Philosophy Exam – April 12 GYM A/B 5-7
Philosophy of Religion
1.Explain what is meant by the traditional western idea that God is omniscient,
omnipotent, and perfectly benevolent.
Omniscient: God, if he exists, must know a great deal about the world he has created.
Now it is usually said that God is omniscient that he knows everything.
Omnipotent: If you are prepared to say that God is not wholly good, or not quite
omnipotent, or that evil does not exist, or that good is not opposed to the kind of evil that
exists, or that there are limits to what an omnipotent thing can do, then the problem of
evil will not arise for you. Having unlimited power; able to do anything.
Perfectly Benevolent: The problem is essentially similar to that of a man who builds a
cage for some pet animal. Since our world, in fact, contains sources of hard-ship,
inconvenience, and danger of innumerable kinds, the conclusion follows that this world
cannot have been created by a perfectly benevolent and all- powerful deity. well-meaning
a posteriori: (Latin) Literally meaning, “after (any specific)) experience”. Any and all
of the knowledge that is gained through an/that experience or empirical means is said to
be known as a posteriori. NOTE: This term can be considered the opposite of a priori.
a priori: Literally meaning, “before (any specific) experience”. Any knowledge which
is known to be true without appeal to empirical means is said to be a priori; alternately,
“true in all possible worlds”. Immanual Kant’s famous example is “2 + 2 = 4″. It is
generally conceeded that only statements of pure mathematics or logic might be
considered a priori. Contrast with a posteriori.
Empirical means: Empirical knowledge also known as posteriori knowledge is
propositional knowledge that is obtained through experience. We also have a priori
knowledge which is gained through pure reason, or non experiential sources. Social
sciences are posteriori disciplines while maths and logic are priori disciplines.
2. What is the paradox of omnipotence?
The omnipotence paradox is a family of related paradoxes that address this question: Is
the existence of an omnipotent (God or God-like) entity logically possible? The paradox
says that if a being can perform any action, then that being should be able to create a task
it is unable to perform, therefore, it cannot perform all actions. Yet, on the other hand, if
that being cannot create a task it is unable to perform, then there exists something it
Example: One version of the omnipotence paradox is the so-called paradox of the stone:
"Could an omnipotent being create a stone so heavy that even that being could not lift it?"
If so, then it seems that the being could cease to be omnipotent; if not, it seems that the
being was not omnipotent to begin with.  Answers to the paradox include that since God is supposedly omnipotent, the phrase
"could not lift" does not make sense and the paradox is meaningless, and that logical
impossibilities do not fall under the omnipotence of God. The omnipotence paradox is
related to the problem of free will, because an omnipotent being should have the ability to
freely choose to alter any laws that might hinder omnipotence.
3. What are the general features of the Cosmological Argument? See Page 26
Argument for the existence of God that holds (1) every being is either a dependent being
or a self- existent being; (2) not every being can be a dependent being; (3) therefore, there
exists a self- existent being, who is God.
4. What is the Principle of Sufficient Reason? How is it relevant to Clarke’s
cosmological argument? Give Clark’s cosmological argument, and critically
comment on it.
The Principle of Sufficient Reason: For everything that happens there must be a
sufficient reason for its happening and not some other thing.
Relevance to Clarke’s cosmological argument: For even if it succeeded in showing that
a self- existent being would have the other attributes of the theistic God, the
Cosmological Argument would still not provide us with good rational grounds for be-lief
in God, having failed in its first part to provide us with good rational grounds for
believing that there is a self- existent being.
6. Explain why the Argument from Design (Teleological argument) must use
analogical reasoning. What critical questions must we raise about the Argument
Some phenomena within nature exhibit such exquisiteness of structure, function or
interconnectedness that many people have found it natural—to see a deliberative and
directive mind (aka God) behind those phenomena. In other words nature and life is
sometimes so beautiful that we as humans can not believe they are beautiful by accident,
there must be some sort of God who shaped all of these things with a final beautiful
vision in his mind. The mind (aka god), being prior to nature itself, is typically taken to
be supernatural. Philosophically inclined thinkers have both historically and at present
labored to shape the relevant intuition into a more formal, logically rigorous inference.
The resultant theistic arguments, in their various logical forms, share a focus on plan, purpose, intention and design, and are thus classified as teleological arguments (or,
frequently, as arguments from or to design).
An analogy is a comparison between two objects, or systems of objects, that highlights
respects in which they are thought to be similar. Analogical reasoning is any type of
thinking that relies upon an analogy.
Thus, analogical reasoning is necessary in teleological arguments because it needs to
show that God or a higher supernatural being can relate to the system of nature, they are
both intertwined as a result of god shaping the systems on nature in his mind.
