Fall 2009 Philosophy of Human Nature Study Questions

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These are the study questions for the course. To contribute your answers, use the discussion tab. I will comment on any posts to the discussion page during the next class.

Return to Human Nature

Study Questions: Use the study questions below to prepare for the final exam in this course.

Implicit Questions: To avoid having to specify lots of obvious study questions, let's say that study questions implicitly include questions about the basics elements of reading. In philosophy, this is usually easy to organize in terms of the topic and arguments. So, while I may not add an explicit question about the topic and argument of a reading, you should assume that you need to know this kind of basic information about everything we read.


1. How are the culture areas of Logos, Theos, and Mythos related?

2. How would you go about defining or identifying the Real?


1. What is at stake in Euthyphro 10?

2. How does the Euthyphro have bearing on Socrates upcoming trial?

3. What does Socrates claim, in the Apology, in his defense of his activities? Evaluate.

4. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the image of the philosopher which Plato presents us in the Apology.


1. How do definitions and hypotheses work together in creating philosophical theories (example of theories of love)?

2. How does Plato establish his view that ideas are more real than objects?

3. What is Plato's model of enlightenment?

4. Be prepared to explain the Allegory of the Cave and the Divided Line.


1. How do philosophers use "questioning presuppositions" as a method?

2. Review and comment on Kant & Russell on the value of philosophy.

3. How does Plato think about the nature of the soul, its division into three parts?


1. How do the first four speeches in the Symposium reflect various cultural understandings and issues connected with love? Are these the same or different as concerns people have today?

2. How is Plato using each speech to introduces different types of theories of love?


1. Follow conceptual distinctions basic to Epistemology:

  • knowledge as justified, true, belief
  • types of knowledge
  • basic positions in epistemology

3. What kind or degree of certainty do you need to say that you know something?

4. Is there absolute certainty about any item of knowledge?


1. What is the "brain in a vat" thought experiment? What is Putnam's objection to it?

2. What is Descartes argument (in stages) for radical doubt? Why does he want to do this? Is it a worthwhile project? Why or why not?

3. How does Descartes think he has established certainty? Is he successful?

4. What is the point (and substance) of Socrates questioning of Agathon?


2. How do the different varieties of empiricism (naive, indirect, idealist) reflect specific problems or issues with empiricism as an epistemology?

3. What is the problem of induction?

4. How did the Positivists criticism traditional rationalism?


What is Diotima's view of love?

How are body and soul related in this theory?

What is the meaning of Alcibiades' entrance and speech?

Read the Locke excerpt with a view to identifying what makes it a work of an empiricist. Can you notice specific parts of his theory that lend themselves to his empirical approach. What sorts of things does he have relatively more difficulty in explaining?

What is the solution to the problem of induction, according to Hospers?


1. According to Epicurus, should we fear the gods?

2. According to Epicurus, should we fear death?

3. According to Epicurus, what approach should we take to desire? (compare to Plato)

4. What does Bloom mean by the "duality of experience"?

5. What was the point of Jesse Bering's experiments with children's responses to the Brown Mouse story?

6. Summarize the main introductory concepts from Barrett, Ch. 1. What is belief and how is it related to "mental tools"? What is the distinction between reflective and non-reflective belief?


1. What is the "quietism" criticism of Epicureanism? How might an Epicurean defend him or herself from this objection?

2. Is it possible that a form of asceticism might heighten one's experience of pleasure? Or, what is involved in savoring?

3. Learn the main positions in the Personal Identity issue, along with the strengths and weaknesses of each.


1. Compare Epicurus and Epictetus on the goal of life, the greatest good, their view of the gods, epistemology, and metaphysics.

2. How might a Stoic defend him or herself from the criticisms that Stoicism: a) has an unnatural view of the emotions, b) has an unrealistic view of our reactions to loss, and c) requires too much faith in the rationality of the cosmos?

3. What is your hegemonikon and why should you make sure not to let anyone mess with it?




1. How far should we go in accepting the Stoic and Epicurean view the we can sometimes adjust our judgement about an event and thereby avoid unnecessary suffering?

2. Reconstruct the Buddhist argument for "no-self" drawing on the analysis of the 5 skandhas and considering replies to that analysis.

4. What is the specific theory of multiple personalities? How does it relate to both Buddhist thought and as a theory of self?


1. What is the point of Dennett's elborate thought experiment in "Where Am I"?

2. Under what circumstances is the feeling of free will especially prominent or obscured?

3. What must you be presupposing about free will if you believe that determinism is incompatible with free will?

4. Study initial points of view on free will, along with strengths and weaknesses.


1. Do Buddhists make a good case for their claim about the pervasiveness of suffering?

2. Reconstruct and critically evaluate the Buddhist diagnosis of the conditions of our suffering.

3. What remedy is offered? Will it work?

4. Is there a paradox about liberation? What solutions might be offered?


  1. How should we think about nirvana, according to Siderits? What are some flawed approaches?
  2. How does a Buddhist answer the question, "Why be moral?"
  3. What is Stace's argument supporting compatibilism? How does he use language analysis as a method?


  1. Reconstruct Frankfort's argument on "alternative possibilities".
  2. How does Frankfort's argument affect the free will and moral responsibility discussion?


  1. Identify some of the ways that people with a faith commitment represent the truth of their religion to those outside their faith? How do these approaches correlate with different positions in the faith reason discussion?
  2. Based on the thought experiment, "God @ JFK," would the manifestation of the divine change religion or faith? Consider syncretist and non-syncretist endings.
  3. What is the status of arguments to prove the existence of God? Are they really proofs?
  4. How do arguments from experience and the cosmological argument work?


  1. Evaluate Mackie's three arguments on the problem of evil.
  2. Be prepared to distinguish the logical and evidentiary forms of the problem of evil.


  1. Be prepared to reconstruct and analyze the four proofs for the existence of God which we discussed in class.
  2. How should we think of the role of "proofs" in the area of religion?
  3. How does Barrett think mental tools influence our belief in God? What are MCIs and HADDs?


  1. How does our cognitive psychology support a belief in a bodiless over embodied God, according to Barrett?
  1. Do religious actions themselves - ritual, ceremony, and prayer, for example -- help make religion more natural to belief?


  1. . Should religions reform doctrines that do not comport with human rights?
  2. . Is Christianity misogynist?
  3. . Should religions extend leadership opportunities to members of its faith community regardless of gender?
  4. . Should religions accept LGBT members of its community as social equals?
  5. . Evaluate Don Cuppitt's radical theology. Would a less anthropomorphic God be successful?


  1. . What are the motives and strategies for defending religion today? Assess the strategies.


Review Day!