Philosophy 383
Philosophical Approaches to Religion


First Midterm Exam

Due Friday, October 3 in class.


Instructions:  The exam consists of two sections (A and B).  Each section is worth 1/2 of the total grade for the exam.  Section A is the "Very Short Answer" section.  Answer every question in Section A.  Section B is the "Essay" section.  Do exactly one out of the two questions in Section B -- whichever one you prefer.  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.  Note that if you wait until Monday's class (Oct. 6) to turn in your exam, your grade will go down three notches (e.g., from a B to a CD)).


Section A   -  Very Short Answer

Guidelines for Section A: Keep your answers to Section A as short and succinct as possible.  No need to embellish the point.  Though be sure to answer every part of every question.  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. Conceptions of Philosophy.  In "What is Philosophy?", Feldman discusses four popular conceptions of philosophy.  Pick one of these conceptions.  Explain what philosophy is according to that conception.  Then briefly explain explain why Feldman rejects that conception.

2. The Concept of God.  In constructing the concept of God in class, I said what our "guiding principle" was for constructing the concept.  What is that principle?  Pick one of the essential divine attributes.  Briefly explain why it fits with the guiding principle.

3. Omniscience.  It was pointed out in class as well as in one of the readings that we must not suppose that an omniscient being literally knows everything.  What is the problem with defining omniscience in this way?

4. Religion and Ethics.  Does showing that God does not exist show that the Divine Command Theory in ethics (as we formulated it in class) is false?  If so, explain why.  If not, explain what follows from the combination of atheism and the Divine Command Theory.

5. Defining Omnipotence.  In class and in some of the readings, several definitions of 'omnipotence' were proposed.  One of these definitions implies that nothing could be omnipotent.  What is this definition?  Why does it apparently imply that nothing is omnipotent.  Another of these definitions implies that everything is omnipotent.  What is this definition?  Why does it imply that everything is omnipotent?

6. Puzzles about Omnipotence.  One puzzle about omnipotence arises when we ask, Can God commit suicide?  Show why, using the Thomistic Account of Omnipotence along with Feldman's strategy, the fact that God cannot destroy himself is no threat to his omnipotence.

7. Possible Worlds.  What is a possible world?  Define -- in terms of possible worlds -- what it means for a proposition to be possibly true and for a proposition to be necessarily true.  In class we explained what it means for an object to have a property essentially, as follows:

object x has property F essentially =df. x could not have failed to have F.

Come up with an alternative definition of essentiality in terms of possible worlds.

8. Freedom and Foreknowledge.  Briefly explain what freedom is according to what I called the "compatibilist" conception of freedom (Rowe refers to it as "the first idea" of freedom).  God's foreknowledge seems to rob us of the power to do otherwise.  Explain why, if we accept the compatibilist view about freedom, then God's foreknowledge does not also rob us of our freedom.


Section B - Essay

Guidelines for Section B:  Do only one out of these two essays.  The choice is yours.  If you answer both, I will grade only the one that appears first.  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.  You might have a friend proofread the essay; if he or she can't understand it, revise until he or she can.  Don't quote extensively or at all.  I want to hear about the topic in your own words.  But if you do use the words of others, be sure to put them in quotes and cite the source.

9. The Euthyphro.  Write a short (1-3 page) paper about the Euthyphro objection to the attempt to reduce ethics to religion.  In your paper you should (i) explain the theory (the one discussed in class) that attempts to reduce facts about right and wrong to facts about God; (ii) present the dilemma that the Euthyphro problem poses for advocates of this theory, and explain what is problematic about each horn of the dilemma; and (iii) evaluate the Euthyphro objection.  Part (iii) is where you have the chance to give your own views on the Euthyphro problem.  Be sure for part (iii) to make clear whether you think the Euthyphro problem successfully undermines the attempt to reduce ethics to religion.  Be sure to back up what you say with reasons and to state those reasons clearly.

-  or  -

10. The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge.  Write a short (1-3 page) paper about the Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge.  In your paper you should (i) go through all the steps required to get you to the conclusion that human beings do not have free will, explaining each step in some detail; (ii) evaluate the foreknowledge argument.  Part (ii) is where you have the chance to give your own views on the Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge.  If you think the argument is unsound, you must specify very clearly exactly where it goes wrong and why.  Even if you think the argument is sound, discuss what you think is the most promising reply to the foreknowledge argument for the theist to make; explain how the reply is supposed to work; explain why you think it is ultimately unsatisfactory.