An Eastern Kentucky University professor has received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to develop an undergraduate course that addresses the question, “Do we need God for the good life?”
Dr. Michael Austin, an associate professor in EKU’s Department of Philosophy and Religion, received $24,096 from NEH. It was one of 154 humanities projects funded nationwide. Austin said he chose the “good life” question “because it is an important question to reflect upon, and it deals not only with the question of God’s existence, but other issues such as human nature, the true nature of happiness, ethics, and the processes of moral development. Given the renewed attention to this issue from people such as Richard Dawkins and his critics, the course is timely but will also enable students to reflect on these issues in a deeper way than Dawkins and others have done.
“The question at first appears to have only a yes or no answer, but in exploring the answers given by prominent philosophers over the centuries, it isn't so simple,” Austin added. “For example, Aristotle thought we needed God, but primarily as an object of contemplation. Aquinas agrees that we need God, but adds that we can know God through a rational faith, and need friendship with God to be truly fulfilled. And the atheist philosophers we'll cover have different reasons for their views as well.”
Students will also consider works of literature, religion, and neurobiology and their connections to the issue.
“My hope is that students in the course will not only become familiar with the debate that has been going on over the centuries,” Austin said, “but also become contributors to that debate by constructing a website explaining the ideas we're covering, and adding their own thoughts to it.”
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities.