It should not just summarize ideas from the reading, or offer your own unsupported opinions or personal experiences, 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.

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    mailto:jeff.russell@usc.edu
  • Proposal

    Your proposal should tell mewhat you plan to argue for in your final paper, and how you plan to argue for it.

    You shouldnot just explain what the general topic of your paper is. (For example, âThe free will defense against the logical problemof evilâ.) Rather, you should explainwhat specific claimyouaregoing to defend. (For example, âThe free will defense does not succeed in showing that the existence of a divine being is consistent with the existence of evil, because free will is really compatible with God ensuring that people never do evil.â) And you should explain how you are going to defend that claim. (For example, âIâll show this by arguing that there can be cases where someoneâs good actions are determined by the past and the laws of nature, but even so they are still free to do otherwise. The cases are like this â¦â)

    Your proposal should be clear and succinct. You donât 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 your conclusion? 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, youâll need to do a large amount of the thinking involved in writing the final paper!

    Though the proposal is short, it should contain zero fluff. Every sentence should be carefully chosen to convey your ideas.

    Advice

    ⢠Read Jim Pryorâs guidelines for writing philosophy papers: http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/ guidelines/writing.html

    ⢠Donât try to write your proposal or your paper the night before theyâre due. Write multiple drafts for each stage. Take time in between drafts to think things over and come back for a fresh look.

    ⢠Be brief. Donât include anything extraneous. You donât need a flowery introduction or conclusion: just jump right into the argument.

    ⢠Some of our readings are written as dialogues. Donât 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.

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    http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html Philosophy of Religion: Final Paper Guidelines Proposal Advice