Philosophy 1600 - Philosophy and Society
Study Guide for Midterm
The midterm exam will take place Wednesday, February 25th in class. Bring a bluebook. Also bring (and write your exam in) blue or black ink -- no red ink, no pencil. It is a closed-note and closed-book exam.
You are responsible for all the material we've studied so far this semester. This includes material from our class meetings as well as from the readings.
How to Prepare:
- Re-read the readings.
- Study your notes from class. For any days you missed, be sure to get the notes from one of your class mates.
- Write out answers to each of the study questions below.
- Come prepared with questions on Review Day, which will be the class meeting before the exam.
- Come see me in office hours (or make an appointment to see me at some other time) to clear up any lingering confusions.
Let me emphasize the importance of actually writing out answers to these questions. We often think we understand something -- until we try to put it in writing. Only then do we realize we don't really understand it. If you don't write out your answers, you won't know what you don't know.
- What is it for one hypothesis to have greater explanatory power (in Layman's terminology) than another hypothesis with respect to some phenomenon?
- This and the next several questions are in reference to Layman's "Busby" example from the introduction. Explain why the hypothesis that Busby, assisted by aliens, stole your TV has just as much explanatory power (with respect to the phenomenon in question) as the hypothesis that Busby stole your TV.
- Explain why the hypothesis that Busby, assisted by aliens, stole your TV has a much lower prior probability than the hypothesis that Busby stole your TV.
- Explain why the hypothesis that Busby stole your TV has more explanatory power (with respect to the phenomenon in question) than the hypothesis that a friend borrowed your TV.
- Layman claims that the hypothesis that Busby stole your TV has about the same prior probability as the hypothesis that a friend borrowed your TV. What does he mean when he says this? Do you think he's right? Explain.
- Evaluate this criticism of arguments to the best explanation: "Arguments to the best explanation are of no value because it is possible for the hypothesis that best explains the phenomenon to be false. Because these arguments can lead us astray in this way, it is foolish to use them."
- Theism (the view Layman defends) implies that God is a person. What roughly do we mean by 'person' here? Which part of Theism implies that God is a person, and why?
- Explain the distinction between physical impossibility and metaphysical impossible. If possible, give examples of things or states of affairs that are:
(i) physically possible and metaphysically possible;
(ii) physically impossible but metaphysically possible;
(iii) physically impossible and metaphysically impossible;
(iv) physically possible and metaphysically impossible.
If there are no examples of some of these, explain why.
- Present and explain the argument I gave in class for the view that God (or any almighty or all-powerful being) cannot do the impossible. Be sure the give the rationale for each premise.
- Explain why the conclusion of this argument is compatible with the idea that nothing is impossible.
- On what sorts of religious experience does Layman focus? Are they sensory experiences, or something else? Explain.
- What is it for it to be rational to believe something? Give an example of a belief that is rational and an example of a belief that is not.
- What is the "starting principle"? Does it imply that appearances are never deceiving? Explain. Describe a case about which the principle yields a plausible result.
- Explain the argument for the starting principle that we discussed in class and that is suggested by Layman.
- What does Layman think religious experience shows (regarding Theism)?
- Consider this objection to the evidential value of religious experience:
P1. We have no idea what organs and mechanisms are involved in producing religious experiences.
P2. If a person has an experience that indicates that something is the case, but he and we have no idea what organs and mechanisms are involved in producing religious experiences, then he and we should not take the experience as providing any evidence that what it indicates is true.
C. Therefore, if a person has an religious experience, then he and we should not take the experience as providing any evidence that what it indicates is true.
What is Layman's reply to this objection. Identify which premise he would reject and his reason for rejecting it.
- What is the difference between a necessary and a contingent truth? Give examples of each.
- What is an analytic truth. Give examples of truths that are analytic and of truths that are not. For each example, explain why it is an example of whatever it is an example of.
- Thomas argues that there are in fact no necessary truths because, for any allegedly necessary truth, it would have been false if certain words had had different meanings. Give an example to illustrate Thomas' point. Then explain why this is a bad argument.
- In your own words, explain Layman's cosmological argument. Be sure to explain in detail each step along the way.
- Against Layman's cosmological argument, the Naturalist might object that, even if it is true that Naturalism cannot explain the existence of contingent beings, Theism cannot explain the existence of God. Explain Layman's reply to this objection. What do you think of Layman's reply here? Explain.
- Explain fully the old-fashioned argument from design, and then explain why this argument is now widely believed to fail.
- Explain one of the ways in which the universe is fine-tuned that Layman discusses.
- Explain why it would seem that the fine-tuning data is highly improbable if there is no God.
- Explain why the fine-tuning evidence doesn't seem terribly improbable on the assumption that Theism is true.
- What is wrong with the following objection to the fine-tuning argument: "We shouldn't be at all surprised when we hear about the fine-tuning evidence. After all, the constants in the laws of nature had to take some set of values or other, and any other set of values would have been just as unlikely as the set of values they actually took." You can do this by way of an analogy if you like.
- Explain how Percentage Naturalism is supposed to explain the fine-tuning evidence.
- Explain the "fly on the wall" objection to Percentage Naturalism. What do you think of this objection?
- Layman makes a point on p. 130 having to do with even and odd numbers. What is this point supposed to illustrate? How is it relevant to the fine-tuning argument. What point of Thomas' is Layman trying to undermine here? Explain.
- In class, we discussed an objection to the claim that the fine-tuning data provides evidence for the existence of multiple universes. It had to do with an analogy with dice rolling. Explain that objection in detail. What do you think of it? Is this a problem for MUH Naturalism?
- What is the "Who Designed God?" objection to the fine-tuning argument? What is Layman's reply to it? What is your view on the matter?