Spring 2009 201 Study Question Collaboration -- Part Two

From Alfino
Jump to: navigation, search

Return to Human Nature

Go to Study Questions from Part One of the course

Spring 2009 201 Study Questions - Mid-term to Final


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

The four noble truths-
1) There is suffering because one alienates themselves from their true nature. Kinds of suffering include-
-Pain, both physical and emotional, insecurity, anxiety
-Impermenance (fear of change)
-Ignorance of non-self (satisfy ego over others)
-Existential suffereing (suffering from the fact that this life is all there is.)
2) There is the origination of suffering. Suffering comes into existence in dependence on causes (dependent origin).
-Our suffering is a product of our ignorance, feelings, desires, and appropriation.
3) There is the cessation of suffering. All future suffering can be prevented.
4) There is a path to the cessation of suffering (8 fold path)

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

The paradox of liberation involves that-
1). Liberation is inherently desirable.
2). Selfish desires prevent us from attaining liberation.
3). In order to attain liberatoin one must rain oneself to live without selfish desires.
4). One does not engage in deliberate action unless one desires the foreseen result of the action.

The problem is that if the desire for liberation is a selfish desire it ought not to lead to liberation, yet if one doesn't have a desire for liberation one won't achieve it. So either way, there's no liberation.

-Laura Anderson

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.

Mindfulness is a critical aspect of the meditative practices in Buddhism, as well as the seventh step in the Noble Eightfold Path. It allows a participant to be fully aware of the things perpetrating the mind and gives the ability to block these things out as distractions. You are capable of recognizing different physical and mental states and can be at peace with each-- thus eliminating routes to suffering. When a person can admit "I am feeling anxious" they are more capable of relieving that stress. (Admittance, as we all know, is the first step to recovery)
The more aware you are of your temperament and physical conditions, the more thoughts can impede on your experience. Without properly knowing how to set each thought aside it is likely that being fully aware of your different states can create an overwhelming flood of realization. Thus making the whole process of mindfulness useless. Because Mindfulness is the seventh step of the eightfold path, it is important to build the prior skills before trying to master mindfulness.

Nicole Bernabe

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

In the Four noble Truths, the Buddha points out that the religious problem is suffering on a variety of levels; that the underlying causes of suffering are selfish craving and ignorance; that the route to the removal of the problem is the elimination of the causes of suffering; and that the practical therapy, the Noble Eightfold Path, eliminates suffering and provides the foundations for the holy life that culminates nibbana

  A bhikkhu lives observing mental phenomena as mental phenomena relating to the Four Noble Truths.
      ~A bhikkhu lives as it really is 'this is suffering.'
      ~A bhikkhu knows as it really is 'this is the origin of suffering.'
      ~A bhikkhu knows as it really is 'this is the cessation of suffering.'
      ~A bhikkhu knows as it really is 'this is the path going to the cessation of suffering.'

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

The Five Obstacles are the major obstacles to concentration.

      1.  Sensual desire (abhidya)
2. Ill will, hatred, or anger (pradosha)
3. Laziness and sluggishness (styana and middha)
4. Restlessness and worry (anuddhatya and kaukritya)
5. Doubt (vichikitsa) -- doubt, skepticism, indecisiveness, or vacillation, without the wish to cure it, more like the common idea of cynicism or pessimism than open-mindedness or desire for evidence.

The Five Hindrances (Nivarana) are the major obstacles to concentration.

      1. "form" or "matter"
         external and internal matter. Externally, rupa is the physical world. Internally, rupa includes the material body and the 
         physical sense organs.
      2. "sensation" or "feeling"
         sensing an object as either pleasant or unpleasant or neutral.
      3. "perception", "conception", "apperception", "cognition", or "discrimination"
         registers whether an object is recognized or not (for instance, the sound of a bell or the shape of a tree).
      4. "mental formations", "volition", or "compositional factors" 
         all types of mental habits, thoughts, ideas, opinions, compulsions, and decisions triggered by an object.
      5. "consciousness" 
           1. In the Nikayas: cognizance.
           2. In the Abhidhamma: a series of rapidly changing interconnected discrete acts of cognizance.[12]
           3. In Mahayana sources: the base that supports all experience.

