Philosophy 383
Philosophical Approaches to Religion


Final Exam


Due Wednesday, December 17 by 12:00 noon in my office (Bartlett 361).

Come by that Wednesday morning to drop off your exam to me in person.

You may also turn in your exam on Monday, December 15, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
(In fact, I hope many of you will.)

Any exams not in by noon Wednesday are late and will penalized accordingly.


Instructions:  The exam consists of two sections (A and B).  Each section is worth 1/2 of the total grade for the exam.  Your exam must:

Failure to conform to these rules will hurt your grade.

How I Grade: I will grade your answers on both content and style.  As regards style, aim for clarity, precision, succinctness, and directness.  Avoid flowery language, polysyllabic words, and long, winding sentences.  Instead, just make it completely clear to your audience exactly what you are trying to say.  Don't try hard to sound "deep" -- just keep it simple.  Also regarding style, I have a very low tolerance for spelling and grammatical mistakes.  Use a spell checker and get a good style manual.

As regards content, be sure you answer each question completely, but do not include any content not relevant to your answer.  Especially avoid padding your answers with fluff and other BS.  This will only hurt your grade on the exam.  Do not assume in your writing that I already know about the issues you discuss.  Pretend you are writing for a reader who is ignorant of the philosophy of religion.

Cheating: You are free to discuss the material with others in the class; however, the paper you turn in must be your own work.  Students turning in near-duplicate answers even to just one question will receive an F on the entire exam and may receive an F for the entire course.  I take cheating very seriously. 

You shouldn't be quoting very much or at all on this exam, but if you use the words of others, put them in quotes and cite the source.  Otherwise, you are plagiarizing.  Plagiarism will earn you an F for the whole course.

Late Exam Policy: Your grade will go down one "notch" for every day your exam is late (i.e., an A will go down to an AB, an AB down to a B, etc.).  Late exams may be submitted by email.


Section A - Fill in the Blank and Very Short Answer

Guidelines for Section A: Answer question 1.  Then answer exactly three of the remaining five questions below.  So you will be answering a total of four questions in Section A.  Keep your answers as short and succinct as possible.  The absolute maximum length allowed for the whole of Section A is three pages (though two pages should be more than enough).

Regarding formatting, please include the number and name of each question on your exam and please put them in boldface (just as I have done below).  Please don't put your entire answer in boldface.

1. Fill in the Blank.  Fill in each blank with one or more words.  On your exam, please write out the whole sentence with your answer underlined.

1(a).  According to Matthews, Anselm's Ontological Argument attempts to show that it is impossible for a thing to be both ___________ and ___________.

1(b).  Guanilo attempted to show that, using Anselm's reasoning, we could prove the existence of a ___________.

1(c).  According to Kant, ___________ is not a "real predicate."

1(d).  The only premise in Plantinga's Modal Ontological Argument says merely that is it possible that there be a ___________.

1(e).  According to Mackie, for the theist to reply that evil is necessary as a means to good implies that God is subject to ___________.

1(f).  According to Plantinga, a set of propositions is implicitly contradictory iff ___________.

1(g). According to Lewis, the free-will theodicist should maintain that our freedom gets its significance both from the good or evil nature of the free actions themselves as well as from ___________.

1(h).  In his presentation of the problem of evil, Feldman admits that he is skirting a deep and perplexing issue concerning the idea of a ___________.

2. The Problem of Negative Existentials.  What is the Problem of Negative Existentials?  What is Anselm's Solution (or the "Anselmian" solution) to the Problem?  Explain how it can be true according to Anselm that "there exist things that don't exist."

3. The Modal Ontological Argument. One way to formulate Plantinga's Modal Ontological Argument is as follows:

1. It is possible that God exists.
2. Therefore, God exists.

On the face of it, this argument appears to be obviously invalid (i.e., the conclusion doesn't appear to follow from the premise).  But in fact it is valid.  Explain why.  (So you will not be discussing whether or not the premise is true; rather, you will be showing why it is that IF the premise is true, then the conclusion must also be true.)

4. The Problem of Evil.  In attempting to see if theism is indeed logically inconsistent with the existence of evil, we considered the following principle:

P3: An omniscient and perfectly good being prevents any evil that it can prevent.

Explain why P3 is false.  (You may use Plantinga's counterexample or you may make up one of your own.)

5. The "Best Possible World" Formulation.  Give the rationale for the following claim: if God exists, then this is the best of all possible worlds.

6. Natural Evil.  At one point in the reading by Feldman, he appears to accept a Plantinga-style free will defense.  But he goes on to say (pp. 72a-72b) that

" ... by appeal to a certain relatively simple distinction, we can revise the problem of evil so that the free will defense will no longer apply.  The distinction I have in mind is the distinction between evil produced by people, and evil produced in all other ways.  Let's call the first sort of evil 'human evil,' and let's call the second sort of evil 'natural evil.'

"The atheist now can acknowledge that the free will defense may provide an explanation for the existence of human evil, but he can go on to insist that it does not provide an explanation for the existence of natural evil.  Surely, no theist is foolish enough to suppose that natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, famines, and earthquakes are in some way due to human vice.  Such evils cannot be ascribed to some person's misuse of his or her freedom.  Surely, if there were a God, he could have created a world with free people, but without such natural evils.  And just as surely, such a world would have been better than this one.  Hence, the problem of evil remains."

How does Plantinga reply to this revised problem, the problem of natural evil?


Section B - Essay

Guidelines for Section B:  Do only one out of these two essays.  The absolute maximum length allowed for your essay is four pages (though two or three pages should be plenty).  Do not write as if I already know about the topic you choose.  Write for a reader who is intelligent but totally ignorant about your topic.  Don't quote extensively or at all.  I want to hear about the topic in your own words.  But if you must at times use the words of others, be sure to put them in quotation marks and cite the source.

7. Anselm's Ontological Argument.  Present and explain Anselm's Ontological Argument.  (A complete presentation of the argument must include the following ideas: Anselm's definition of God, the distinction between the two kinds of existence, and the great-making assumption.)  Next, present and explain one of the famous objections to the argument (e.g., Guanilo's objection, Kant's objection, the devil objection).  Finally, evaluate that objection -- do you think it succeeds?

8. Plantinga's Free Will TheodicyPlantinga's Free Will Theodicy is an attempt to show that there is no unjustified evil -- that God has a good reason for allowing all the evil that exists.  Write an essay that answers the following four questions:

1. What, in a nutshell, is Plantinga's Free Will Theodicy?
2. How, according to the Theodicy, was it not open to God to create a world containing genuinely free creatures who, as a matter of fact, never do evil (i.e., why was it not open to God to create a "free saint" world)?
3. What is Lewis's "selective freedom" objection? 
4. What is your view about the success of Plantinga's Theodicy?  (In answering this, you might tell me how you evaluate Lewis's objection (#3 above), or how you evaluate Plantinga's reply the objection from the possibility of free saints (#2 above).)



*** If you would like to see your graded exam ASAP, include a stamped, self-address, 9 x 12 envelope with your exam when you turn it in.  I'll send your graded exam back to you.  To determine the correct postage, you could bring the envelope with your exam inside to a post office, and they can tell you.  If you don't want to do that, I suspect that three stamps would be plenty. ***