7. Explain what is meant by a teleological system. Is it reasonable to believe that the
world is a teleological system?
In the Teleological Argument a somewhat more complicated fact about the world serves
as a starting point, the fact that the world exhibits order and design.
Inductive argument for the existence of God that cites purported examples of design in
nature as proof for the existence of a designer who is God. (Also called argument from
Cosmological argument one starts from some simple fact about the world, such as the
fact that it contains things, which are caused to exist by other things.
In the Ontological argument, however, one begins simply with a concept of God.
8. What, if anything, is the relevance of the Darwinian theory of natural selection to
the Argument from Design? Does that theory, if true, show that the world is not the
product of design?
Briefing on natural selection: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_25
Theory of natural selection shows that god doesn't exist, that is it's relevance to the
argument from design. If the theory of natural selection is true then it shows that nature
controls itself through natural processes, what occurs within nature is not the will of any
sort of God.
What is Anselm’s distinction between existence in the understanding and existence
The first of these is his distinction between existence in the understanding and existence
in reality. Anselm’s notion of existence in reality is the same as our notion of existence;
that is, being on the left side of our imaginary line. Since the Fountain of Youth is on the
right side of the line, it does not exist in reality. The things, which exist, are, to use
Anselm’s phrase, the things, which exist in reality. Anselm’s notion of existence in the
understanding, however, is not the same as any idea we normally employ. When we think
of a certain thing, say the Fountain of Youth, then that thing, on Anselm’s view, exists in
the understanding. 10. What does Anselm mean by the claim that it is conceivable that something
exists? Are there any things that are such that is not conceivable?
Proslogium, Anselm undertakes to prove that among those beings, which exist, there is
one which is not just the greatest among existing beings, but is such that no conceivable
being is greater. We need to distinguish these two ideas: (1) a being than which no
existing being is greater, and ( 2) a being than which no conceivable being is greater.
Using Anselm’s distinction between existence in the understanding and existence in
reality, we may express the key idea in Anselm’s reasoning as follows: If something
exists only in the understanding but might have existed in reality, then it might have been
greater than it is.
11. What is Gaunilo’s objection to Anselm’s Ontological Argument? What answer
could Anselm give to this objection?
In defense of Anselm against Gaunilo’s objection, there are two difficulties in applying
Anselm’s reasoning to things like Gaunilo’s island. The first derives from the fact that
Anselm’s principle that existence is a great- making quality was taken to mean that if
something does not exist then it is not as great a thing (being) as it would have been had
A second difficulty in applying Anselm’s reasoning to Gaunilo’s island is that we must
accept the premise that Gaunilo’s island is a possible thing. But this seems to require us
to believe that some finite, limited thing (an island) might have unlimited perfections. It
is not at all clear that this is possible.
12. What three traditional objections to the Ontological Argument does Rowe
1. God exists in the understanding. As we have noted, anyone who hears of the being
than which none greater is possible is, on Anselm’s view, committed to premise ( 1).
2. God might have existed in reality (God is a possible being). Anselm, I think, assumes
the truth of ( 2) without making it explicit in his reasoning. By asserting ( 2) I do not
mean to imply that God does not exist in reality, but that, unlike the round square, God is
a possible being.
3. If something exists only in the understanding and might have existed in reality, then it
might have been greater than it is.
13. Explain the objection that the Ontological Argument begs the question.
Ontological arguments are arguments, for the conclusion that God exists, from premises
which are supposed to derive from some source other than observation of the world—
e.g., from reason alone. In other words, ontological arguments are arguments from
nothing but analytic, a priori and necessary premises to the conclusion that God exists.
14. What is the problem of evil? Why have various philosophers supposed that it
constitutes a problem of theism? Problem of Evil: posed for theists: If God is all- good, omnipotent, and omniscient, how
can his existence be compatible with the existence of evil?
As a challenge to theism, the problem of evil has traditionally been posed in the form of a
dilemma: if God is perfectly loving, he must wish to abolish evil; and if he is all
powerful, he must be able to abolish evil. But evil exists; therefore God cannot be both
omnipotent and perfectly loving. Certain solutions, which at once suggest them-selves,
have to be ruled out so far as the Judaic- Christian faith is concerned.
15. How does Mackie describe the Problem of Evil?
The problem of evil, in the sense in which I shall be using the phrase, is a problem only
for someone who believes that there is a God who is both omnipotent and wholly good.
And it is a logical problem, the problem of clarifying and reconciling a number of beliefs:
it is not a scientific problem that might be solved by further observations, or a practical
problem that might be solved by a decision or an action.
