Philosophy of Religion & Ethics

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1. Know the definitions for: (1) Theism; (2) Deism; (3) Philosophical Theology; (4) Monotheism; (5) Polytheism; (6) Law of Non-Contradiction; (7) Infinite Regress; (8) Natural Theology; (9) Omnipresent; (10) Eternal; (11) Immutable; (12) Impassible; (13) Incorporeal; (14) Impeccable; (15) Simple; (16) Omnipotent; (17) Omniscient; (18) Omnibenevolent; (19) Compatibilism v. Incompatiblism; (20) Theodicy; (21) Natural v. Moral Evils; (22) Creation ex nihilo; (23) Theodicy; and (24) Greater Goods Theodicy.

2. Be able to explain the difference between the following kinds of arguments for the existence of God: (1) Ontological arguments; (2) Cosmological arguments; (3) Teleological (Intelligent Design) arguments; (4) Moral arguments; and (5) Prudential arguments.

3. Be able to state St. Anselm’s ontological proof and Gaunilo’s “Greatest Conceivable Island” argument. How does Gaunilo’s argument raise doubts about the plausibility of St. Anselm’s argument?

4. What are the “five ways” that St. Aquinas tries to prove God’s existence?

5. Be able to explain St. Aquinas’ cosmological argument from motion.

6. Why doesn’t St. Aquinas simply accept motion as natural, as “just the way things are.”

7. How does St. Aquinas’ cosmological argument from motion begs the question, i.e., assumes what it intends to prove? [Be able to state the purported fallacy and how it works in your own words.]

8. Be able to state William Paley’s biological teleological argument and Hume’s criticisms of it.

9. What is Kant’s moral argument?

10. Be able to explain Pascal’s wager and how it figures in his prudential argument.

11. What is Pascal’s views on the force of arguments in changing beliefs?

12. How does Pascal think that living a godly life can lead one to believe in God?

13. What did Pascal think about cosmological arguments? (Why didn’t he think they were completely convincing?)

14. Explain the solution to the following dilemma which intends to challenge the thesis that God is all-powerful: Can God create a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it? If yes, then there is something God can’t do, namely, lift the rock. If no, then there is something God can’t do, namely, create a rock so heavy that It cannot lift it Itself.

15. Explain why God’s perfect foreknowledge seems to conflict with the possibility of free will?

16. Be able to explain St. Augustine’s compatibilist picture of free will in your own words.

17. Be able to state the entirety of the problem of evil in its standard form.

18. How does St. Augustine try to explain the possibility of moral evils given the problem of evil? In other words, what is St. Augustine’s freedom theodicy?

19. What is Friedrich Schleiermacher’s concern with the freedom theodicy?

20. What is the soul-making theodicy?

21. What is Leibniz’s best possible world theodicy?

22. Be able to clearly state (in your own words) Plantinga’s argument to the conclusion that: One can make better sense of science (including evolutionary theory) if one is a theist rather than a naturalist.


1. Know the meaning of these key terms: (1) Categorical imperative; (2) ethical hedonism; (3) ethical theory; (4) ethics; (5) golden mean (Aristotle); (6) good will (Kant); (7) hedonic calculus; (8) hypothetical imperative; (9) intellectual virtues; (10) maxim; (11) metaethics; (12) moral virtues; (13) normative; (14) practical (or applied) ethics; (15) principle of universality; (16) principle of utility; (17) psychological hedonism; (18) right (n.); (19) tyranny of the majority; (20) utilitarianism.

2. What is the difference between something that is instrumentally good vs. intrinsically good?

3. According to Aristotle, which good is intrinsically more valuable than any other (i.e., what did Aristotle think is the ultimate end in itself)?

4. Is Aristotle’s notion of happiness identifiable as pleasure (e.g., sexual pleasure, pleasure from the senses, etc.)?

5. Explain Aristotle’s account of the potentialities of living things. How do we uniquely differ in our potentialities from other living things, including other animals, qua being humans?

6. Explain Aristotle’s account of moral virtues (including the role of the doctrine of the golden mean). (Be sure to review the analogy Aristotle uses to explain the golden mean doctrine involving the Youthful man, the Elder man, and the Man in his prime.) on one side *excess of fear*, in the middle *bravery*, on one side *not enough fear*

7. What is the status of the intellectual virtues in Aristotle’s ethical view? How do intellectual virtues relate to, compare, and contrast with moral virtues on Aristotle’s account?

8. Be able to explain, in your own words, Kant’s notion of a “good will.”

9. What is a categorical imperative vs. a hypothetical imperative? Which sort of imperatives comprises our moral duties?

10. Be able to explain the role of the principle of universalizability in Kant’s ethics.

11. Be able to explain why lying is always wrong on Kant’s view by way of using the principle of universalizability.

12. Remember that the principle of universalizability, according to Kant, has an alternative formulation as the principle of humanity: “Always treat persons as ends in themselves and never merely as a means.”

13. What are the seven ways in which pleasure vary according to Bentham’s hedonic calculus?

14. Explain why people sometimes referred to Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism as a “pig’s ethics.”

