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OCR AS Ethics Exam 25th May

Edit 20/5 – I have amended some of my questions as the ones I posted before were not quite right – I thought Kant hadn’t come up but he came up last year.

Well after the success of my last post in which I accurately predicted the three areas that would come up…

Actually let me burst my own bubble a bit here; as it is a new specification and there has only been one set of three questions for philosophy last year OCR would be unlikely to have questions on the same three topics again as they would want to make sure other areas of the spec were covered. So if three out the 7 topics came up last year that means I had a choice of 3 out of 4 possibilities this year, so it was pretty easy to pinpoint the general area.

If we apply the same logic to Ethics we can make these predictions:

2017: Natural Law

Kantian Ethics

Business Ethics

Thus 2018: Situation Ethics

Utilitarianism

Euthanasia

This of course comes with a massive caveat – there is no guarantee this will be the case.

So, my theoretical questions this time are:

1. To what extent does situation ethics’ lack of moral absolutes undermine moral decision-making?

2. “It is not possible to measure good or pleasure” Discuss

3. Critically examine natural law approaches to the question of euthanasia.

Have a go at doing these between now and the exam – set yourself half an hour and attempt without notes. That is a really good way of revising even if you don’t get it all in the essay, as you can then read it back with notes/textbook next to you and add in what you didn’t get.

Also don’t forget the examiners tip – don’t list everything you know in the AO1 – be specific and answer the question. And in the AO2 make sure you don’t do sweeping generalisations.

My students use a format in which they make sure that every paragraph has a back and forth between explanation, evaluation, counter evaluation and then link back to the question. For example, a paragraph for question 1 might look like this:

Fletcher emphasises the role of what he calls agape in every situation. The key question to ask being “what is the most loving thing to do in this situation?”. Fletcher’s rejection of legalism and emphasis on loving action means that the only guiding light in a moral decision should be what kind of consequences it will produce. As a consequentialist, relativist theory situation ethics is therefore open to some fairly strong challenges: for instance, what criteria do we have for deciding that one course of action is the most loving? W D Ross filled out some of the gaps here, but Fletcher’s theory is seriously lacking in detail on this point. It seems clear already from this that one of the key weak points when it comes to moral decision making is Fletcher’s emphasis on agape.

OK, good luck!

The Challenge of Secularism

To what extent is Christianity a significant contributor to society’s culture and values? To what extent should it be?

“The great world cultures, like China and India and Islam, are classical examples of a moral order. Each of them possesses or possessed a sacred law and system of values on which its social life was founded.

The Western world today no longer possesses this principle of moral order. It has become so deeply secularised that it no longer recognises any common system of spiritual values, while its philosophers have tended to isolate the moral concept from its cultural context and have attempted to create an abstract subjective system of pure ethics. If this were all, we should be forced to conclude that modern Western society does not possess a civilisation, but only a technological order resting on a moral vacuum.

But Western society inherits the tradition of one of the greatest of the civilisations in the world, and in so far as one recognises this bond we are still civilised and it is still possible to restore moral order by a return to the spiritual principles on which our Christian civilisation was based. “

Christopher Dawson, The Crisis of Western Education

Earlier in this work, Dawson defines civilisation as a super culture – and argues that it is inherent within such super cultures to have their organising principles in sacred laws and values.

Here he argues that if we follow secularising forces where they inevitably lead, we will not have a civilisation at all, as we will lack an organising system of values, and we will have or already do have, a technological order resting on a moral vacuum.

Such an order will rapidly either destroy itself or die out. Such an order is unsustainable. ‘Instrumental reason’ as Charles Taylor calls it, is the method of dominant reasoning in such a secular age, and such reasoning can be easily hijacked by the merely powerful in pursuit of their own ends.

Interestingly, Dawkins himself, scourge of believers, seems almost sympathetic to such a viewpoint in many of his writings. He talks of the comfort he feels on entering an old church and he seems to be aware of the magnitude of what was lost. However, he wants to keep such musings at a purely aesthetic level, for his world view cannot allow Christian culture to have any intellectual punch. For him, it is a lot of stories you tell to children to comfort them when they are scared or sad. He invests in the simplistic view that religion is something to be outgrown, left behind like the childhood toys of the human race, and here he follows to a degree, Freud and Marx.

Revision Strategies

So today’s philosophy AS exam was interesting…

The questions were in the three general areas that I indicated:

Ancient Greek Philosophy

Religious Experience

Ontological Argument

Of course, I did not completely nail the titles. But a question on Aristotle’s view of reality, a question on conversion experiences and a question on Kant’s view of the ontological argument was close enough.

In fact, Plato’s view of reality would have made a good contrast to Aristotle’s in the first question, and an understanding of psychological explanations of religious experience would have helped to critique conversion experience.

