Introduction to Philosophy Richard Lee
Philosophy 2003 C 001Spring 1999

Study Guide for the Second Examination

A note of explanation: There is no guarantee that all the questions on the examination will be taken from this study guide. However, any student who knows, understands, and is able to formulate clearly the answers to all the questions on this study guide should do quite well on the examination. A student who can give answers to practically none of the questions on this study guide will very likely do rather poorly on the examination.

Format of the Examination

This examination counts as fifteen percent (15%) of your course grade.

This is a closed-book, in-class examination on the scheduled date.

There will be two parts.

Ground Rules

As always, cheating will not be tolerated. No help in answering the questions may be received from anyone (except yourself) during the examination. You may not use books or notes during the examination.

Sample Questions and Points to Study

Whom is the "problem of evil" a problem for? Why. Whom is it not a problem for? Why?

How does the evidential problem of evil differ from the logical problem of evil? Critically discuss.

Carefully explicate the problem of evil as an argument to the conclusion that God does not exist. Explain each premise in the argument and how the flow of the argument (i.e. how the inferences go from the premises to the subconclusions and the final conclusion).

Explore possible objections to the argument against the existence of God based on the logical problem of evil and explain how a defender of that argument might reply to those objections. Critically discuss.

B. C. Johnson asks of a six-month old baby painfully burned to death, "Could we possibly describe as 'good' any person who had the power to save this child and yet refused to do so?" (P 78a) What does this have to do with reasons not to believe in the existence of God? Explain.

B. C. Johnson explores about twelve "excuses" that theists might give for God allowing there to be evil. Explain each of these and why Johnson thinks that they are not adequate excuses.

It is often suggested that the fact that human beings have "free will" explains the existence of evil in the world and that God is, therefore, not to be held accountable for that evil. Thus, it is concluded, the existence of evil in the world is not really a good reason not believe that a very good, very powerful God does not exist. How would Johnson reply to this suggestion? Is his reply adequate? Critically discuss.

Near the end of his article Johnson says "the conclusive objection to these excuses does not depend on their inadequacy." (P 81b) What is the "conclusive objection" Johnson has in mind? Carefully explicate the argument Johnson gives at this point (through the end of the article) to the conclusion that "it is unlikely that God is all good."

Explain the argument based on wagering that Pascal offers in regard to belief in God. Be sure to make clear what the conclusion of the argument is.

How is Pascal's wager argument similar to an argument that one should send in a sweepstakes entry one receives in the mail instead of throwing it in the trash? What important differences are there between Pascal's argument and an analogous argument concerning sending in the sweepstakes entry? Explain.

According to Pascal, if someone believes God exists but is wrong and God does not exist, has the person lost or gained? Explain.

Suppose someone said "I don't believe in heaven." Would this person then be immune to Pascal's wager argument. That is to say, does the argument depend on the premise that there is a heaven? Explain.

Explain carefully a strong objection to Pascal's wager argument.

What does James mean by an "hypothesis?"

Be able to explain and give examples of what James means by living options, dead options, forced options, avoidable options, momentous options, trivial, and genuine options.

What does William James mean by a "genuine option?"

State the rule which William Clifford put forward concerning the conditions under which we morally may believe a claim. Give examples of someone following and of someone not following that rule. Explain.

Is "Clifford's rule" a rule we should follow? Explain.

What does James mean by our "passional nature?" What does this have to do with his argument in "The Will to Believe?"

State the overall thesis that James attempts to defend in "The Will to Believe?" Explain what the thesis means.

Under what conditions does William James believe it is permissible to believe something on the basis of our passional nature instead of our intellectual nature? Explain.

James speaks of two "commandments" or "laws" for would-be knowers. What are these and how are they related? What would happen if we were to follow one of these to the exclusion of the other? Critically discuss.

Under what circumstances, if any, does James think it is reasonable to follow Clifford's rule? Under what circumstances, if any, does James think it is not reasonable to follow Clifford's rule? Explain.

William James writes in "The Will to Believe" that there are situations in which "faith in a fact can help create the fact." Explain this using an example or two. Is belief without sufficient evidence justified in such cases? Critically discuss.

James speaks of cases where "faith creates its own verification." What does he mean by this? Explain. What does James suggest we do in such cases? Explain.

What, according to William James, is the "religious hypothesis?" Do all and only religious people believe the religious hypothesis? Critically discuss.

Does James think the choice of whether to accept what he calls "the religious hypothesis" is a genuine option? Explain.

Is the choice of whether to believe "the religious hypothesis" a forced option? Critically discuss.

Is the choice of whether to believe "the religious hypothesis" a momentous option? Critically discuss.

Is the choice of whether to believe in the existence of God a genuine option? Why or why not? Explain.

What, according to James, is the value of believing in the existence of God, if the religious hypothesis is true.

James writes "Dupery for dupery, what proof is there that dupery though hope is so much worse than dupery through fear?" Explain what James has in mind here. Is he right about this? Critically discuss.

James claims that "a rule of thinking which would absolutely prevent me from acknowledging certain kinds of truth if those kinds of truth were really there, would be an irrational rule." Explain what James has in mind here. Is he right about this? Critically discuss.

