201 SQs only Spring 2009

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Go to Spring 2009 201 Study Question Collaboration -- Part Two

We'll use class dates and topics to organize this page. Please sign your answer with your name so that people can keep an eye on the roster to determine their turn. You must post your answer (circulated to your two "editors" if possible) by the next class meeting. Please try to do this so we can review answers in class.


1. What are some of the distinguishing traits and methods of philosophical thought?

2. How do philosophy, myth, and religion relate to each other? Identify both differences and areas of overlap.

3. What is the difference between philosophy and science?


1. What lessons about doing philosophy can we infer from Socrates trial and fate? What should philosophers consider as they advance their theories in a social community?

2. How do Plato and Aristotle differ on the real and form?


1. In light of Greek history and the relationship between Greek culture and philosophical culture, how do you explain Socrates fate?

2. How does Plato's philosophy fit into a "history of theory"?

3. Consider and assess the criticism that Plato's philosophy is too radically "anti-body"?

4. In what ways are Socrates and Kant both "heroes of knowledge"?

5. How does Russell characterize philosophy, it's relationship to other fields of knowledge, the kinds of questions it can address, and it's connection with freedom? What is the value of philosophy, in his view?


1. Summarize the first three speeches of the Symposium.

2. Why would someone argue that love is a broad force, as Eryximachus thinks, as opposed to a narrower force describing the bond between intimate partners?

3. Is love morally "dual," admitting of both noble and ignoble forms? How is love related to the good?

4. Distinguish propositional knowledge, know how, and knowledge by acquaintance.

5. Why does it seem that knowledge involves belief, truth, and justification?


1. Give reasons for answering the following questions either affirmatively or negatively: a. Could ther be another world (like the Matrix, or a "brain in a vat") alongside or "behind" this one? and b. Could we be radically wrong about our knowledge of the world?

2. How does the parabola video show the relationship between empirical and rational knowledge? How should we understand that relationship?

3. Identify a modern naturalistic view of love and then consider whether it answers the questions Plato is trying to answer. What kind of knowledge do we have about love (propositional, know-how, or aquaintance)?

4. Summarize Aristophanes' speech on love.


1. How does Agathon praise love? Contrast his view with previous speeches. In what way is Plato making fun of him?

2. Reconstruct and evaluate Socrates criticism of Agathon (see journal samples in addition to the answer here).

3. What is Descartes' goal in the first meditation?

4. Identify each type of knowledge he discards and why.


1. How do you distinguish empiricism from rationalism?

2. What are some of the theoretical options for an empiricist to connect sense data to reality? (naive, indirect, idealism) Define each.

3. What is the distinction between primary and secondary qualities? Does it solve any problems?

4. What is Descartes' "archimedian point" for establishing certainty? Is it successful?

5. Does Descartes' analysis of the experience of the wax justify his claim that we can have an "intuition of the mind" about objects? Why or why not?

6. What is the problem of induction and what is the "pragmatic solution"? Does it work? What, finally is induction based upon?


1. What is Diotima's account of the origins of love? Why does it have the characteristics it does? Why isn't it a god?

2. Explain Diotima's view that the purpose of love is to give birth in beauty, whether in body or soul?

3. What is the "scala amoris"? What claim does Plato make about love with this idea? Is this a real feature of love?


1. What is the difference between sensation and reflection for Locke?

2. How did Logical Positivists use the analytic / synthetic distinction to attack rationalism as a source of certainty?

3. What is philosophical hedonism?


1. What are the major positions in philosophical thought on personal identity?

2. Identify strengths and weaknesses of each position, in your view.

3. How does Parfit use the "split brain" thought experiment to consider three specific possibilities about the self?

4. How does Dennett complicate the opposition between mind and body with his thought experiment in "Where Am I?"?

5. How does Epicureanism defend the view that pleasure is the ultimate good. Reconstruct major concepts and theses in the view and assess it in relation to Plato's view and your own experience and thought about the nature of pleasure. Is it the greatest good?


No class due to conference travel.


1. Is it possible to mix and match different philosophical theories of identity? Give an example of how you might do that, as well as problems it might create.

2. What is Parfit's view of personal identity and why does he hold it? How is it an instance of a "deflationary" philosophical theory?

