Pick three of the following questions to answer:
1. Give an account of the ontological argument for the existence of God as well as Kant’s critique of it. Do you think this argument is really sound? Or is Kant’s critique of it correct? Is it possible that the argument merely explicates the meaning of God without really proving that he indeed exists? Or is necessary existence a peculiar property, which perhaps only God has, so that he must exist? Give reasons for holding your view.
2. Give an account of the cosmological argument for the existence of God in its three forms. Do you find this argument convincing or not? What does it tell us about the kind of explanation of the universe which human beings find most satisfying but which natural scientific explanation fails to provide? Is our psychological need for such an explanation a good enough reason for accepting it? Give reasons for holding your view.
3. Give an account of the teleological argument for the existence of God. Just how convincing do you find this argument from analogy? What is the problem of evil and do you think it is a serious objection to the argument? Why does a theodicy seem to be necessary if we accept the existence of a perfect, all-powerful and absolutely good God? What do you think of Dostoevsky’s more existential presentation of the problem of evil and his rebellion against God’s higher harmony if the price is the suffering of innocent children.? Give reasons for holding your view.
4. Give an account of the critique of religion by Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. Do you think they are right to regard religion primarily as an obstacle to man’s self-determination and self-realization? Or can religion also work in exactly the opposite way which these atheistic thinkers claim? Should we liberate ourselves from dependence on God in order to fulfill our human potential or not? Give reasons for holding your view.
5. Give an account of Plato’s myth of the cave and explain its philosophical meaning. Be sure to include in this account his theory of the universal ideal forms as the patterns for the particular objects presented to our senses. Why does he think that the ideal forms are real and the sensory objects are illusory? Why does he think that all knowledge of universals is due to recollection? Are you convinced that he is right that our knowledge of universals must be innate? Why or why not? Give reasons for holding your view.
6. Give an account of Aristotle’s theory of essences, and how to grasp the essence of a thing, by examining a paradigm case, which excels at expressing it, rather than getting at the characteristics which all members of a type have in common. Why does he see the essence as defined by its telos or function? Take the definition of man by specific difference as being a rational animal and a political animal and spell out the elitist implications of it, which allowed Aristotle to exclude women and enslaved people from citizenship, due supposedly to their lack of rational capacity rather than their lacking the opportunity to excel. What do you think of this? Give reasons for holding your view.
7. Give an account of Descartes’ negative method of hyperbolic doubt and his positive method of rebuilding the house of knowledge upon a firm foundation. Do you think he is right that when we have a clear and distinct rational intuition that an assertion must be true and could not possibly be false, we can be absolutely sure that it is indeed true? How does he regard truth and why is certainty so important to him? Is he right to think that even if there were an “evil genius” out to deceive him, he can be certain that “I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time I pronounce it, or that I mentally conceive it”. Why or why not? Give reasons for holding your view.
8. Give an account of the philosophies of Spinoza and Leibnitz by answering the six metaphysical questions on page 117 for both thinkers and giving the supporting reasons they give for each one of their answers. What do they have in common, which makes them rationalists? What do you think of their respective embracing of determinism and rejecting freedom of choice as illusory? Do you think that the wisdom of Spinoza with its stoic resignation in the face of the inevitable or the wisdom of Leibniz with its ecstatic reconciliation with what must be the “best of all possible worlds” has more in its favor? Which of these two philosophers do you tend to agree with most? Why? Give reasons for holding your view.
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