This FINAL consists of FOUR essays
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PHL 210 Fall 2013 Final
ESSAY Chapter 9
1. Outline Descartes’ ontological argument for the existence of God. Do you believe that it succeeds in proving that God exists, or not? Why do you
believe as you do?
2. How might Descartes’ appeal to “clear and distinct” ideas be subject to criticism? Could Descartes respond to this criticism by distinguishing between
a first-person approach to his arguments (i.e., where they are aimed only at the person following them) and a third-person approach to them (i.e., where they are
intended to be fully accessible to others)? What might this response look like? Would it be satisfactory?
3. Do you have any reason to believe that you are not being systematically deceived by an evil genius, right at this moment? Does it matter whether you
are being deceived or not? Explain your answer.
4. Do you believe that people have innate ideas? Would everyone have to have them for Descartes’ arguments to be sound? Explain your answer.
5. What are Descartes’ arguments for Cartesian dualism? Do you find them persuasive? If you do not, do you endorse monism, or not? Explain your answer.
6. What advantages might Descartes’ dualist view have for someone who believes that humans have free will?
7. Outline the coherence theory of truth. Do you believe that this is a correct view of what truth is, or not? Explain your answer.
8. What method do you use for finding truth? How is this similar to, or different from, the rules that Descartes offered for finding truth?
ESSAY Chapter 10
1. What is a “self”, according to Hume? What are his arguments for this view of the self? What philosophical position do they rest on? Do you agree with
them? Why, or why not?
2. In what way might Berkeley’s idealism support the view that God must exist? Does Berkeley’s idealism necessarily support this view, or could one accept
it and still be an atheist? Explain your answers to these questions.
3. Do you believe that Hume is more likely to agree with the philosophy of Plato, or with the philosophy of Epicurus? Explain your answer, outlining the
views of all three philosophers as you do so.
4. Does the external world exist, according to Berkeley? If not, how can he account for our common-sense view that it does? If it does, in what form does
it exist? That is, is it a materialist world, or not? How can a world exist without being made of material “stuff”?
5. If one accepts Hume’s account of the degree to which we have knowledge of causation, is science possible? Explain your view fully.
6. Why did Locke reject Descartes’ epistemology? Do you believe that this rejection was justified, or not? Explain your answer.
7. Can an empiricist coherently believe in God? Explain your answer.
8. Do you agree with Locke’s distinction between primary and secondary qualities? Why, or why not? What are two possible objections to this distinction?
Do you agree with them, or not?
ESSAY Chapter 11
1. Outline Kant’s account of what makes an action moral. In what ways is Kant’s view superficially like the Golden Rule (“Do as you would be done by”),
and in what way is it different? Is Kant’s account of morality objective, or subjective? What about the Golden Rule?
2. Outline the sort of society that Rawls believes would be just. How does this reflect a Kantian concern with persons as ends? What is the objection that
Okin levels against Rawls’ view? Do you believe that Rawls could meet this objection? What other objections might be developed against Rawls’ position? Do you believe
that they could be met?
3. What are Kant’s objections to Hume’s epistemology? How did they lead him to develop his own views in response to Hume?
4. How does Kant allow for the possibility of human free will? How is this relevant to his account of morality?
5. How should we treat humanity, according to Kant? What does this mean in practice? What arguments does he give for this view? Do you find them
persuasive, or not? If not, do you think that better arguments can be developed in support of his view, or do you think that we should reject it? Justify your answer
in each case.
6. What is the distinction between a hypothetical imperative and a categorical imperative? How is this relevant to Kantian moral theory?
7. How does Kant’s account of morality differ from that of Hume? How do these differences reflect the epistemological differences between these two
8. What can be known, according to Kant?
ESSAY Chapter 12
1. Outline the forms of utilitarianism developed by both Bentham and Mill. What are the principle differences between them? Which do you believe is the
most defensible, and why?
2. In what way is utilitarianism a response to the social conditions of the nineteenth century? Do you believe that it is still relevant today? Explain
3. How is Bentham’s view of morality different from that of Kant? Which is the more realistic? Does this also mean that it is the most correct? Explain
your answer, taking care to define how you understand the term “realistic”.
4. What is Bentham’s view of pleasure? What is Mill’s? What are the problems associated with each?
5. Do you believe that pleasure is the ground of morality? Why, or why not?
6. What are the similarities and differences between the utilitarian focus on happiness and Aristotle’s focus on eudaimonia?
7. What is ethical egoism? What is psychological egoism? What is the relationship (if any) between them?
8. What is altruism? Should we try to encourage it? If so, why? If not, why not?
ESSAY Chapter 13
1. How is Marx’s criticism of capitalism linked to both (a) Kantian accounts of the moral community, and (b) Aristotle’s account of the good human life?
Explain your answer fully.
2. How might Mill agree with Marx’s criticisms of nineteenth century social conditions? Explain your answer, and support it by referring directly to both
Marx and Mill. Do you agree with these criticisms? Do you think that they are applicable to society today?
3. In what ways was Marx influenced by Hegel? In what ways did his thinking depart from that of Hegel?
4. If history is governed by social and economic forces and not by ideas, why do you think Marx was so intellectually engaged? Explain your answer fully.
