Philosophy of Religion (Summer I 2012) - First Exam

The Philosophy of Religion [God(s)] - First Exam (S12)

*Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

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

Answer question 1. Omnipotence

1. Is the denial of the Control Thesis (CT) compatible with God's omnipotence according to the Thomistic Account of Omnipotence (TAO)? Why or why not?

(Either way, you must explain why one might think that a rejection of CT is incompatible with God's omnipotence according to the TAO. What might be the problem? What does the TAO say that God can do? What does the CT say that God cannot do? To answer this question, you must explain both the CT and the TAO. You should not try to explain Wielenberg's argument against CT.)

Answer question 2. Omniscience

2. Explain Pike's objection to Augustine's solution to the Problem of Divine Foreknowledge.

(This question does not ask for evaluation. Be as clear and concrete as possible. Do not copy the formalization. You should begin by explaining the general problem of divine foreknowledge. Then explain Augustine's solution. Then explain Pike's argument. Make it clear how his argument raises a problem for Augustine's solution. The key question to consider is this: How is God's foreknowledge different from Joe Schmoe's? According to Pike, what is it about God that makes all the difference?)

Answer one question from 3-4. God and Morality

3. Evaluate Wielenberg's Contest for Omnipotence Objection to the Control Thesis (CT).

(This question requires evaluation. Explain CT. Then explain the objection as clearly as you can. Finally, evaluate the objection. Does it assume what it is trying to prove? Why or why not?)

4. Explain the Command Failure Argument against the Karamozov Thesis (KT).

(This question does not ask for evaluation. Explain KT. Suggest why one might think it true. Then explain Wielenberg's argument. You need to explain what properties a command must have in order to successfully create an obligation. Given this, explain how a reasonable atheist might pose a problem for the KT.)

Note: In order to evaluate a theory, you must first explain the theory. If you are evaluating an argument, you need to build up the argument and then show 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.

Due Date

Monday 6/04/2012


The complete exam should be no more than 2,100 words. This is approximately 7 pages double-spaced with Arial 12 point font. The exam should be no less than 1,500 words. (I will deduct a letter grade for every 300 words shy of the minimum.)


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, though 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.


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 exam. 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.


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.


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


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.