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Saints, Heretics, and Atheists

A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion

Jeffrey K. McDonough

22 December 2022

ISBN: 9780197563854

288 pages

In Stock

Price: £19.99



Based on lectures from a popular course taught in the Program for General Education at Harvard University for over a decade, Saints, Heretics, and Atheists invites readers along for a journey that is unique in its sweeping historical approach to the philosophy of religion and the balance it strikes between traditional, non-traditional, and atheistic standpoints with respect to religion in the western tradition.

  • Offers a historical approach to philosophy of religion - this will be helpful to readers because the historical aspects are interesting in themselves, because they will help readers understand how the philosophy of religion has developed over time, because the historical context makes possible a deeper understanding, and because it provides some space between students and the views under discussion.
  • Presents an unusually wide range of views between theism and atheism, for example, deism, monism, humanism, this is beneficial both because these views are interesting in themselves and because many students today are inclined to views that fall between traditional theism and full-blooded atheism.
  • Each chapter pairs naturally with a historical primary text. This feature may be beneficial to both teachers and students. It allows teachers to easily assign primary source materials and provides students with an opportunity to read classical works in the philosophy of religion together with a contemporary guide

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey K. McDonough, Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University

Jeffrey K. McDonough is Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. His research focuses on the intersection of philosophy, science, and religion in the early modern era. He has written numerous articles on philosophy in the early modern period. His Leibniz's Miracle Creed and Teleology: A History were recently published by Oxford University Press.

Table of Contents

    1. Plato's Euthyphro: What is Piety?
    1.1. The setting
    1.2. First attempt: examples of piety
    1.3. Second attempt: what is dear to the gods
    1.4. Third attempt: what all the gods love
    1.5. Fourth attempt: piety is the part of justice that concerns the gods
    1.6. Fifth attempt: the pious is what is dear to the gods
    2. Augustine's On Free Choice of the Will: Where Does Evil Come From?
    2.1. The setting
    2.2. What is the cause of evil?
    2.3. The well-ordered person
    2.4. Sin and ignorance
    2.5. An objection and two conclusions
    2.7. Freedom and determinism
    3. Augustine's On Free Choice of the Will: Why Do We Have Free Will?
    3.1. Set up and structure
    3.2. How is it manifest that God exists?
    3.3. Do all things, insofar as they are good, come from God?
    3.4. Should free will be counted as a good thing that comes from God?
    3.5. Happiness and immortality
    4. Augustine's On Free Choice of Will: Why Do We Sin?
    4.1. Why do we sin, and who is to blame?
    4.2. Is libertarian freedom consistent with divine foreknowledge?
    4.3. Can't God be blamed for creating beings that he knows will sin?
    4.4. Is it the case that some of us must sin?
    4.5. Three views on divine foreknowledge
    5. Anselm's Proslogion: Does Reason Prove that God Exists?
    5.1. The setting
    5.2. Anselm's ontological argument
    5.3. A Perfect Island?
    5.4. Two Objections
    6. Ibn Sina's The Book of Salvation: What is the Nature of the Soul?
    6.1. The setting
    6.2. What does the intellect do?
    6.3. Is the soul immaterial?
    6.4. Is the soul immortal?
    6.5. What am I?
    7. Al-Ghazali's The Rescuer from Error: Is Religious Belief Founded in Reason?
    7.1. The setting
    7.2. Three views on faith and reason
    7.3. The quest for certainty
    7.4. Three false foundations
    7.5. Is God hidden?
    8. Al-Ghazali's The Rescuer from Error: Is Religious Belief Founded in Experience?
    8.1. Al-Ghazali's turn to mysticism
    8.2. Three accounts of religious experience
    8.3. Is religious experience a good reason for belief?
    9. Aquinas's Summa Theologica: Does Experience Prove that God Exists?
    9.1. The setting
    9.2. Is the existence of God self-evident?
    9.3. Can we prove that God exists?
    9.4. The argument from motion, the first step
    9.5. The argument from motion, the second step
    9.6. The argument from motion, the conclusion
    9.7. The argument from providence
    10. Aquinas's Summa Theologica: What is the Impersonal Nature of God?
    10.1. Is God simple?
    10.2. Is God perfect?
    10.3. Is God infinite?
    10.4. Is God one?
    10.5. Analogical predication
    11. Aquinas's Summa Theologica: What is the Personal Nature of God?
    11.1. The big picture
    11.2. Divine knowledge
    11.3. Divine will
    11.4. Divine love
    11.5. Is God masculine?
    12. Porete's The Mirror of Simple Souls: What is Salvation?
    12.1. The setting
    12.2. Assent and annihilation
    12.3. Heaven
    12.4. Hell
    12.5. Life after Death?
    13. Pascal's The Wager: Should We Bet on God?
    13.1. The setting
    13.2. A wager
    13.3. Pascal's wager
    13.4. Background assumptions
    13.5. Objections and replies
    14. Spinoza's Ethics: Is God Nature?
    14.1. The setting
    14.2. Substance monism
    14.3. The Master Argument
    14.4. "Deus sive Natura" (God or Nature)?
    15. Spinoza's Ethics: Are We Modes of God?
    15.1. Substance, attributes, modes
    15.2. Human beings
    15.3. Against libertarian freedom
    15.4. For compatibilist freedom
    15.5 Moderating the passions
    16. Spinoza's Ethics: Good without God?
    16.1. Two accounts of goodness
    16.2. Beyond egoism
    16.3. Good without God?
    17. Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion: Is the Universe Designed?
    17.1. The setting
    17.2. The limits of reason
    17.3. Cleanthes's first design argument
    17.4. Cleanthes's second design argument
    17.5. Is the universe fine-tuned?
    18. Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion: Design without a Designer?
    18.1. The regress objection
    18.2. The design argument and traditional theism
    18.3. An immanent designer?
    18.4. No designer at all?
    18.5. Contemporary criticisms
    19. Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion: True Religion?
    19.1. The "causal" argument
    19.2. The problem of evil
    19.3. Consistency, evidence and evil
    19.4. "True religion"
    19.5. Two contemporary views on the problem of evil
    20. Shepherd's The Credibility of Miracles: May we believe in miracles?
    20.1. The setting
    20.2. Against miracles
    20.3. What is a miracle?
    20.4. Believing in miracles?
    21. Mills' Essays on Religion: Is Religion Useful?
    21.1. The setting
    21.2. On Nature
    21.3. Raising the question
    21.4. Is religion publicly useful?
    21.5. Is religion privately useful?
    21.6. What is secular humanism?
    22. Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality: What do Good, Bad and Evil mean?
    22.1. The setting
    22.2. Three big ideas
    22.3. Genealogy of values
    22.4. Inversion of values
    22.5. Evaluation of values
    22.6. Debunking morality and religion?
    23. Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality: Whence Conscience, Bad Conscience
    and Guilt?
    23.1. The origin of conscience
    23.2. The origin of bad conscience
    23.3. The origin of moral guilt
    23.4. Should we obey our conscience?
    24. Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality: No Alternative?
    24.1. What do ascetic ideals mean?
    24.2. The puzzle of ascetic ideals
    24.3. The "vale of tears"
    24.4. "pointless suffering"
    24.5. "the ascetic priest"
    24.6. No alternative?
    25. William James's Will to Believe: The Right to Believe?
    25.1. The setting
    25.2. The ethics of belief
    25.3. The varieties of belief
    25.4. A first argument
    25.5. A second argument
    25.6. Returning to Plato