Possible Essay Questions for the Final Exam
Philosophy of Religion, Spring 2015

The final exam will be Tuesday April 28 at 10:45 a.m. in the philosophy conference room. The essays will be the main portion of the exam, but there will also be a section of short answers, so please make sure that you are familiar with all the material we covered in class since the second exam, even that which isn't part of the essays. Please make sure to bring a blue book.

Each of these essays is designed to give you the opportunity to demonstrate to me how well you understand the class material. In order to do this, imagine that you are trying to explain the subject to your intelligent, but ignorant, roommate. That is, state things clearly enough, explaining any technical terminology, offering examples where they are needed for illustration, and expanding on any cryptic or compressed remarks, so that a person not already familiar with the material would understand what you mean. By doing this, you'll show me that you understand what you're talking about. However, since time is limited, don't go off into irrelevant areas or offer information that is not needed to answer the question; don't pad.

In each of the essays below, I give a number of points that I want you to touch upon. However, please do not simply answer them one-by-one, in a disconnected, "bullet-point," manner. Incorporate your discussion of each of the points within a continuous, coherent, flowing essay on the topic. The parts of the essay do not necessarily need to be treated in the order in which I mention them.

To prepare for the exam, work through the answers to the following essay questions. A good way to do philosophy is to talk about it with other people, so studying with others in the class may be useful. Out of the following essay questions, you will have to write on two. (either 2 out of three, or 1 each out of two groups of two).

  1. Is death annihilation? Explain the arguments of the Epicureans (as discussed in class) and of Hume for why death is annihilation, the argument of Clarke from God's justice and goodness for why there is an afterlife, and how Hume criticizes that argument. Then do one of the following: (1) Evaluate the Epicurean and Humean arguments, explaining why you find themc ogent or not. (2) Evaluate Clarke's argument and Hume's objection to it, explaining which you find more convincing and why.
  2. If death is annihilation, is it bad? Explain the arguments that Epicurus and Lucretius give for why death isn't bad and why we shouldn't fear it. Then explain Nagel's arguments for why death is bad, and how these arguments are supposed to respond to the points of Epicurus and Lucretius. Whose position (if either) do you find most convincing, and why?
  3. Inclusivism and pluralism. According to Rahner, in what sense is there salvation outside of Christianity? In what sense isn't there? Why does he think this? (Along the way, explain what an "anonymous Christian" is, according to Rahner, and why they exist.) How does Hick criticize the 'inclusivist' position? According to Hick, what do (almost) all religions have in common? And how can competing religions, with apparently inconsistent claims, all be true? Then do ONE of the following: (1) Evaluate Hick's criticisms of Rahner. (2) Do you think Hick is right that apparently inconsistent religions can all be true? Why or why not?
  4. Plantinga vs. Hick Plantinga argues that it is not self-servingly arbitrary or arrogant for a religious believer to think that his beliefs are true and those of other (when they are inconsistent with his) are false. He also thinks that pluralists (like Hick) who charge the exclusivist with being arrogant refute themselves. Explain his reasons for thinking this. Plantinga also thinks that the (supposed) fact that I would have had different religious beliefs than I do if I had been born elsewhere is no grounds for thinking that my beliefs are unjustified, and that pluralist arguments otherwise refute themselves. Explain his reasons for thinking this. Do you agree with Plantinga? Why, or why not?
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