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PHIL329 Reason, Belief and the Sacred

What is religion? How do religious people think? Where do their ideas come from? Are any of them true? These and other questions are addressed.

What is religion? Do religions make factual claims, like those of the sciences? What are the aims of religion? What relation does it have to morality? Are there distinctively religious sources of knowledge? Are religious claims justified? These are some of the questions discussed in this paper.

Paper title Reason, Belief and the Sacred
Paper code PHIL329
Subject Philosophy
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $913.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $4,073.40

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One 200-level PHIL paper
PHIL 210, PHIL 229
Schedule C
Arts and Music
Suitable for all students who have an interest in philosophical questions. No previous philosophical knowledge is required, but students will be expected to read widely and write clearly.
Teaching staff
Course Co-ordinator and Lecturer: Professor Greg Dawes
Paper Structure
The paper has four parts:
  • Part One: Religious Language and Thought
  • Part Two: The Aims of Religion
  • Part Three: Modes of Knowing
  • Part Four: Assessing Religious Beliefs
Teaching Arrangements

There will be three 50-minute classes each week, with one devoted to tutorial-style discussion.


  • Weekly exercises in class: 15%
  • Essay Outline 5%
  • An essay of no more than 3,000 words: 25%
  • Final examination: 55%

As well as the course outline distributed in class, a course book will be made available. Other recommended works will be accessible on Blackboard or in the Library, on Reserve.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper should be able to

  1. Outline what is distinctive about religious language and thought
  2. Describe the various aims of religion
  3. Describe and evaluate the sources from which believers draw their claims to knowledge
  4. Evaluate those (assumed) sources of religious knowledge

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Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 13:00-13:50 28-34, 36-41
C1 Thursday 13:00-13:50 28-34, 36-41
E1 Friday 12:00-12:50 28-34, 36-41