Spring 2014

PHIL 412, Junior/Senior Seminar
Topic: The Problem of Evil

Animals often die agonizing deaths, and have for millions of years. We humans don’t fare much better, given our capacity for excruciating physical and psychological pain. Wouldn’t a perfect God prevent all the pain he could? Or does it seem more likely that the world is indifferent to suffering and that pain is just an evolutionary adaptation? Or perhaps divine perfection doesn’t in fact require any better a world than we have—if indeed God’s ways are justifiable at all. The philosophical problem of evil, especially its evidential version, essentially forces us to ask whether we should expect a good God to create so much evil.

This year’s junior/senior seminar, designed for philosophy majors and double-majors, as well as non-majors with some philosophical background, focuses on just this question. During the course of the semester, each student will perform two parallel and related tasks: (1) an assigned reading program aimed at active and intelligent seminar discussions, as well as frequent student presentations, and (2) an independent research program on a subject of his choice, resulting—with significant assistance from the instructor—in a substantial paper due before the final seminar meeting.

The semester’s work will culminate in the visit of Professors Paul Draper (Purdue University) and Jerry Walls (Houston Baptist University), who will present public lectures and lead seminars on their work. Seminar participants, especially those whose research bears directly on the work of the visitors, should find them to be invaluable resources. Indeed, each student’s research-paper abstract and annotated bibliography will be reviewed by the visitors at the end of the semester.

The seminar’s primary aim is to provide an enjoyable and intellectually stimulating environment in which to think and talk and write about a central issue in the philosophy of religion, one that is for most people the single greatest challenge to religious belief.

Jerry L. Walls, Houston Baptist University
Title TBA
4:30 p.m., April 14, 2014
Chairman's Room, Settle Hall

Paul R. Draper, Purdue University
Title TBA
4:30 p.m., April 15, 2014
Chairman's Room, Settle Hall