DCT exam 2018 part 3

The previous post included a possible question for the Augustine topic, and a link to my mind map on the pre and post-lapsarian will (pre and post Fall).

Some things to bear in mind when looking at how Original Sin corrupts humans and societies:

  • The will is key to it in Augustine. The will is seen as love, love of self and love of neighbour. Before the Fall these are in harmony.
  • These are respectively, cupiditas and caritas. They can work together in the friendship of Adam and Eve before the Fall. No lust or concupiscence has entered into that relationship and brought about strife and conflict.
  • The will orients itself in friendship as a cohesive force over soul and body – there is no division in the will in the garden of Eden.
  • After the Fall pride drives itself as a wedge between caritas and cupiditas such that there is now a division in the will. Human beings begin to experience a conflict between their own desires and what should be accorded to others.
  • Pride is both the sin of Adam and the sin of the fallen angels (chiefly Lucifer). Now true friendship is only possible by putting Christ first, then love for neighbour is generous, forgiving and removed from cupiditas.
  • So Christ is the remedy for the weakened will.

Next post: Knowledge of God’s Existence question.

OCR AS DCT Exam June 2018 Part 2

In this post I want to look at some elements of Augustine’s view of human nature, as we identified in part 1 that this topic is likely to come up in the DCT exam.

I did previously write an answer to the questionTo what extent has Augustine’s teaching on human nature caused more harm than good?’ Click on the link to have a read of it. It may not be exactly how you would answer a question in the exam, but it should provide food for thought on this topic.

In this answer I reject the idea that Augustine has been responsible for the guilt and sexual hang-ups of people in the West. I also consider other accusations against Augustine such as his ideas on women being responsible (his ideas being responsible!) for gender inequality and patriarchal structures, or that these patriarchal structures have caused Western Imperialism and conflict. These are obviously fairly heavy charges to lay at the feet of one man! Augustine was influential on Christian thought however, so it is possible that he contributed to these things, but only if you consider that these things are attributable to Christianity rather than, say, industrial capitalist societies.

Let’s consider a different question:

Critically examine Augustine’s view that human nature and societies are corrupted by Original Sin.

Have a look at this mind map then try and write a timed essay as revision on this topic.

 

 

 

OCR AS DCT Exam June 2018 part 1

I hope today’s Ethics exam went well for all of you. My year 12 students were quite happy with the questions – they fell into the same pattern of being on the three subjects that hadn’t come up last year again, so that was good. Plus 2 of them were fairly general questions – critically examine Utilitarian theories, and evaluate responses to voluntary euthanasia (or something along those lines), while the third was about the concept of agape in situation ethics.

If you look at my post here I actually write a paragraph evaluating the concept of agape in my prediction for today’s exam! Am I some kind of wizard or what!

My next task is to see what I can do on the development of Christian thought topic.

So last year there were questions on universalism in Death and the Afterlife, Jesus’ teaching in The Person of Jesus, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s teaching on civil disobedience in Christian Moral Action.

Therefore it is likely that we will see questions on Augustine, Knowledge of God’s Existence and Christian Moral Principles.

In my next post I will outline in more detail some areas to look at and try and do some more exemplar work for this. I’ll also look at the examiner’s report from last year and give some advice.

The Challenge of Secularism

One of the key areas in the A2 Development of Christian Thought is the question of Christianity’s contribution to society’s culture and values. Not only to what extent it has contributed but also to what extent it should contribute. These are two different questions. Many secularists would agree that it has contributed significantly to society’s culture and values in the past but disagree that it should continue to do so in the future.

Christopher Dawson whose theories I examine below said “a culture which has lost its spiritual roots is a dying culture, however prosperous it may appear externally” – he called this the ‘central conviction’ of all his work, and he argues most forcefully for it in The Crisis of Western Education. Joseph Ratzinger also points to the religious connotations of the word ‘culture’, which has its roots in the word ‘cultus’ meaning cultivation or worship. He argues that the West is undergoing an attempt to divorce culture from cultus which leads to dangerous forms of rationality which devalue the human person.

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.

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!

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!