Philosophy 0200d: Requirements


There are no formal prerequisites for Philosophy 0200D. Certainly it is no prerequisite that students should be "people of faith". However, those who have no appreciation for what it might mean to "live faithfully" may find it difficult to engage with many of the readings. So will students who regard it as blasphemous to subject the claims of faith to critical appraisal.

That said, however, most of our readings will concern the history and theology of Judaism and Christianity, and our authors will presuppose familiarity with the basic tenets of these faith traditions. Students will thus need to have some antecedent familiarity with the stories contained in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Students who do not know who Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, and Abraham were, or who aren't quite sure who Jesus, Peter, and Paul were, will likely be lost much of the time.

What is most important, though, is simply that students have some appreciation for the sorts of conflicts between faith and reason outlined in the course description. Ideally, students in the seminar will have a personal "feel" for these conflicts—that is, know what it is like personally to be faced with such conflicts—but it will be enough to understand why people do feel these conflicts acutely. Students who are tempted to respond to these sorts of conflicts with "So what?" or "Who cares?" will find the course uninteresting; so, similarly, will those who regard the proper response to such conflicts as completely obvious.


Most of our readings will be from published books. Most of these books are available at the Brown bookstore, though a couple were not ordered, as I decided to use them after the deadline. Links to web sources are provided, as well. I particularly recommend ABE Books, which is a kind of clearing house for independent book dealers.

Students will need to have copies of all of the following books:

We will be reading only excerpts from the following:

which are therefore optional. The excerpts are available for download by enrolled students only on the syllabus page.

There will also be a couple readings excerpted from books. PDFs of these will be made available to enrolled students.

Note that this course is reading-intensive. On average, we will be reading about 150-175 pages per week.

Course Structure and Requirements

The course will meet Monday from 3.00-5.20pm in 200 Sayles Hall. Except for the first couple meetings, class will be divided into two halves, each of which will be devoted to discussion of part of that weeks reading. Pairs of students will be responsible for introducing the readings via a short (about ten minute) presentation.

Because the course is discussion-based, its success will depend entirely upon students' arriving at the course meetings ready to discuss that week's material. This means not just having done the reading, but having reflected upon it enough to have questions, criticisms, and comments to make. Toward that end, students who are not presenting will be expected to write short papers each week, about 1-2 pages, responding to each of the following questions:

  1. What in this week's reading most resonated with you? Why?
  2. With what in this week's reading did you most intensely disagree? Why?
  3. What in this week's reading left you most puzzled? What would you like better to understand by the end of our discussion?

A good-sized paragraph should be sufficient in each case.

These papers should be emailed to the instructor no later than 12 noon each Monday. The instructor will read the papers before class, to try to get a sense in advance for where discussion might usefully be directed.

The students who are presenting should plan to write a 3-4 page paper that, in effect, forms a basis for the presentation. The paper should ordinarily be the joint work of the two students collaborating on the presentation. These papers are due in class and should also be emailed to the instructor.

In lieu of a final exam, students are to write a final paper, which is to take the form of a short "critical review" of Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan's book The First Christmas. The review should be modeled on the sort of thing you'd find in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

Richard Heck Department of Philosophy Brown University

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