Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Reaction Paper for Introduction to Philosophy

The Paper has two parts. Read carefully and answer BOTH parts.

When the paper is due: March 4 (for the Monday/Thursday class), or March 5 (for the Tuesday class). Reasonably, the paper should be 5-7 double-spaced pages. Make sure that you proofread. After you have read your paper over at least once, ask a friend - someone who is not in this class - to read it and ask you questions about it - what he or she does not understand and what he/she objects to; then, discuss your paper, revise it as you see fit, and proofread it again.

What Readings you need to do to be able to answer the questions:

1) From Perry-Bratman, pp. 45-46: Saint Anselm, The Ontological Argument for God's Existence.

2) Perry-Bratman, pp. 47-49: Saint Thomas Aquinas, Arguments for God's Existence.

3) Perry-Bratman, pp. 49-52: B. Pascal, "The Wager."

4) Perry-Bratman, pp. 53-56: Bertrand Russell, "Why I Am Not a Theist."

5) Perry-Bratman, pp. 77-82: Selection from Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

6) Perry-Bratman, pp. 91-93: G. Leibniz, "God, Evil, and the Best of All Possible Worlds."

7) Perry-Bratman, pp. 93-102: Nelson Pike, "Hume on Evil."

Also read my comments at

Please do not hesitate to contact me by email {} or phone {x. 8096} if you have any questions.

I. Once upon a time two intergalactic explorers come upon a beautifully designed garden on a planet everyone had thought to be uninhabited. The planet can evidently support life, but no signs of intelligent - or ay other kind of - life has ever been detected until now. Let us call the explorers BELIEVER and SKEPTIC. BELIEVER says, "Some gardener must have created this plot. In fact, some very intelligent, powerful, and knowledgeable gardener must still be tending this garden. You see, it looks as if there is a design behind the orderly arrangement of the flowers. And, indeed, how could any flowers ever spring forth and sprout on such a barren, apparently uninhabited, planet?" SKEPTIC disagrees, "There is no gardener," he claims; "this all happened accidentally - a fortuitous concourse of accidents, over millions of years, by sheer chance, brought about this collection of living plants." So the two explorers camp and take turns keeping an eye on the wondrous garden. They never see anyone - at least, not anyone their senses can register and identify. "But perhaps the gardener is invisible," they say. So they erect an electrified barbed-wire fence, reasoning that even an invisible entity might interact with the electric charge - and, if that were to happen, the sparkles and the crackling noise - and perhaps agonizing shrieks - would give the eerie visitor away. Still, days and nights go by and, in spite of their vigilance and ingenuity, the two explorers are never able to detect anything or anyone. Yet the BELIEVER is not convinced: "This must be a gardener who is not only invisible but also intangible, insensible to electric shocks, and not subject to any laws - including the laws of electricity - which we can recognize." At last, SKEPTIC despairs and demands to know: "How is this invisible, intangible, never-detectible gardener different from an imaginary gardener? Why should we say that there is a gardener at all?" What SKEPTIC is saying is really this: 'If the gardener [God], who you claim exists, can never be seen, heard of, smelled, touched, or in any way apprehended through the senses AND cannot be comprehended by the laws our mind can conceive, then why should we say that such a gardener [God] exists at all? Why not call such a gardener [God] imaginary - one who 'exists' only in your mind and not in reality?' Are we entitled to say that such an entity exists? Is it even meaningful to speak about such an elusive gardener? Is SKEPTIC right? Do you agree or disagree with him, and why?

II. Many religions teach that God is benevolent. But then we see a child dying of inoperable cancer. His parents are smitten by grief, but God apparently remains unperturbed and aloof. Could it be because God does not care? Wouldn't this mean that God is not benevolent? Remember that God is also supposed to be omnipotent. God can certainly intervene and cure the cancer - or never let it happen in the first place. Why doesn't God do anything and let the child suffer and die? So, what is it? Is God powerful but not good - God does not care if children die? Or, is God good - God cares - but cannot do anything to help - is not omnipotent? You recognize this from your readings - this is the problem David Hume and Nelson Pike have written about. Sometimes it is called theodicy - the task of justifying God's ways. One of the thinkers you read - Leibniz - is actually optimistic that our world is indeed the best possible world - even with all its evil, pain, suffering, destruction of the innocent, mayhem, holocaust, and all. Let us state this problem - the theological 'problem of evil,' - more fully: Is God powerful but callous - so God does not intervene although "He" could? Or is God good but unable to do anything - "He" would like to intervene and help but cannot? If God is both good and all-powerful, then, how do you explain the existence of suffering and evil in the world? [This sounds like three questions but - look carefully - it really one problem. How do you respond?]

{Parable from Anthony Flew, "Theology and Falsification"; modified by O. Makridis.}