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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PRHS2450 A Key Thinker in Philosophy of Religion: In Dialogue

20 creditsClass Size: 60

Module manager: Dr Tasia Scrutton

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

This module is approved as a discovery module

This module is approved as a skills discovery module

Module summary

Why do some people (and not others) believe in God? If God exists, why is there suffering in the world? Is it reasonable to think only our own religion is true? Is it still rational for Christians to believe that Jesus was God incarnate? What happens to us after we die? This course will explore these questions through the work of the recent philosopher and theologian John Hick: spiritual guru for some, and enemy of orthodox Christianity for others. The focus will be both on understanding Hick and his impact on contemporary philosophy of religion, and on students’ critical and constructive engagement with the questions with which Hick’s work is concerned. This module will build on the methodological foundations laid in PHIL 1007, while also encouraging students to think about criteria outside the realm of most analytical philosophy (e.g. whether a view is true to experience, whether it is religiously helpful or unhelpful, what its ethical consequences are). It will be complementary with, though independent of, PHIL 2532, emphasising theological, experiential and other faith as well as analytical perspectives, while PHIL 2532 concentrates on the close reading and analysis of formal philosophical arguments.


On completion of this module, students should be able to ...
- To utilise analytical philosophical tools in order to explore 'big' questions (e.g. the existence God/gods; why evil exists; whether there is life after death; conflicting religious claims)
- To understand, and critically and constructively engage with, the work of John Hick, its development over time, and its relation to the periods at which he was writing
- To understand Hick's impact on contemporary philosophy of religion, and critically and constructively engage with his supporters and critics
- To enhance independent and original thinking and clear expression of thought
- To increase respect for and openness to the views of others

Learning outcomes
In depth knowledge of key debates in contemporary philosophy of religion and philosophical theology: the problem of evil, religious pluralism, life after death, religious experience, the incarnation.
Knowledge of one key figure in the context of twentieth and twenty-first century philosophy and theology
Knowledge of the ways in which critical and analytical philosophical tools can be applied to religious and theological questions
Knowledge of the ways in which theological perspectives (e.g. moral critiques of theodicy; experience as a basis of religious belief) may be significant for analytical philosophy

Skills outcomes
Develops critical and analytical skills, particularly in relation to questions of universal/wide academic and non-academic interest
Encourages independent, original and creative thinking
Encourages connections to be made between academic scholarship and students’ own experiences and beliefs
Increases clarity of students' thinking and writing
Develops interdisciplinary thinking (analytical philosophy, theology and [by taking a multi-faith approach to the questions] Religious Studies)


Who is John Hick and why is he significant?
The problem of evil: soul-making theodicy
Evaluating soul-making theodicy (student debate in dialogue with Hick, his critics and supporters)
The metaphor of the incarnation: Hick and Jesus
'The Universe of Faiths': religious pluralism
Evaluating religious pluralism (in dialogue with Hick, his critics and supporters)
Religious experience
Life after death (especially reincarnation)
Evaluating life after death
Where next for philosophical theology and philosophy of religion?
Reflecting on Hick

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours177.50
Total Contact hours22.50
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

4 hours per week preparing for seminars = 44 hours
4 hours per week background reading = 44 hours
69.25 hours in total on essay preparation and writing
22.5 hours in total on seminar presentation preparation

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Informal meetings during office hours; meeting to receive feedback on essay plan; meeting to discuss seminar presentation; attendance monitoring

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4000 word essay75.00
Oral Presentationseminar presentation/facilitation25.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

If a student is ill for a presentation and no rescheduling/swapping is possible, he or she will be given the option to present to the tutor at a convenient later date. If this is not possible, he or she may submit a 1,500 word essay in place of the presentation, on a different topic to the first essay.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 10/05/2019


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