Some Questions and Answers
The following questions and answers were prepared in response to Essay
Questions that formed part of the
to Philosophy programs I have taken.
- Explore the use of 'possible worlds' in philosophy, illustrating your
argument with an example of a problem that involves the notion of possible
- Are possible worlds really 'real'?
- Examine the claims that freedom of the will is incompatible with
determinism, and also incompatible with indeterminism.
- In the light of the critique of 'free will', can blame and punishment
ever be rationally justified? Consider hard cases, such as brainwashing, crimes
of passion, the influence of drugs, medical or psychological conditions etc.
- What difficulties stand in the way of a materialist view of the mind,
according to which thoughts, feelings and sensations are ultimately nothing more
than processes in the brain?
- The philosopher Hume remarked that when he looked into himself, he
never succeeded in catching sight of his "Self', but only of particular
thoughts, feelings and perceptions. Is that a valid argument against the idea of
- Assess the significance of philosophical scepticism.
- 'In view of advice from the philosophical think-tank formed last year from six
eminent professors, we shall be introducing legislation to ban the use of the
verb "To know" and its derivatives from all official documents.' -
Comment on this imaginary extract from the Queen's
speech at the opening of Parliament.
- How do you know that the author of these words has a mind?
- Explore some of the issues surrounding the attribution
of consciousness to machines and to non-human animals.
- Imagine you are
Michael Harding. As you lie injured on the road, you are told that a brain
scanner is going to be used to map your memories and personality, and the
information used to program the brain of a new body cloned from one of your
own cells. The moment the new 'you' gains consciousness, the old 'you' will be
painlessly destroyed. How do you feel about that
prospect? - Justify your answer by reference to one of the competing
philosophical accounts of the relation between mind and body.
- 'What thought experiments concerning body-duplication
show is that the concept of personal IDENTITY is ultimately dispensable.' -
- 'It is plain that what different societies view as moral or immoral - as ethically
right or wrong - has differed greatly at various times and various places. It
is therefore futile to seek for a rational, objective basis for moral
judgements.' - Comment on this claim.
examine the fatalist view, according to which statements about the future
have a definite truth value now. Compare the theory of fatalism with the thesis of determinism. Is there any
way that one could consistently hold a determinist view while denying
fatalism, or hold a fatalist view while denying determinism?
- What is
matter? Does the physicist's account of the nature of matter have a
significant role to play in the philosophical dispute between the materialist
and the immaterialist?
- What are
values? Where do they come from? How are values integrated to form a
'unique valuational perspective'?
- Why must
others count in my deliberations?
- Compare and
contrast the way moral and non-moral judgements exhibit the 'characteristic
marks of truth'. What is the significance of that result for the claim
that 'moral judgements are objective, not subjective'?