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Essay Two PHIL101: Introduction to Philosophy
In Section III of the course, we have considered the question of what constitutes rational belief in
the context of religious belief. We have seen a variety of views relevant to both epistemic and
pragmatic rational belief. Here’s a chart showing how the views that we’ve encountered stack up:
Author Epistemically Rational? Pragmatically Rational?
Aquinas Yes n/a1
Hick Not necessarily not2
Traditional view: No
Humanist view: Yes
Traditional view: No
Humanist view: Yes
In order to solidify your understanding of these concepts, and to gain some practice in
philosophical argumentation, your task is to write an argumentative essay drawing a conclusion
about the rationality of religious belief. The primary resources for your discussion should be our
authors in Section III.
Do’s and Don’t’s:
– Do make clear what is your thesis. Your thesis should be a claim about the rationality of
religious belief. Note that this is not the same as making a claim about the existence of
God, though obviously that matter may be related. Your focus should be on the criteria
for rational belief and what it is rational believe. So:
– Do make specific reference to the definition of rational belief from the Introduction to
Section III (Lesson III.1). And further:
– Do make clear whether you are talking about epistemic rationality or pragmatic
rationality and apply the appropriate definition. Remember that the former concerns
evidence for truth and the latter concerns the benefit (or harm) of belief. So, if you’re
arguing about epistemic rationality, then your focus should be on evidence for or against
God’s existence; and if you’re arguing about pragmatic rationality, then you should be
talking about the benefits or harms of religious belief.
– Do use our authors from this section. If you agree with one or more of them, then say
why. Don’t simply assume that your author is correct: you must evaluate his thought.
Similarly, if you disagree with one of our authors, then you must say why you think his
– Note, too, that our authors themselves don’t directly address the question of rational
belief. You will have to consider what their remarks imply where rational belief is
– Do explain yourself thoroughly to your reader. Don’t assume any specialized knowledge
on the part of your reader.
– I don’t recommend using other resources than those available in our textbook. – Don’t get carried away. Feelings tend to run strong where religious belief is concerned.
Keep yours in check.
– Remember, finally, that this is a writing exercise – not the final word on the matter. Keep
your goals modest so that you can execute a clear, cohesive essay.
– Due Monday, June 30, midnight, via Turnitin.com.
– Maximum 750 words; include a word-count in your heading.
– Use proper in-text citation format
– It’s a formal essay, so proper grammar, spelling, and tone, please.
LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS.
n/a = the author’s remarks don’t address this question 2
Hick seeks to show that the argument from evil fails to show that religious belief is epistemically
irrational. His argument, if it succeeds, shows only that it is possible that the existence of evil is
compatible with that of God. Hence, his argument shows not that religious belief is epistemically rational,
but only that it might be. This is, still, a significant finding, given the intent of the argument from evil. 3
And note that Feuerbach considered two views. The traditional view, he thinks, is both illogical and
harmful to us, while the humanist view that he recommends, he thinks, is both logical and beneficial.
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