Some Questions and Answers

The following questions and answers were prepared in response to Essay Questions that formed part of the Pathways to Philosophy programs I have taken.    

  1. Explore the use of 'possible worlds' in philosophy, illustrating your argument with an example of a problem that involves the notion of possible worlds.
  2. Are possible worlds really 'real'?
  3. Examine the claims that freedom of the will is incompatible with determinism, and also incompatible with indeterminism.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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 a soul?
  7. Assess the significance of philosophical scepticism.
  8. '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.
  9. How do you know that the author of these words has a mind?
  10. Explore some of the issues surrounding the attribution of consciousness to machines and to non-human animals.
  11. 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.
  12. 'What thought experiments concerning body-duplication show is that the concept of personal IDENTITY is ultimately dispensable.' - Discuss.
  13. '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.
  14. Critically 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?
  15. 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?
  16. What are values? Where do they come from? How are values integrated to form a 'unique valuational perspective'?
  17. Why must others count in my deliberations?
  18. 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'?