Friday, 4 May 2012

Kant exam revision questions and others

Hi everyone,

I have emailed you the ppt for today's lesson revising the moral argument.

As I don't see you after today for a week I am setting homework and this is not a polite suggestion!!
I want all of you to do the exam questions on the moral argument that are at the end of the ppt on slides 12 and 13 - I have included a structure for you to use in the ppt and here are the questions again:

'Explain Freud's view that moral awareness comes from sources other than God.' (25)
'Explain Kant's moral argument.' (25)

Also do the following question from June 2010:

(1a)  Compare the concept of a Prime Mover with the idea of God as a Craftsman.' (25)
(1b)  'Only philosophers can explain creation.'  Discuss  (10)

We have revised both Aristotle and the Prime Mover and we have revised the Judeo-Christian God.  I think this is a sneaky question because it goes over two topics.  The (b) question is not connected to the Rel and Science module but you can bring your learning in from that.

Below is a link for you to read the examiners report on this paper (June 2010).  Look at page 5 where they discuss question 1 to see how other students answered and what they thought about their answers!

Can I also remind you to complete your independent study work on the Ontological Argument.  I've given you the reading list, photocopies and exam questions for it.

I know this seems like a lot, but in 12 days it will be over!
Mrs Rawson.

Monday, 30 April 2012


Don't forget I have emailed all of you the ppt we looked through today which is an overview on everything teleological!!

I have also emailed you all the texts you need on the Judeo-Christian God.

Useful revision website

There is a website called 'Philosophical Investigations'.  It currently has 5 steps to acieving an A grade on it and it looks great.  Here's the link...

Please take a look and you can also search the site for lots of articles and advice on all of the topics we have covered in class.

Mrs Rawson.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Copleston and Russell


We are nearing the end of our learning about the Cosmological argument.  I am posting a link to a website which gives you the transcript and a recording of the radio debate between Copleston and Russell.  Listen to it and follow along; it makes the whole debate come alive and really brings home some of the ideas inherent in the Cosmological argument.

Mrs Rawson.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Blog for Aquinas

Aquinas’ first way is about actuality and potentiality – he gets these ideas from Aristotle.  Now is a good time to revise Aristotle!!  It is called the unmoved mover.  Aquinas says that things are in motion – by which he means things change.  For example, something cold has the potential to become hot and vice versa.  Something cold cannot become hot on its own; it needs something already hot to make it hot.  The cold thing is dependent on the hot thing to make it hot.  The idea works the other way round as well.  For example, a hot thing has the potential to become cold.  Aquinas puts it like this, “But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality.  Thus, that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot and thereby moves and changes it.”

This argument isn’t about how the universe began; it is about the continued changes we see in the universe.  It is about dependency - things being dependent upon other things for change.  Aquinas is saying that because things cannot reach their actuality on their own, they need the continued existence of some other thing that moves (changes) them.  And this thing ultimately is God.

Aquinas’ second way is the uncaused causer and is about efficient cause.  Again he gets this straight from Aristotle.  Remember that efficient cause is about the agent that makes something.  Your efficient cause is you mum and dad (nice thought…?)  Things can’t be their own efficient causes, you can’t create yourself.  Aquinas puts it like this, “Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect.  Therefore if there be no first cause amongst efficient causes, there will be no ultimate or no intermediate causes…therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name God.

Aquinas’ third way is about contingency and necessity.  Everything in the physical world is contingent, in other words things need other things to bring them into existence.  Nothing would ever have even started unless there was another thing to bring it into existence.  The means there must be a being that is not contingent on something else for its existence, it must be independent of everything else...God!

A key point here is that if everything exists contingently then it must be possible to have a time when nothing existed.  If so and there was another time when nothing existed – then there would be nothing to bring anything into existence, or there must be something, the existence of which is necessary and which cannot fail to exist.

Get it!!?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Comparing Irenaean and Augustinian theodicies

Hi everyone,
I've already sent you my ppt from Tuesday's lesson.  Here is a link that will help you with the exam question you are doing (due in on Friday!).

It is a clear evaluation of Augustine's theodicy.  If you have chosen to 'Explain Irenaean theodicy' instead you will have to use the readings, notes, ppts and worksheets I have given you, or look online for something similar.

We will be starting to look at the Cosmological argument for the existence of God on Friday if you would like to do some preparation for that.

Please don't forget to bring your exam question with you on Friday, both (a) and (b) parts.  Just have a go.

