Philosophy of Religion (Spring 2012) - Second Exam

Philosophy of Religion (S12) - Lateterm Exam

*Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer three (3) questions.  All key terms, theories, and named objections must be explained.

Answer one question from 1-2.  (The Cosmological Argument)

1. Evaluate the Infinite Number Objection to the First-Cause Argument for the existence of God.
(This question requires evaluation.  Suggested plan: Explain the argument.  What does it purport to show? Explain the Infinite Number Objection.  Then evaluate the objection.  Is there a good reply?)

2.  Evaluate the Argument from Contingency for the existence of God. You must evaluate the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR).
(This question requires evaluation. Suggested plan: Explain the argument. What does it purport to show? What role does the PSR play?  Should we believe the PSR? Why or why not?)

Answer one question from 3-4.  (The Teleological Argument)

3.  Explain Philo's objection to the teleological argument in Part V of Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.
(This question does not ask for evaluation.  Suggested plan: Explain the teleological argument. Then explain Philo's objection. What might we infer from nature about the creator?  How is this a problem for the teleological argument?)

4.  Evaluate one of the ways in which Philo thinks the world could be better.
  (This question requires evaluation. Suggested plan: Explain one of Philo's suggestions for improvement. Explain how it would be a problem for the teleological argument if he is right.  Then evaluate his suggestion. You should consider a problem for the suggestion.  Note: do not try to cover all of his suggestions.  Just discuss one.)

Answer one question from 5-6. (The Problem of Evil)

5.  Explain Mackie's response to the free will solution to the problem of evil.
(This question does not require evaluation.  Suggested plan: Explain the problem of evil.  Then explain the free will solution in detail. Then explain Mackie's response.  Why does he think the standard free will solution fails?)

6. Explain Plantinga's solution to the logical problem of evil.
(This question does not require evaluation. Suggested plan: Explain the logical problem of evil. Then explain Plantinga's solution. How does the value of freedom help explain evil? Why might Mackie's proposal have been unavailable to God?)

Note: In order to evaluate an argument, you need to build up the argument before showing where it might go wrong.  To build up an argument, you must do more than merely offer a formalization.  You must explain the argument.  Typically, showing where an argument goes wrong will require arguing that one of the premises is false.  Be sure to consider obvious, compelling replies to your objections.  If you think an argument is good, then you will need to defend it against the strongest objections that you can think of.

Note: Keep quotations to an absolute minimum.  Never use a quotation to speak for you.  The only quotations in your exam should be of formalizations.

Note: Copying the formalization from the handouts will not suffice.  You must explain the arguments.

Due Date
Thursday 4/12/2012

Length
The complete exam should be no more than 1,800 words.  This is approximately 6 pages double-spaced with Arial 12 point font. (The exam should be no less than 1,500 words.)

Format
The exam must be typed.  It should be double spaced.  It should have one inch margins. You should use a 12 point font.  I prefer Arial, since it is easy to read.  Please follow the general paper and exam instructions under the "course documents / writing" section on Blackboard.

Write a separate short essay for each answer.  Do NOT try to answer all the questions in a single essay.  Formal introductions and conclusions are unnecessary. You must use paragraphs.  

Please skip a line or two between your answers.  Include the question number at the start of each answer.  Do not copy the questions.  

Goal
You don't have much space, so you will need to be clear and to the point.  Clarity should be your chief goal in writing the midterm.  Pick your words carefully.  Write to be understood.  Assume that you are writing the paper to be read by someone completely unfamiliar with the issues.

I want you to explain the theories and objections as clearly as you can within the space allotted.  I do not want papers that are longer than the word limit.  The space limitation is designed to force you to practice verbal economy.  That said, it is impossible to write a set of adequate answers in much less than the allocated space.  You'll have to use most of the space, and use it well.

Procedure
You are required to hand in a paper copy at the start of class on the due date.  In addition you must submit the midterm through Safe Assign via Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the due date.  (11:59 pm is after class, not to be confused with the night before.)  Safe Assign is a plagiarism detection tool.  It will compare your paper against others available online, in journals, submitted in this class, RIC, and from all other universities that use the software.

Note: Plagiarism will result in a failing grade in the class, not just on this assignment.

Grading
Your paper should be clearly written, well-structured, and free of grammatical and spelling errors.  It is practically impossible to get higher than a C if you start writing the night before the paper is due.  The grading scale is as follows:   
A = excellent
B = good
C = meets minimal expectations
D = bad
F = awful

Resources
Before writing this paper you must read several documents under the writing section of Blackboard.  Read the following: 1. Writing Tip Sheet, 2. General Instructions, and 3. Pryor's "Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers".  *The last document is the most important.