3. What philosophical viewpoint on personal identity does Dennett's story "Where Am I?" support?

4. Compare and contrast Stoics and Epicureans on theology, ontology, human nature, and the good life.

5. Using some of the passages discussed in class, how do you begin to reconstruct Epictetus' formulation of Stoic thought?


1. What is the importance of the Stoic distinction between things "up to us" and things "not up to us"?

2. Why does a Stoic place so much importance on their hegemonikon?

3. Give an example of stoic teaching that would strike some people as extreme. How would a stoic defend against this charge?

4. How does the psychological research reported by Paul Bloom in the excerpt from, "Is God an Accident?" bear on the problem of personal identity?

5. Reconstruct and evaluate the arguments against immortality of the soul in Perry's, "A Dialogue on Immortality and Personal Identity."


1. Identify the four noble truths and explicate key concepts such as suffering, dependent origin, and methods for the cessation of suffering.

2. What is the paradox of liberation? How might a Buddhist solve it?

3. How does one's understanding of the nature of a free act affect one's approach to the problem of free will?


1. What is mindfulness? Reconstruct the most best rationales for the value or mindfulness and consider criticism.

2. Collect some details from this text's comments on the Four Noble Truths (to combine with Siderits).

3. What are the Five Obstacles to Mindfulness and the Five Aggregate attachments? How are do these processes defeat mindfulness?

4. Identify the basic positions in the free will discussion and comment on the appeal of each, along with its majors strengths and weaknesses?


1. Why does Stace think the dispute about free will vs. determinism is a "verbal dispute"?

2. How does Stace attempt to show that free will is compatible with determinism? Evaluate.

3. Why does he say that freewill actually requires determinism?


1. What is the difference between "cessation with remainder" and "without remainder"?

2. What is nirvana like? Why does Siderits discount "ineffability" and "punctualist" views?

3. What is the source of our obligations to ourselves if everything we say about the self is only conventionally true?

4. What is the source of our obligations to others if everything we say about other selves is only conventionally true?


1. Reconstruct and evaluate Frankfort's argument in "Alternative Possibilities and Moral Responsibility?

2. How do external constraints affect free will? What kinds of explanations of human behavior are relevant?

3. How does Dorothy Lewis' research suggest that free will can be compromised in repeat violent offenders?

4. What theoretical options do we have for accounting for free will and moral responsibility in cases of diminished capacity?


1. What is the problem of faith and reason, what are some possibilities for it's solution?

2. How is religion defined and how would a radical alteration in religious experience affect our understanding of it ("God at JFK" thought experiment)

3. How should we evaluate arguments from experience as evidence for the existence of God?

4. How should we evaluate cosmological arguments for the existence of God


1. How should we evaluate Design arguments for the existence of God?

2. How should we evaluate Ontological arguments for the existence of God?

3. How does Barrett suggest cognitive psychologists think about belief in general and religious belief in particular?


1. Be prepared to summarize the general view of the mind and belief which Barrett claims cognitive psychology research supports.

2. Why does it make sense, according to Barrett, to think of religious concepts as minimally counter-intuitive? What, if anything, does it explain?

3. Reconstruct and evaluate Mackie's objections to standard solutions to the problem of evil.

4. Reconstruct and evaluate Swinburne's defence of the rationality of evil.


1. What is the problem of determining the attributes of God (apart from the question of his existence)? How do traditions of negative theology approach this problem?

2. What is Deborah Mathieu's critique of gender in JCI traditions? Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

3. How does the story of Carleton Pearson's heresy illustrate some of the dynamics of religious belief and change of belief? Consider his conversion experience and the response of his parishioners in your description.

4. To what extent can theistic religions change their self-understandings of God? Is giving up hell too much of a change? What authorizes change of theology in a revealed religion?

5. What is Don Cupitt's anti-realism about God. Can you "update" religion in the way Cupitt suggests?


1. How can you use your work in epistemology to help with discussions about the relationship between science and religion?

2. How does your position on faith and reason set the burden of proof for accounting for the validity of religious belief?

3. Are religious truths like truths in intimate and social relationships?


No class today due to professor's conference travel.


1. How does Barrett argue that religious action reinforces belief in Gods? Evaluate his arguments.

2. Why does Barrett think that TofM works better as an explanation of the naturalness of belief in God than anthropomorphism?


1. Reconstruct and evaluate Barrett's analogy between belief in God and belief in other minds.