Topics in the Philosophy of Religion

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 17 January 2022
Friday 25 March 2022
29 September 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA VV56 Philosophy, Religion and Ethics,
BA VV57 Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (Including Placement Year),
BA VV58 Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (Including Foundation Year),
BA VV59 Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA VV5P Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (Including Year Abroad)

Module description

This module will focus on Islamic philosophy. In particular, we will look at some of the ways in which medieval Muslim thinkers have characterised human reason, and the relationship between this and religious faith.

This focus on the characterisation of human reason and the human intellect has a direct bearing on the way in which philosophy is seen to relate (or not) to religion and theology: What are the goals of each of these disciplines or practices? How do they differ in terms of the questions they seek to answer and the type of knowledge they promise to yield? Is philosophy compatible with religion? The aim of this module is to approach some of these very general and fundamental questions, and to do so through a close study of developments in Islamic philosophy from the ninth century onward. We will also draw on the thinkers covered in the course in order to discuss the treatment in Islamic philosophy of key ethical and political issues, such as the role of women, the good or virtuous life, and the limits of legitimate interference with the conduct of the individual.

Module aims

The aims of this module are to:

1. Convey knowledge of selected classic texts in the history of Islamic philosophy, and their characterization of the human being, faith and reason.
2. Develop understanding of the ways in which Muslim thinkers have understood the relationship between Islam and philosophy.
3. Develop understanding of the ways in which insights from ancient Greek philosophy informed the work of early Muslim thinkers, on issues such as the nature of God, the soul, the human intellect, and the good life.
4. Explain and critically discuss the central points of controversy among the thinkers studied, and the main arguments advanced on each side.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should have acquired or further developed a set of transferable skills, and in particular be able to:

1. define the task in which they are engaged and exclude what is irrelevant;
2. seek and organise the most relevant discussions and sources of information;
3. process a large volume of diverse and sometimes conflicting arguments;
4. compare and evaluate different arguments and assess the limitations of their own position or procedure;
5. write and present verbally a succinct and precise account of positions, arguments, and their presuppositions and implications;
6. be sensitive to the positions of others and communicate their own views in ways that are accessible to them;
7. think 'laterally' and creatively - see interesting connections and possibilities and present these clearly rather than as vague hunches;
8. maintain intellectual flexibility and revise their own position if shown wrong;
9. think critically and constructively.

Module information

Study Abroad students should have already taken two philosophy modules at their home institution.

Learning and teaching methods

There will be a two-hour combined lecture and seminar each week and a separate one-hour class. Week 21 is Reading Week.


  • John, Hick. (1990) 'An Irenaean Theodicy', in A John Hick Reader, London: Palgrave Macmillan., pp.88-105
  • Diogenes Allen. (1980) 'Natural Evil and the Love of God', in Religious Studies: Cambridge University Press. vol. 16 (4) , pp.439-456
  • Dews, Peter. (2008) The Idea of Evil, Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Søren Kierkegaard. (no date) Kierkegaard's Writings, XIX: Sickness Unto Death.
  • Holland, R. F. (1980) Against empiricism, Totowa, N.J: Barnes & Noble Books.
  • J. L. Mackie. (1955) 'Evil and Omnipotence', in Mind: Oxford University Press. vol. 64 (254) , pp.200-212
  • William L. Rowe. (1979) 'The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism', in American Philosophical Quarterly: University of Illinois Press. vol. 16 (4) , pp.335-341
  • Alvin Plantinga. (1975) God, freedom, and evil, London: Allen and Unwin. vol. Essays in philosophy

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Essay plan (500 words)     
Coursework   Essay (2500 words)  22/03/2022   

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Lorna Finlayson, email:



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 667 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
631 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
36 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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