5. What are Marx’s criticisms of capitalism? Do you believe that they are (a) factually accurate, (b) legitimate? Explain and justify your answers.
6. Do you agree with Marx’s claims concerning “alienation” and “surplus value”? If so, what do you think is the most powerful criticism of them–and why
do you think that it is mistaken? If not, why not?
7. What is “dialectical materialism”? What are the historical stages that marx identified? Do you believe that his identification of these stages was
correct, or not? Explain our answer.
8. In what way in Marx’s view of history a deterministic view? Explain your answer. Does this mean that people are not masters of how their society is
organized? What would Marx’s response be, and do you agree?
ESSAY Chapter 14
1. What does Kierkegaard mean by a “leap of faith”? Would such a thing be easy to do?
2. How is the methodological approach of existentialism similar to that of Marxist philosophy? Explain your answer.
3. What, for Kierkegaard, are the different Ways of Life, and how are they related?
4. What does it mean to live an authentic life? Would such a life necessarily be a happy one? Why, or why not? Explain your answer.
5. How does (a) happiness, and (b) eudaimonia, feature in Kierkegaard’s approach to the question of how to live?
6. How does Kierkegaard understand subjectivity?
7. What is Kierkegaard’s conception of truth?
8. What are the main points of difference between the views of Descartes and Kierkegaard? Illustrate your answer with examples.
ESSAY Chapter 15
1. Is science any more objective than religion, according to James? What implications might his view have for current discussions on teaching creationism
in science classes? Do you agree with James here?
2. Do you believe that you have free will? Justify your view, taking into account the arguments of both James and Stace as you do so.
3. Which of the four major ancient schools of thought is James’ pragmatism closest to? In answering this question you should outline the relevant aspects
of each school of thought, and show how it is similar to, or different from, that of James’ pragmatism.
4. How do the views of James and Peirce differ? Which do you think is the most persuasive, and why?
5. Do you believe that pragmatism is a subjective approach to philosophy? Explain your answer.
6. Of the three theories of truth that you have encountered so far in this volume, which do you believe is the most accurate, and why? Explain your
answer, outlining each of the three theories of truth as you do so.
7. Outline the distinction between being healthy-minded and morbid-minded. Do you believe that this is (a) an accurate distinction, and (b) a useful one?
8. Outline the pragmatic method. Do you think that this would be useful in your own life? Explain your answer.
ESSAY Chapter 16
1. In what was way Nietzsche influenced by Schopenhauer’s work? How did his views depart from it?
2. Do you believe that Nietzsche would have approved of mass movements, such as Nazism or Socialism? Explain your answer.
3. What did Nietzsche mean when he claimed that “God is dead”? Do you agree with his view here? Explain your answer.
4. Can you see any positive characteristics of the underman, and any negative characteristics of the overman? If so, how do you think that Nietzsche would
respond? If not, why not?
5. Do you agree with Nietzsche’s criticisms of morality? Why, or why not? is there any particular moral theory that you think might be especially immune
to his criticisms? If so, which one–and why?
6. Do you believe that Nietzsche would have endorsed the pragmatist approach to truth? Why, or why not?
7. In what way is Nietzsche a modern philosopher, in the sense of “modern” outlined in this chapter? In what way does he reject modernity?
8. What is the “will to power”? Do you agree that this is a significant motive force in persons’ lives? Why, or why not?
ESSAY Chapter 17
1. What is it to live a distinctively “human” life? In answering this question you should draw on Heidegger’s work. Do you believe that he was right?
2. How was Heidegger’s approach to ontology influenced by the work of Aristotle?
3. Do you believe that a person’ own life can be divorced from his or her philosophical work? Argue for your answer, drawing as you do on the lives and
works of Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger.
4. Why did Wittgenstein believe that he had solved all the problems of philosophy, and why did he change his mind?
5. Who are the “they”, and what are “they” contrasted with? Do you believe that there is anything objectionable to being one of “them”?
6. How is Heidegger’s view of death similar to, and different from, that of Epicurus?
7. What is Heidegger’s attitude towards technology? Do you share it? Why, or why not?
8. What are the main differences between analytic and Continental philosophy? Do they share any characteristics? If so, what? If not, why do you think
ESSAY Chapter 18
1. Outline Singer’s response to the problem of famine relief. Do you agree with him, or not? Explain and justify your answer.
2. Do you believe that human life is more “sacred” than that on a dog? Do you believe this in all caseseven in cases where the human being is severely
impaired? Explain and justify your answer.
3. Do you believe that philosophers have a social responsibility to advocate for wise public policy decision? Why, or why not? Offer examples of persons
who have done so in answering this question.
4. In what way are persons “forced to be free”? Is this a good thing, or not? Do you believe that it is actually the case?
5. What ancient influences can you detect in the philosophy of both Sartre and Nussbaum?
6. Do you believe that steps should be taken to make the profession of philosophy more inclusive? If so, why? If not, why not? In either case justify your
7. Is ethical theory of any use in real life? Explain and justify your answer.
8. Do you believe that wisdom is found only by reason? Why, or why not? In answering this question you should draw on the views of some of the
philosophers discussed throughout this text.
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