In "The Will to Believe" William James writes: "There are, then, cases where a fact cannot come at all unless a preliminary faith exists in its coming. And where faith in a fact can help create the fact, that would be an insane logic which should say that faith running ahead of scientific evidence is the `lowest kind of immorality' into which a thinking being can fall." Explain what James is saying. (Examples may help.) Is James right about this? Critically discuss.

Explain the difference between descriptive morality (or ethics) and normative morality (or ethics). Give examples of questions that are questions of descriptive morality. Give examples of questions that are questions of normative morality. What is metaethics? Give examples of questions that are questions of metaethics.

What jobs involve people doing descriptive ethics? Explain. What jobs involve people doing normative ethics? Explain. What jobs involve people doing metaethics. Explain.

State and explain the argument Rachels calls the "cultural differences argument." What is Rachels' criticism of that argument?

State and explain Lee's "revised" or "improved" version of Rachels' cultural differences argument. What advantages does Lee's version have over Rachels? Is Lee's version valid?

If something is right in one society but wrong in another, does it follow that there is no objective truth in morality? Why or why not? Explain.

Critique Lee's revised or improved version of Rachels' cultural differences argument.

What consequences does Rachels see the truth of cultural relativism would have?

Rachels suggests that if cultural relativism were true the idea of moral progress in a society would be meaningless. Explain.

How can what Rachels perceives as consequences of relativism appealed to to form an argument against cultural relativism?

What lessons does Rachels think we can learn from cultural relativism. Are lessons still applicable even if cultural relativism is not true? Explain.

Does Kant believe that morality is based in human nature? Why or why not?

What did Kant mean by "anthropology?"

What, according to Kant, is the only thing that can be called good without qualification? Why? Critically discuss.

Explain what Kant means by "gifts of nature" and "gifts of fortune." Give examples of each.

Suppose there was a will such that "owing to a special disfavour of fortune or the niggardly provision of a step-motherly nature, this will should wholly lack power to accomplish its purpose, if with its greatest efforts it should yet achieve nothing." (P 420a) What, if anything, could or would the value of this will be, according to Kant? Explain.

Explain Kant's "jewel" analogy. What point is he trying to make?

What is Kant's definition of "happiness?" Is this an accurate definition? Critically discuss.

What does Kant mean by "inclination?"

Explain the distinction Immanuel Kant draws between acting from duty and acting merely in accordance with duty. Give examples of each. What does Kant claim to be the relevance of this distinction? (I.e., what difference does it make whether we act from duty or merely in accordance with duty?) Is Kant right about all this? Critically discuss.

Explain Kant's distinction between acting in accordance with duty and acting from duty. Use examples.

Apart from duty or respect for the moral law, what other motives does Kant think one can have in acting?

Under what circumstances, according to Kant, is there moral worth in an action (i.e., when does a person deserve moral credit for acting as she does)? Is Kant's view on this reasonable? Why or why not?

According to Kant does the moral worth of an action lie in its hoped-for effects? Critically discuss.

What, according to Kant, is an imperative? What kinds of imperatives does Kant claim there to be and what are the differences between (or among) them? Explain and give examples.

What, according to Kant, is an imperative? Explain.

Explain the difference between a hypothetical imperative and a categorical imperative.

Explain the differences Kant sees among rules of skill, counsels of prudence, and commands of morality. Give examples of each.

Give an example of a hypothetical imperative. What makes it a hypothetical imperative?

According to Kant how many categorical imperatives are there?

What does Kant mean by the term "maxim?" Give examples. What maxims does Kant say it is permissible or impermissible to act from? Explain.

Explain Kant's distinction between "perfect" and "imperfect" duties. Give examples of each and critically explore the distinction.

State one of Kant's formulations of his categorical imperative and explain why some action is right according to it. Then state a significantly different one of Kant's formulations of the categorical imperative and explain why some action is wrong according to it. Does either of these formulations seem to you to express what we morally should or should not do? Explain.

How and to what extent does Kant argue that suicide is morally wrong? Critically discuss Kant's arguments on this matter.

"A ... man, for whom things are going well, sees that others (whom he could help) have to struggle with great hardships, and he asks, `What concern of mine is it? Let each one be as happy as heaven wills, or as he can make himself; I will not take anything from him or even envy him; but to his welfare or to his assistance in time of need I have no desire to contribute.'" What would Kant say to such a man? Why? Critically discuss.

Kant considers four illustrations of the application of the categorical imperative. Explain one of these. What in that illustration is Kant saying is morally right or morally wrong? How does he use the categorical imperative to derive this answer? Is his derivation a good one? Why or why not?

Suppose that Lisa Appleby, a bright electrical engineering student, devises a "black box" which when attached to her telephone allows her to make long distance calls from her home in such a way that neither she nor anyone else is billed for them. She wonders whether it would be morally right to use her invention in this way. Consider how Kant would address her question and how he would support his position.

What does it mean to treat a person as an end and not as a means only? Give an example of such treatment or explain why there can be no examples. Critically discuss.

What is it to treat someone as a means? What is it to treat someone as an end? Does Kant say we must never treat someone as a means? Does Kant say that we should always treat people as ends? Critically discuss.


Richard Lee, rlee@comp.uark.edu, last modified: 3 March 1999