Mackie claims that the idea of an all- powerful, all- knowing, and all- good God is
logically incoherent, given the existence of evil in our world. Logically speaking, claims
Mackie, a perfect God is one who is (among other things) able and willing to eradicate
evil. Since evil exists, God either does not exist, or does, but is not perfect. In short, the
very idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good God logically requires that
any such being eliminate evil. So it is logically incoherent to suppose that a perfect God
can coexist with evil. – page 28
16. Explain three of the solutions to the problem of Evil that Mackie argues are
inadequate. Why does he hold that they are inadequate?
A number of adequate solutions of the problem of evil, and some of these have been
adopted, or almost adopted, by various thinkers.
1. “ Good cannot exist without evil” or “ Evil is necessary as a counterpart to good.”
2. “ Evil is necessary as a means to good.”
3. “ The universe is better with some evil in it than it could be if there were no evil.”
4. “ Evil is due to human free will.”
17. What is Pascal’s wager? Outline Pascal’s argument.
The argument that it is in one's own best interest to behave as if God exists, since the
possibility of eternal punishment in hell outweighs any advantage of believing otherwise.
18. What are two serious objections to Pascal’s argument.
The Argument from Superdominance: Pascal maintains that we are incapable of knowing
whether God exists or not, yet we must “wager” one way or the other. Reason cannot
settle which way we should incline, but a consideration of the relevant outcomes
The Argument from Expectation: Pascal has now made two striking assumptions:(1) The probability of God's existence is 1/2. (2) Wagering for God brings infinite reward if God
19. What is the difference between Epistemic and Prudential rationality? How is
this distinction employed in Pascal’s Wager?
Epistemic rationality: believing, and updating on evidence, so as to systematically
improve the correspondence between your map and the territory. The art of obtaining
beliefs that correspond to reality as closely as possible. This correspondence is
commonly termed "truth" or "accuracy", and we're happy to call it that.
20. What is Clifford’s view of belief?
Cliffor's view of belief is that it is immoral to either form a new belief without sufficient
evidence, or to sustain an existing belief by deliberately ignoring any doubts that the
belief may be false and thereby avoiding honest investigation.
21. On what grounds does Clifford maintain that it is wrong to believe without
sufficient evidence? Discuss his four main arguments.
The first main point that Clifford critiques is the "wicked" belief in eternal damnation,
and so far as concerns the second point, it is the dissent from common morality that is
encouraged by the church. Clifford advises to Christians: "Come out of her, my people,
that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not her plagues." This sounds
extreme but recent examples such as 9/11 and the sexual abuse scandals in the church
have led to emotional pleas for dissent from religion not unsimilar to that of Clifford with
Belgian Catholics writing letters to their bishop to be "de-baptized".
The example Clifford uses to illustrate the ethics of belief is well-known. A ship
owner allows a vessel badly in need of repairs to nonetheless go out to sea. The owner
dismisses from his mind any doubts as to its seaworthiness. The ship, laden with
passengers, goes down in mid-ocean, killing all aboard. (p.73) Clifford holds the owner
morally culpable and would be so even if the ship had not sunk: he has failed to meet the
normal requirements of good judgment. This is not just a private matter but a failure in
the person's powers of self-control: what determines the owner's beliefs are simply how it
feels to him (good, since he will benefit financially from not doing repairs) and not the
evidence and this furthermore has knock-on effects on society to the extent that such
action is imitated by others. Clifford concludes that it is "sinful" to hold a belief not supported by the
evidence. Much of the subsequent debate focuses on the grounds for this, what is termed
It is a useful study but more as giving a first summary of the issues and the
debates associated with it, rather than an in-depth argument for his own take on it. The
virtue approach, for example, calls for careful analysis of the shortcomings of ethics of
the ancient Greeks in response to a normative monocultural context and the response of
later commentators, for example Aquinas who asked, at the beginning of the process of
secularization of European thought, for the justification of making moral effort in
cultivating the virtues. This in turn leads to questions regarding the source of our ultimate
commitments, and the focus on "belief in" rather than "belief that", the former answering
to the larger question about how to live our lives, of which the latter question, what to
believe, is a sub-section. What is missed in Madigan is this properly religious context for
the question of the ethics of belief, questions as Karen Armstrong argue are issues
of mythos rather than logos. For apart from this latter kind of knowledge there is, for
example, that of our own capacities to be self-critical. In thinking of the latter as only the
"precondition of belief-formation" rather than qualifying as an item of possible
knowledge itself (p.83) Clifford seems to put an arbitrary barrier to the scope of rational
inquiry. By bringing in such a wide range of commentators Madigan goes some way
toward unpacking what is involved in critically