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

Hard determinism: Past completely determines the future Strengths: Free will to be all or nothing, all or nothing agent as origin of action. -Example: The choice of soup or salad? Confluence of force-example: why you chose to go to Gonzaga? Weakness: Past keeps people from doing things Interdeterminism-Denies that the past has a strong effect on the future (randomness, not free will) Strengths: Events in the future are not caused by events in the past. Weakness: The future is somewhat random and unpredictable. Soft determinism- traditional and deep self (Two forms of soft determinism) Traditional Compatibilism: Actions are free if: they are caused by the will of the agent and they are not forced Deep Self-Compatiblisim: A deep self-compatiblist holds that actions are free if they are caused by desires that are truly our own (authentic desires) Strengths: We are free and responsible for our actions as long as tehse actions are caused in the right way. Weakness: These all share assumptions that our actions can be free even if they are caused. It is this insistence that causality and freedom are compatible with each other. Libertarian- insists that human beings are agents and that agents have special casual powers. Strength: Initiate (cause) events on their own account and are therefore free to shape the future. Weakness: If libertarianism is true, we all have the power to act contrary to the influences of our past, our families, and our genetic heritage.

-Lindsey Friessnig


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

Stace believes that the dispute is merely verbal because men have assumed an incorrect definition of free will, and then finding that there is nothing in the world which answers to their definition, have denied its existence. Men have defined free will as meaning indeterminism. This is the incorrect definition that has led to the denial of free will. Using common usage as the criterion to decide a definition, Stace says, "Acts freely done are those whose immediate causes are psychological states in the agent. Acts not freely done are those whose immediate causes are states of affairs external to the agent." Stace believes that if we define free will in this way, then it certainly exists.

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

The definitions Stace comes up with are the following: acts done freely are “those whose immediate causes are psychological states in the agent,” meaning that if an action is directly caused by a person’s thoughts, wishes, emotions, desires etc. it is free; and acts not done freely are “those whose immediate causes are states of affairs external to the agent,” meaning that if an action is caused by outside forces, it is not free. He goes on to say that because acts of free will have causes such as desires and hopes, free will is compatible with determinism.

This makes sense to me based on Stace's article. Compatibilism is the idea that determinism is true, every event in the world is caused, and that free will still exists. He combines these two views by examining the definition of free will. His view is very logical when he compares free will to determinism in this article.

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

Free will is a condition of moral responsibility, and moral responsibility requires determinism. If human actions and behaviors were uncaused, it would be useless to do anything to correct people's bad behavior because nothing you do would influence them. Therefore, moral responsibility and free will would completely disappear. If there was no determinism, all human actions would be completely unpredictable and capricious, and therefore irresponsible.


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

By 'cessation' is meant stopping the accumulation of new karma. And the 'remained' is the residual karma that keeps the present life going. Once that residue is exhausted, this life ends. So they distinguish between nirvana as the state of a living enlightened person, and nirvana as the state of the enlightened person after death. If we want to know if there is anything positive to the state of nirvana, the place to look would seem to be this cessation with remainder.

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

Nirvana is an achieved and integrated awareness of the relative importance of each standpoint for truth, or "unlearning the myth of self, while keeping good practices." Nirvana is equivalent to to heaven, but is not a physical destination. Nirvana is the ultimate goal of buddhists because it also includes the cessation of suffering.
Siderits discounts ineffability of nirvana, which means that nirvana cannot be described or understood, it can only be experienced. He discounts this idea because he said if this were true, there would be no point in asking about nirvana. We would not have our own basis to decide whether or not we wanted to strive for it. We would have to simply take the word of others who claim they have experienced it.
Siderits also believes that punctualism is not a good way to understand nirvana. Punctualism is the idea that there is no self, therefore we should stop planning for and worrying about the future. Once one can do this, they will begin to appreciate the here and now. Siderits says that if we began to think in this way, we would actually experience more suffering and less pleasure and happiness. For example, if we stopped worrying about the future and stop brushing our teeth, this would not bring us less suffering. It would bring more suffering through gum disease.

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

According to buddhists, there is no self. But one should have an obligation to ourselves because we want to prevent our future self from experiencing unnecessary suffering. Buddhists believe that the enlightened person realizes that the self is a myth, but keeps good practices, including obligations to a future self.

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

1) Because they reflect karmic laws
2) Because you are protecting yourself, and preventing self-poisoning. If you allow yourself to experience greed, hatred, or delusion (3 klesas), you are ultimately poisoning yourself because each one of these has positive feedback.
3)Because suffering is the same, whether it is in us or in others.


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?

Problem- To what extent can theos be logos? Can we provide a rational account of theos that demonstrates its objective knowledge?
Solution possibilities-
1) Reason justifies faith
2) Reason "aids" faith
3) Faith and reason are fundamentally separate (fideism)

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

Religion is defined as interactions with supernatural agents including rituals and systems of believes that articulate these interactions.
Two Scenarios-
Scenario 1- All religions are expressing the same fundamental truth.
Scenario 2- Judaic-Christianity was right.

