Spring 2011 Philosophy of Human Nature Study Questions

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Exams in this course are basic exclusively on the study questions below, which are updated from each class.

January 13, 2011 (2)

1. How are philosophical methods involved in answering questions like, "What is Real?"

2. Who was Socrates and what methods was he famous for?

3. What are the main fields of philosophy and the major questions in each field?

4. How is philosophy related to and different from science and religion?

January 18, 2011 (3)

1. How can the relationships among philosophy, science, religion, and culture be thought of through the three-fold distinction of Logos, Theos, and Mythos?

2. What is at stake, philosophically, in the question, from Euthyphro, of "whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods"?

3. What is Euthyphro doing and why is Socrates interested?

4. Why does Euthyphro have so much trouble giving a definition of piety?

5. What are arguments and explanations? What is the difference between deductive and inductive arguments?

January 20, 2011 (4)

1. What is Socrates' charged with and what is his defense?

2. How does the Apology illustrate philosophical methods?

3. How should we approach philosophical discussion in light of Socrates' fate?

January 25, 2011 (5)

1. How do philosophers typically distinguish knowledge from other belief and types of knowledge?

2. Identify and discuss in detail the main positions in epistemology (scepticism, empiricism, and rationalism).

3. What is Descartes' approach to grounding knowledge in Meditation 1? What is the result at the end of that Meditation?

January 27, 2011 (6)

1. How does Descartes establish certainty in Meditation 2? How does he use the wax example to suggest that he has certainty about objects?

2. Is it possible, likely, or impossible that we are radically deceived about the nature of reality?

3. What do the initial speakers in the Symposium say about love?

February 1, 2011 (7)

1. Reconstruct Socrates questioning of Agathon as an argument, then critically assess it. Is desire a structure of absence?

2. How do the epistemological positions of naive realism, indirect realism, and idealism all respond to particular strengths and weaknesses of empiricism?

February 3, 2011 (8)

1. Reconstruct the view of love in the Speech of Diotima. How does this view connect love to Plato's form of the good and how does it relate to previous speeches? Critically evaluate it.

2. Why does Locke think that secondary properties are different from primary ones?

3. What is representational realism?


1. What are the chief characteristics of science, how are scientific hypotheses confirmed or refuted, and what criteria describe a good scientific theory?

2. What is the problem of induction?

3. What model of epistemology best fits the description of contemporary science in Schick and Vaughn?


Review Day -- No Study Questions


1. Be prepared to identify the major positions in dualism discussed by Churchland.

2. What are some of the underlying issues that motivate various dualisms?

3. How is Buddhism like or unlike other religions? How do these differences affect the philosophical study of Buddhism?


1. What is the Buddhist's diagnosis of the conditions of our existence?

2. How is the Eight fold path a response?

3. What is the paradox of liberation?


1. Reconstruct and evaluate the Buddhist theory of non-self.

2. What are the arguments for and against physicalism? Is it an assumption of science?

3. Evaluate the Mary thought experiment.


1. What are the main positions on the problem of personal identity, according to Rauhut? Consider main strengths and weaknesses of each.

2. What do we mean by "identical"?

3. What are the competing views about nirvana? Consider Siderits' position.

4. What motivation might a Buddhist claim for his/her ethics? Why work to reduce suffering after you've achieved enlightenment?


1. Follow the narrative of Dennett's thought experiment in "Where Am I?" What is Dennett's position at the end?

2. What are the stoic's fundamental commitments and how do they influence their practical philosophy?

3. Develop a basic understanding of stoicism as both a complete philosophy and as a form of practical advice.


1. What are the major philosophical positions on the free will problem? What are the key issues distinguishing one position from another?

2. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of determinism and indeterminism as positions to base a view of free will upon.

2. How does Epicurus' metaphysics, theology, and teleology inform his view of the purpose and goal of life?

3. What is Epicurus' analysis of pleasure and desire?

4. Why does Epicurus' think virture is important for the pursuit of pleasure?


1. Identify the distinctive approach of the compatibilist view of free will along with major strengths and weaknesses.

2. What is the difference between traditional and "deep self" compatibilism?

3. Are kinetic pleasures less desirable than katastematic pleasures?

4. Is it paradoxical or wise (or both) for Epicurus to say that the the goal of life if pleasure and yet to advocate such a moderate concept of pleasure?


1. What is the relationship between the principle of alternative possibilities and the problem of free will?

2. Why does Frankfort think that you can be morally responsible for an action even if you had no alternative?

3. How does Stace appeal to our ordinary ways of speaking to support a compatibilist view of free will?


1. How does Wegner use information and research on automatism, theory of mind, phantom limbs, and other phenomena to argue that conscious will is an illusion?

2. Is Wegner successful in showing that conscious will is an illusion?


Review Day


1. How does religious experience support a belief in existence of God? What are some shortcomings of this approach?

2. Is God required to explain the world? Explain and evaluate the cosmological argument for the existence of God.

3. How does the presence of order and design suggest the existence of God? What other possibilities for explaining order do we have?


1. Does the denial of God's existence involve a contradiction? Reconstruct and evaluate the ontological argument.

2. Prepare your view on the general role and value of proofs for God's existence. Do the proofs supplement faith in some way even if they do not "prove" God's existence?

3. How does the existence of evil pose a problem for an all-loving and all-powerful creator God? Present and evaluate some of the main solutions.


1. What is Flew's criticism of theological claims? Why does he end by questioning whether they are assertions?

2. Does it makes sense to say that science also involves a "faith"?

3. How does one's view of the epistemic foundation of religious and scientific claims affect the philosophical positions one is likely to take in representing either a faith or non-faith perspective?


1. What was Carleton Pearson's heresy and how does it raise questions about the nature of religion?

2. Is Judeo Christian religion chauvanist?

3. Should religions operate within the contemporary understanding of rights?


1. How does the evolutionary study of religion theorize religion?

2. What insights could an evolutionary approach to religion foreground?

3. How might evolutionary sicence of religions be criticized from within a religious frame of reference?


1. What is nonrealism in general and what does Don Cupitt mean by saying that he is a nonrealist about God?

2. How does Jonathan Haidt approach the study of the experience of the sacred and divine?

3. What are the psychological experiences of elevation, awe, and transcendence, according to Haidt and how does he speculate about the origins of our capacities to have these experiences?


Paper Workshop -- No study questions.


1. What is transhumanism?

2. What philosophical issues are raised by transhumanism?

3. What are some of the most promising philosophical points of view to address these issues?


Study question review -- no additional study questions.