The Good Life (Fall 2012) - First Exam

The Good Life - First Exam

*Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer three (3) questions. All key terms, theories, and named objections must be explained. You have 1,800 words. (There is a 1,500 word minimum.)

Answer question 1. (Frankl)

1. Evaluate Frankl's suggestion that we can discover meaning through the way in which we respond to suffering. What kind of meaning is he talking about? Does Frankl offer a version of the Pointless Existence Argument in regard to unavoidable suffering? Is he right? Does his solution work?

(This question requires evaluation. You must explain Frankl's theory. Explain the role of super-meaning. You should discuss the example of the medical ape.)

Answer one question from 2 and 3. (Craig and Nagel)

2. Evaluate Craig's claim that "If life ends in the grave, then it makes no difference whether one has lived as a Stalin or as a saint" (p.5). Why does he think this? Is he right?

(This question requires evaluation.)

3. Evaluate Nagel's claim that irony is the appropriate reaction to the absurdity of life. What does he mean by absurdity? Is life really absurd according to this account? Nagel notes that "The fact that we take aspirin without waiting for an answer to the last question [e.g., why does our pain matter at all?], does not show that it is an unreal question" (p.149). Is he right? Why or why not? What does he mean by a "real question"? Does he think that the justification of our evaluative beliefs requires the complete elimination of the possibility of doubt? If so, is this plausible?

(This question requires evaluation.)

Answer question 4. (Wielenberg)

4. Evaluate Wielenberg's theory of the meaning of life.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain Wielenberg's theory. You should say why it is superior to subjectivist theories. Explain his test for what makes an activity intrinsically valuable. Do the things on his list pass? If not, is this a problem for the items or the theory?)

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 or for textual evidence to support an interpretation of a story or a complex argument.

Due Date

Thursday 10/18/2012


The exam should be in total 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. (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 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. You do not need to start a new page. Include the number of the question at the start of each answer. Do not copy the questions.

If you have citations, include a reference list on the final page. You can use whatever citation format you prefer.


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 answers. 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.

*If you are unable to submit the paper to Safe Assign due to technical difficulties, you must send an email to the helpdesk <> explaining the problem. Make sure to CC me. If this happens, send me a copy of your paper as an attachment. Note: I will not accept your paper if you don't report the problem to the helpdesk.

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, you must read three documents under the writing section of Blackboard: 1. Writing Tip Sheet, 2. General Instructions, and 3. Pryor's "How to Write a Philosophy Paper."