15. How does Mill revamp Bentham’s utilitarianism so that it can avoid the charge that it is a philosophy/ethics for pigs?

16. What is Mill’s argument for the claim that happiness is indeed the true and desirable end of human life and conduct? What is a criticism of this argument?

17. Be able to state the four problematic implications of utilitarianism.

18. Explain why Nozick’s experience machine raises doubts that “happiness” (in the utilitarian sense of “happiness” as “pleasure and absence of pain”) is the only intrinsically valuable end.

19. Be able to point out the important difference(s) between Aristotle v. Mill’s conceptions of happiness.

20. Be able to explain the major differences between utilitarianism and Kantian ethics. Be able to explain how to employ each ethical system to the question: Is lying morally permissible?

21. What does utilitarianism say about the moral status of non-human animals? Are they a part of the moral community or not, according to utilitarianism?


MODERN PHILOSOPHY___________________________________________________________________________

  1. Some background terminology
  2. Be able to define the following notions: (a) necessary truth; (b) contingent truth; (c) analytic truth; (d) synthetic truth; (e) relations of ideas; (f) matters of fact; (g) a priori knowledge; (h) a posteriori knowledge.
  3. Rationalism
  4. What is a natural philosopher?
  5. What is radical skepticism?
  6. Explain how Descartes reasons from radical skepticism to knowledge of cogito ergo sum and from the cogito back to knowledge about the external, material world.
  7. What is Descartes’ clear and distinct criterion of truth? If P is true, its denial at any point creates a contradiction. (necessary truths)
  8. Explain Descartes’ substance dualism.
  9. What are the characteristics that Descartes attributes to minds?
  10. What are the characteristics that Descartes attributes to matter?
  11. What is interactionism, and why does it face the mind-body problem?
  12. Be able to describe the representational theory of mind.
  13. Be able to give the dream argument for RTM as well as the relativity of perception argument.
  14. What is the theory known as mechanical philosophy?
  15. What is Descartes’ plenum?
  16. What is Spinoza’s argument that the plenum is infinite? Space is filled with matter
  17. What is Spinoza’s argument that the plenum is a mode/attribute of God? Space is god because there can’t be two infinite things
  18. How many substances exist according to Spinoza? Infinite for god, 2 that we are aware of
  19. What is the definition of a substance? God
  20. Be able to explain how Spinoza’s pantheism differs from Descartes’ dualism.
  21. What is necessitarianism in Spinoza’s metaphysic? How does it lead to determinism?
  22. What is Spinoza’s notion of the intellectual love of God and how does that relate to blessedness.
  23. Be able to explain the salient features of Leibniz’s monads.
  24. What is Leibniz’s doctrine of pre-established harmony?
  25. What is Leibniz’s truth argument for pre-established harmony?
  26. How would Leibniz respond to the mind-body problem?
  27. What is Malebranche’s occasionalism?
  28. How does the doctrine of continuous creationentail occasionalism?
  29. What is Malebranche’s know-how argument?
  30. What is Malebranche’s necessary connection argument for occasionalism?
  31. Be able to explain how Malebranche responds to the mind-body problem.
  32. How do Spinoza’s, Leibniz’s, and Malebranche’s views compare with Descartes interactionism.
  33. What assumptions do rationalists make that empiricists reject?
  34. Empiricism
  35. Explain John Locke’s attack of nativismand the ramifications of this attack on rationalism.
  36. What did Locke mean when he calls the mind a “tabula rasa” at birth?
  37. What are ideas of sensations? What are ideas of reflection?
  38. What are simple ideas v. complex ideas?
  39. What is Locke’s notion of a substratum?
  40. Explain the distinction between primaryand secondary qualities.
  41. Be able to give the following arguments for the primary v. secondary quality distinction: (a) the science argument; (b) the almond argument; (c) the analogy argument; (d) relativity of perception arguments (including the two-hands in a bucket case).
  42. What does Berkeley call materialismand how does it differ from idealism?
  43. Be aware of the three arguments against materialism and for idealism (one of these arguments is the inconceivability argument).
  44. What does the phrase esse est percipimean?
  45. What are some problems for Berkeley’s idealism?
  46. What is Hume’s conceivability argument against necessary connection?
  47. What is Hume’s deducibility argument against necessary connection?
  48. What is Hume’s “no idea” argument against necessary connection?
  49. What is the distinction between deductive reasoningv. inductive reasoning?
  50. What is the assumption called the unity of nature?
  51. Be able to re-write Hume’s critique of induction.

III. Transcendental Idealism

  1. What is objective knowledge?
  2. What is Kant’s transcendental idealism?
  3. Explain Kant’s treatment of Hume’s distinction between relations of ideas and matters of fact in terms of the analytic-synthetic and a priori-a posteriori distinctions.
  4. Explain Kant’s view on the possibility of synthetic a priori judgments.
  5. What is the distinction between noumena and phenomena?
  6. In Kant’s system: What is the faculty of sensibility? What is the faculty of understanding?
  7. What are pure concepts?
  8. Explain what a hypothetical judgment is.
  9. Explain how science is possible on Kant’s view.
  10. Explain why metaphysics is impossible on Kant’s view.


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