Ethics is next, and I hope to post some more exam tips and revision chunks on this soon.

OCR Philosophy AS Exam May 17th

Earlier I shared a video I tried to make with advice for tomorrow’s AS exam. I say tried to make because my 4 year old daughter tried to steal the show…

Exam Advice

Anyway, My key advice was from the examiner’s report last year –

  1. In the AO1 don’t just write everything you know/all the scholars you know on the general topic – knowledge must relate to the question
  2. In the AO2 don’t do sweeping generalisation or resort to assertions without justification – use arguments
  3. Perhaps be ready for questions on the topics that didn’t come up last year, so that would mean:
  • Ancient Greek Philosophical influences (Plato and Aristotle)
  • Religious Experience
  • Ontological Argument
  • Teleological Argument

I then had a stab at three possible questions along these lines:

  1. ‘Plato’s rationalism is stronger than Aristotle’s empiricism’ Discuss.
  2. Critically evaluate physiological and psychological challenges to religious experience
  3. To what extent does Anselm’s ontological argument survive the criticisms of Gaunilo?

I have no idea if these will come up but they are as good a guess as any. That first one is quite hard though, perhaps too hard.

Some thoughts: Rationalism clearly has the strength of being capable of producing logically valid arguments which are true by virtue of their own inherent logic rather than relying on possibly flawed sense-data. On the other hand, there are many areas where we rely on empirical data for knowledge, for instance whenever we make predictions about the natural world such as weather forecasts. The fact that such forecasts may be unreliable does not mean people cease to use them.

Physiological and psychological challenges: Dennett, Dawkins et al argue that these are the best explanations for religious experience. Don’t forget that there are many flaws in reductive materialism, the worldview that is usually behind such challenges. For instance, it is self-defeating, as it if it is true, people are not actually free to hold any beliefs whatever, as they are just complex lumps of meat. In that case, on materialism’s own account, there is no reason why I should take the materialists views as any more valid than anyone else’s!

Anselm I will leave to you to have a think about…

Good luck tomorrow!

Epiphaneia Archive: Envisioning Education: Parents as Partners or Primary?

The Scholars Blog

by Todd Wedel

At times visual media gives insight into the dominant symbols of a position or issue, helping us to see the meanings behind the debate. So it is with the contrasting visions of education embodied in Common Core and The Academy, seen clearly in two videos, one advocating Common Core (see below) and The Academy’s Expectations video (see second video below).

Though cast as something new, the Common Core standards are nothing more than another iteration of the progressive approach to education. While an emphasis on critical thinking and written expression might seem new, the telos, or end, remains the same as that first propounded by men such as John Dewey and William James who viewed students as units of production to further the economic and social progress of society. The “new” emphases come not from a renewed understanding of the holistic nature of education but from…

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Old Spec Philosophy of Religion AS predictions 2017

Here we go, at last I have caved to pressure after weeks of people asking for predictions for the old spec AS exams – I almost expected people to start knocking on my door and asking me to do this! Sorry about the wait! Yes, they are similar to a certain other blogger’s predictions – we often have similar guesses, because it usually possible to see where there have been gaps in previous years which makes prediction easier. As usual the disclaimer: These are by no means bound to come up and you only have yourself to blame if you only revise these and none of the topics come up!

 

1 a) Explain the relationship between concepts and phenomena in Plato’s thought

b) ‘Plato’s theory of Forms is unnecessary – the world makes more sense without it’ Discuss

 

2 a) Explain Hume’s criticisms of the cosmological argument

b) To what extent was Hume successful in his critique of the cosmological argument?

 

3 a) Explain how the Bible shows God as craftsman involved with his creation

b) ‘It is impossible for God to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent’ Discuss

 

4 a) Explain theistic views of evolution

b) To what extent is evolution compatible with theism?

 

1a has not come up as a question but it is on the spec – I will post more on that. Question 2 I have lots on Hume and cosmolgical argument on the site – see these old posts here and here. God as creator with this emphasis has not come up before. Science and Religion could well come up too.

MYSTICISM: Message To Poets, by Thomas Merton

For the poets

The Value of Sparrows

(NOTE: This message was read at a meeting of the “new” Latin-American poets – and a few young North Americans – Mexico City, February 1964.  This was not a highly organized and well-financed international congress, but a spontaneous and inspired meeting of young poets from all over the hemisphere, most of whom could barely afford to be there.  One, for instance, sold her piano to make the trip from Peru.)

We who are poets know that the reason for a poem is not discovered until the poem itself exists.  The reason for a living act is realized only in the act itself.  This meeting is a spontaneous explosion of hopes.  That is why it is a venture in prophetic poverty, supported and financed by no foundation, organized and publicized by no official group, but a living expression of the belief that there are now in our world new people, new poets who…

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