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Level 4

4AAT1501 Thinking about Evil


The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Dr Tony Milligan
Assessment: One 2,000-word coursework essay (40%) and one 2,500-word end-of-session essay (60%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching pattern: two-hour weekly classes over ten weeks.
Pre-requisites: none
Places available: 60 (priority will be given to BA Religion, Philosophy & Ethics students)

The approach will be problem- and skill-oriented, working with key concepts and key theories. Through lectures, students will be introduced to the key concepts of the debate. Students will be provided with handouts that will help them to follow the key debates. They will also be directed in reading assignments. Some time will be assigned to discussion in class. The interactive nature of this method of teaching will require a flexible approach to the amount of material covered in any single lecture.

Sample topics
  • The problem of evil: clarification of concepts
  • Augustine and patristic literature
  • Aquinas and the philosophy of the middle ages
  • Theodicy and modernity
  • “Worlds without suffering” – approaching utopias
  • Evil: The current debate
  • Contemporary Approaches: Susan Neiman and Alvin Plantinga
  • Theodicy and the Jewish tradition
  • The problem of suffering in world religions
  • Evil and the 20th Century: Philosophy after Auschwitz
  • “Trying to make sense” 

Further information

Module aims

The aim of this course is to offer an introduction to the problem of evil in philosophical and theological thought. In doing so, the course aims to provide:

  • a clarification of the problem and a clarification of terms;
  • an introduction to key approaches in philosophy to the problem of evil;
  • a clarification of the problem of theodicy;
  • an introduction to key approaches taken by world religions;
  • an introduction to contemporary approaches
Learning outcomes
Generic skills
  • Ability to analyse texts and arguments
  • Ability to summarise and present arguments
  • Ability to research, plan and present essays to specified deadlines
Module specific skills

Students should:

  • become familiar with some key concepts of moral philosophy
  • become familiar with the perspectives of world religions concerning the problem of evil
  • understand contemporary approaches to the problem of evil
  • have some ability to analyse contemporary debates in moral philosophy
  • develop a critical sense of the relevance of theological thinking for contemporary life and thought 
Past syllabi
Previous syllabus document available to view for academic year 2015-16.

Please note that module syllabus and topics covered may vary from year to year.


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