Problems of Evil
REL 480-001 | Spring 2017 | 3 Credit Hours
Recitation or Discussion
Dr. Nathan Loewen
UA Campus Directory:
UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:
No prereqs found
Course Description and Credit Hours
Specific context will be determined by faculty responsible for the course that semester. May be repeated for a maximum of 9 hours for differing topics.
Depending upon your point of view, much is going wrong in the world. But what counts as “evil” may depend upon your viewpoint. This course is therefore about problems of evil (in the plural). This seminar explores the current academic discourses on evil alongside several alternative approaches to it. Our discussions will turn from evil, as a traditional Western challenge to the existence of God, towards considering what it may mean for “things to go wrong” according to a variety of global viewpoints.
Required Texts from UA Supply Store:
- NEIMAN / EVIL IN MODERN THOUGHT W/NEW PREFACE (Choose One)
- NEIMAN / EVIL IN MODERN THOUGHT (REV) (Choose One)
Student Learning Outcomes
1. Demonstrate familiarity with the broad critical trends and debates in religious studies.
2. Critically engage discourses on the topic of evil.
3. Apply various theoretical approaches to and make connections within the academic study of religion.
4. Develop professional and analytical writing skills in relation to research, grammar, style, and clarity.
5. Collaborate with peers to improve writing and editing skills.
Other Course Materials
A selection of academic and popular readings will be made available on Blackboard.
Outline of Topics
"Evil" in the intellectual history of Western modernity.
Themes and topics related to "evil" in public media discourses.
"The Problem of Evil" among analytic philosophers of religion.
Approaches to the critical study of religion.
Themes and topics related to "evil" in the works of post-structural philosophers.
Exams and Assignments
Weekly Critical Responses:
Each week, you will turn in a 250-word reflection on your readings and class discussions. Rather than summarize the texts/discussions, you are to experiment with your own ideas and questions. For example: What do you find useful or problematic about various claims? What you find puzzling? These are due at the beginning of class each week.
Short Critical Writing Assignments:
You will write several 500-word pieces in order to critically reflection on topics chosen from questions/themes generated by our discussions of everyone's critical responses (see above). They are to be written according to general writing guidelines provided in-class at the beginning of the semester.
Based on a set of writing guidelines provided in-class, you will practice peer editing with the short critical writing assignments as well as with the Final Paper (see below). You will be editing someone’s work and yours will be edited. Most peer-editing will take place as homework outside of class sessions. You are expected to be thorough and to spend a good amount of time with the paper(s) and your own comments so as to be as helpful to your colleagues as possible.
Your final paper will serve as the on-going and culminating project for the course. It will also serve in place of a final exam. You will write an abstract/proposal (approximately 1-2 pages) for the topic that will be subject to my approval. Your work on the paper will begin at mid-term and progress to the end of the course with time spent on each of the stages of the writing process. It should be approximately 3,000 words.
Final grades are calculated as follows: 100-93=A; 92.9-90=A-; 89.9-87=B+; 86.9-83=B; 82.9-80=B-; 79.9-77=C+; 76.9-73=C; 72.9-70=C-; 69.9-60=D; 59.9-0=F
No grades of “I” (Incomplete) will be assigned in this course. Please speak with me well in advance if you are having difficulties satisfactorily completing the course’s requirements on time or if you anticipate your absence from class becoming routine and thus a problem. Although I cannot guarantee that an accommodation can be made for all occasions that may arise, speaking with the professor before a problem arises will greatly enhance our ability to address the situation in a way that is both fair to your classmates and beneficial to you.
Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework
An excused absence for any missed exams or coursework will require evidence of your legitimate absence, such as a documented illness, a serious family emergencies, or severe weather, to be presented to the professor in a timely fashion if you wish not to lose marks on your grade. You must contact the professor as soon as reasonably possible to explain your absence.
You will be expected to attend all class sessions. To enroll in this course is to join a community of scholars. Everyone in the course, including the professor, will be expected to develop and refine academic skills required to do university-level studies. What does this entail? Studies in the course will involve practicing research skills to find and assemble information into knowledge as well as applying critical analysis to analyze the persuasiveness and biases of that knowledge. Therefore, everyone will be expected to hear, entertain, appreciate and question each other’s viewpoints.
Statement on Academic Misconduct
Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the official Academic Misconduct Policy provided in the Online Catalog.
Statement On Disability Accommodations
Contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as detailed in the Online Catalog.
Severe Weather Protocol
Please see the latest Severe Weather Guidelines in the Online Catalog.
Pregnant Student Accommodations
Title IX protects against discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status. If you are pregnant and will need accommodations for this class, please review the University’s FAQs on the UAct website.
Under the Guidelines for Religious Holiday Observances, students should notify the instructor in writing or via email during the first two weeks of the semester of their intention to be absent from class for religious observance. The instructor will work to provide reasonable opportunity to complete academic responsibilities as long as that does not interfere with the academic integrity of the course. See full guidelines at Religious Holiday Observances Guidelines.
The UAct website provides an overview of The University's expectations regarding respect and civility.