UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO / Fall 2009
Syllabus

Course: The Problem of God
Instructor: Kathryn Valdivia

Description: What is “reality?” Does “evil” exist? Can human beings identify omniscient truths? Pretty heavy stuff for a sunny summer morning.

Angst du Jour:
While existential uncertainty can be unnerving, the real cause of the jitters this morning is a looming exam tomorrow. Not to worry. The professor is reassuring: “I think you’ll all do pretty darn well. I’m going to make sure you’re prepared today.”

Believing in Belief:
Everything is called into question, even the concept of “nothing.” In fact, in line with Plato’s assertion that all things in existence are good by virtue of existing, and Augustine’s posit that “evil” is therefore turning away from God, one bewildered student is compelled to ask, “So, nothing is evil?” Well, no, because “nothing” is both a noun and a concept. After further mental gymnastics, it’s no wonder another student agrees with the Prophet Isaiah, who said, “To come to any understanding at all, I have to believe in something.”

A Ray of Hope:
There is consensus by a show of hands that all of these students believe evil exists, but find the notion that there is a grain of good in even the most corrupt beings comforting.

Back to the Test: Wistful glances at blue skies and golden light beckoning through large classroom windows become few and far between as discussion hones in on Dostoevsky, heartbreak and the human experience.

And, in the End: One student needs a definitive answer. “Are you looking for right answers on the test?” “Yes,” the professor laughs. “There will definitely be right answers.”

Stefanie Wray