Good luck,
Mrs Rawson.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Irenaean theodicies

Hi all,

I have emailed all of you the ppt from today's lesson.  I have also emailed the Hume one again so you can see his objections to design arguments again, but this will need to be read alongside the photocopy I gave you on him as that gives you the detail you need.

Please come prepared on Monday with notes on Irenaeus so that you can pick his theodicy to bits and tell me why you think he was wrong!!!

You could also read my previous blog to get more on Irenaeus.  Could you please blog me back to tell me that you have read this and my last blog?

Mrs Rawson.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Irenaeus and John Hick - Theodicy

Irenaeus lived about 200 years before Augustine and had a very different way of reconciling the belief that God is all-powerful and loving with the fact that evil exists.  He did not seek to show that evil is not real (like Augustine).  He decided that God created the world with good and bad deliberately designed in.  He says there has to be evil for us to appreciate good and also that we can't develop as human beings without free moral choice and challenge.

The idea of goodness is comparative and a qualitative judgement.  How do we know what is good unless there are varying degress of goodness?   How can we tell whether someone is kind or brave unless there are varying degrees of these qualities to make that judgement?  And then there must be some things that are not good at all.

How can we be made in the image of God unless we have the ability to make moral choices?

Also Irenaeus says there is a difference between being made in God's image and being in his likeness.  He says we are made in his image but have to grow into his likeness.  In order to grow into his likeness then we must have freedom to choose, to develop and mature; we can only reach our potential by learning to overcome difficulty and by resisting temptation.

If God stepped in and stopped people making the wrong choices or if he prevented the suffering that is a natural consequence or poor decisions or lack or morality then we may as well not be free and there would be no potential to learn from our mistakes.  Irenaeus uses the example of a baby only being able to drink milk and then moving onto pureed food before being able to manage solids.

John Hick says this,
"A world which is to be a person-making environment cannot be a pain free paradise but must contain challenges and dangers, with real possibilities of many kinds of accident and disaster, and the pain and suffering which they bring."  He says the world is a "vale of soul-making."

What do you think?
Does Irenaeus make a better theodicy than Augustine?

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Introduction to evil - please respond...

I thought it would be nice to get you to blog on the reading.  When you have completed the reading I set (Vardy and Arliss - 'What is Evil?') then you can respond here to what you have read.  You could use the stimulus questions at the end of the chapter.  For example:

How would you define evil?  We were discussing this at home (try raising the question at dinner with your family and see what they say?) and I thought that evil seems to be ascribed to a person who is responsible for the deaths of a great many innocent people e.g. Hitler is always one of the first people who are named when this question is posed.  Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden are two other examples that people seem to name as 'evil'.  How else can evil be defined?

The second question the chapter raises is, 'Name two actions and two people whom you would consider evil and explain why.'  I have touched on this above.  One evil action could be being responsible for the deaths of a great number (1000s let's say) of innocent people.  How do you define 'innocent' in this scenario?  Who is innocent?  How do you persuade others to help you in your aim to wipe out a people group or destroy the lives of 1000s of other people, be they the same culture and nationality as you or belonging to another nation?

One of questions at the end of the chapter asks you to think of anything you may have done that you may describe as evil!!  I cannot think of anything I have done that I would say is 'evil'.  But then I would say that wouldn't I?!!  I may have committed some of acts described on page 19 of the reading, but are they evil?

Does evil lie in intent, in motivation?  As the chapter says, Hitler probably wouldn't have thought that he was evil or that what he was doing was evil.  He thought his motivation was right.  We consider him evil.  If he had done everything he did but not built the concentration camps or try to wipe out the Jews (and gypsies, gay people and those with mental health issues)  would we still call him evil?

Just some thoughts.
What are your thoughts on this?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Tennant and Swinburne

Hi you lot,

CHECK YOUR EMAILS!!!!!  And don't forget to do the reading on evil for Monday (and bring it with you too).  The exam question I set today is for Tuesday.

But also as I am quite enjoying this blogging lark, I'll put more info here too.

Tennant was the first to coing the phrase "anthropic principle" and also the first to put forward a design argument which included evolution and natural selection.  He said evolution is consistent with design arguments because evolution seems to have a purpose. Creatures do not randomly evolve this way and that.  Progress is made all the time, life is ever more complex, ever more intelligent and has had an increasing amount of moral awareness. Therefore evidence which supports evolution is evidence to support belief in God.  If something is moving towards a goal there must be a ‘guiding hand’ behind it.