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

  > The argument is "if there is no god. There is no world."
  * Principle of sufficient reason--> for everything that exists there is an explanation. (existence)

3 possibilities:

  1) Cosmo has always existed it is eternal
  2) Result of a contingent event: Big Bang
  3) Cosmos is explained by a Necessary Being = God

Cases against:

 * There is no actual infinity 
 * What happened before the big bang  and how was it caused. 
 * What explains God's existence? (Similar problem to big bang)


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.

"Good Cannot Exist without Evil" or "Evil is Necessary as a Counterpart to Good".
--Mackie's first objection to this solution is that it sets a limit to what God can do, saying that God cannot create good without creating evil. He also says that this solution denies that evil is opposed to good in our original sense. God could have made everything good, we just wouldn't have noticed it.
"Evil is Necessary as a Means to Good".
--If this were true, it would mean that God was subject to at least some causal laws because he had to introduce evil as a means to good. This also conflicts with the view that causal laws are made by God.
"The Universe Is Better with Some Evil in It Than It Could Be If There Were No Evil".
--Mackie believes that it would be absurd for God to keep misery in existence in order to make possible the virtues of benevolence and heroism. Second, he believes that if this solution is true, then God is not benevolent or sympathetic: he is not concerned to minimise evil, but only to promote good. The most important objection that Mackie has to this solution is that there is a whole different type of evil that includes malevolence, cruelty, callousness, and cowardice. If God were wholly good, he would eliminate these types of evil.
"Evil Is Due to Human Freewill".
--Mackie opposes this solution, asking why God couldn't have just created men who always freely choose the good. His failure to avail himself to this possibility is inconsistent with his being both omnipotent and wholly good.

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?

1)Anatomy is Destiny
--Mathieu believes that biological differences are less significant than the cultural ones in determining the ways males and females operate in the world. She believes that more weight should be given to nurture than nature when it comes to gender differences.
2)God is a Male Chauvinist
--Mathieu believes that if God is such a limited being, he should not be referred to as a God.
3)The Religious Images Should Be Taken Symbolically, Not Literally.
4)Male Chauvinism Is and Always Has Been Superfluous to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

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.

Carleton Pearson was a bishop at a church. When he experienced the poverty of other third-world countries, he could no longer make himself believe that God created a hell that people experience in the afterlife. He began to believe that humans actually create hell on earth. When he told his parishioners, they immediately rejected his idea and he was asked to leave. I believe that this shows that churches are not open to change. I think that religions gain credibility when they have consistency inm their beliefs, and if their beliefs change, people will find them less credible. Therefore, religions have a fear of changing their beliefs.

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?

Don Cupitt believes that God is a historical concept, therefore the idea of God should be open to revision. Most religions start with a revelation, develop a tradition, and then interpret a crisis. This is where religion and Don Cupitt's idea of what to do differ. Most religions would then go back to the tradition, but Cuppit doesnt believe that we need to go back to the tradition when we have a crisis. He believes that religions should change as the times change, and should not be bound by tradition.


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?

One way of thinking of religious truths is to think about them similar to truths within an intimate relationship. These two types of truths are similar because neither of them have a standard set of rules, and neither of them have a basis on when to change something within the truths. They both also give us insights about reality, as well as about ourselves.


No class today due to professor's conference travel.


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

4 ways that religious action promotes religious beliefs-
1)Dissonance reduction- committing yourself to something or someone.
2)Inocculation effects- when belief is threatened, one has the ability to defend it, which strengthens beliefs.
3)More domains of activity, the more reasons to believe.
4)Coordinated Actions: The more people that believe the same concept, the stronger people will beleive.

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.

Barrett believes that it is just as reasonable to beleive in minds or agents as it is to believe in God. But he does make a distinction between being reasonable to believe and being true. There is a large difference, and he is not trying to prove the existence of God. He is simply explaining why it is so natural to have a belief in God. He presents similarities between having a belief in God and having a belief in minds.
Point of analogy between beliefs in minds and beliefs in God
-Neither belief in minds, nor belief in God are disprovable.
-Both minds and Gods are believed to be immaterial.
-Both arise in our minds non-reflectively and reflectively.
-Both are found universally in human experience.

: ○ Minds and gods are not directly accessible : ○ We believe people have minds : ○ Many people find it reasonable to believe that they can interact w/ God indirectly : ○ Neither beliefs are falsifiable. -- cannot disprove the existence of god or mind. : ○ Both are intangible, immaterial, and invisible. : ○ Both arise non-reflectively and reflectively.

Weakness of the analogies
-Beliefs in minds are much more uniform.
-There is a tighter connection between mind and a physical body than there is with God.

: ○ People can give up a belief in god, but not minds : ○ Mind is substantially connected to bodies : ○ God is not as tightly connected to a physical presence.