Go back to my first blog and have a look at the website that shows you examples of the anthropic principle.

Swinburne agrees with Tennant and says scientific discoveries provide good evidence for believing there is a God. We need to explain why the fundamental laws of nature operate with such regularity.  Such regularity in the laws of Physics can’t be a coincidence.  It is simpler and more rational to believe in a divine intelligence. Swinburne also tried to categorise religious experiences:
He totally supports Paley and he also agrees with Tennant’s Aesthetic Design Argument.
The main force of his argument is:
1 – it is good scientific practise to look for the most simple explanation
2 – the alternative explanations offered to explain why there is order in the universe are more complicated than belief in God
3 – it requires a greater leap of faith to believe the alternatives as it does to believe in God.
Swinburne formulated five categories into which all religious experiences fall:
  • Public - a believer 'sees God's hand at work', whereas other explanations are cited (e.g., looking at a beautiful sunset).
  • Public - an unusual event that breaches natural law (e.g., walking on water).
  • Private - describable using normal language (e.g., Jacob's vision of a ladder).
  • Private - indescribable using normal language, usually a mystical experience (e.g., "White did not cease to be white, nor black cease to be black, but black became white and white became black.").
  • Private - a non-specific, general feeling of God working in one's life.
Swinburne also coined two principles for the assessment of religious experiences:
  • Principle of Credulity - with the absence of any reason to disbelieve it, one should accept what appears to be true (e.g., if one sees someone walking on water, one should believe that it is occurring)
  • Principle of Testimony - with the absence of any reason to disbelieve them, one should accept that eye-witnesses or believers are telling the truth when they testify about religious experiences.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Criticising Dawkins

Hi Year 12,
I have made some notes on Libby Ahluwalia, which is the reading I gave you to do for this Friday.  Here is what she says on Dawkins and how a critic may respond to his points.

Criticising Dawkins,

Dawkins assumes the universe’s existence as a brute fact.  Can you remember what Hume said when he criticised design arguments?  Can you remember his scales argument?

He uses the example of a pair of scales.  One end we can see has a weight (kilogram maybe) on it.  The other end is out of sight but has something on the end that is much heavier.  We have no idea what is on the other end or by how much more it weighs.  It is hidden from us.  The cause of the world is hidden from us in the same way.  We also do not know if the God who created the world (if he did) is good, clever, stupid etc.  We do not know if he made only one world, if our world is just a practise world or a copy of another god’s world!

Hume also says that there are many possibilities as to why this world is as it is, we just do not know and cannot prove that there is an intelligent designing mind behind it.  Amongst the possibilities are the ideas that there may be more than one god or goddess behind the apparent design of this world, this universe may be a practise run for a more perfect universe elsewhere, it may have been designed by a team of gods who then died or left and there are many other possibilities too.

Likewise one may say that Dawkins is assuming that natural selection and evolution are the reason this world is as it is.  He may be right.  Even if he is right does that mean we can disregard the idea of God?  Isn’t it an assumption to say this means there is no designing intelligence behind the universe?

Dawkins criticises religion for making assumptions about God, for making blind leaps of faith, but isn’t he doing the same thing?  After all no-one has proved God isn’t there.

Dawkins is using an inductive argument (this means his conclusions are only probabilities and not proven).  He has said that science has shown that chance is the cause of the universe, but this is not incontrovertible – randomness cannot be tested – it is impossible to prove it all happened by chance.

Dawkins says scientific theories can be tested, he says “Airplanes built by scientific principles work”.  He says we can’t test religious theories.  But the wats in which life began can’t be tested, we have to guess through inductive reasoning.  Evidence may be found to support our ideas, but it cannot do any more than show probability.

Dawkins wants to object to religion on the grounds that it put limitations onto science.  But equally his he should not allow science to dictate the usefulness of religion.

Lastly Dawkins is criticising Paley’s point of view and which is over 200 years old.  If Christians got together and began criticising scientific approaches from 200 years ago, they would easily find fault with them too.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Year 12 Philosophy Blog

Hi Lizzie, Bethany, Jess, Charlotte, Jess and Ellen,

This term I will be putting reminders for you on the Cooper School website blog. If I can work out how (!) I may put my ppts from class here as well as emailing them to you. I will also put links to good websites and notes that I make on it.

To start you off I have included a link that will give you more information about the Anthropic Principle.  We will discuss this next time.

Check your emails because I have sent you the ppt from today.

Mrs Rawson.