Possible Essay Questions for the First Exam
Philosophy of Religion, Spring 2017

The first exam will be on Thursday, February 16. 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, even that which isn't part of the essays. Please make sure to bring a blue book and your student ID (as you will be putting your ID# and not your name on the exam).

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. Paley on the Divine Command Theory. Explain Paley's defense of the Divine Command Theory by answering the following questions. What is the nature of right and wrong, according to William Paley, and why are we obligated to obey God? What is our motive for obeying God? How do prudence and duty differ from one another? Then explain the 'Euthyphro objection' to the divine command theory. Finally, evaluate ONE of the following; i.e., pick either (i) or (ii) and give your reasons for why you either agree or disagree with the position/argument\: (i) Paley's explanation for how God's commands create moral obligations and why we are obligated to obey them; or (ii) the 'Euthyphro objection.'

  2. Quinn on the Divine Command Theory. Explain Quinn's defense of the Divine Command Theory by answering the following questions. What is the divine command theory, according to Quinn? Why are the 'immoralities of the Patriarchs' supposed to support the Divine Command Theory? Why does Phillip Quinn think that considerations of God's sovereignty support the Divine Command Theory? How does Quinn respond to the 'Euthyphro objection'? How does Quinn's version of the Divine Command Theory differ from Paley's? Finally evaluate either one of Quinn's arguments in favor of the divine command theory or his response to the Euthyphro Objection.
  3. Aquinas on law. Explain Aquinas' Natural Law Theory by answering the following questions. What is the character of law generally for Aquinas? What is the eternal law? What is the natural law, and how does it relate to the eternal law? How do we know the natural law, and what does it tell us to do? How do you think Phillip Quinn would object to Aquinas' theory? Evaluate the strength of this criticism.
  4. Sartre. Explain Sartre's version of existentialism by answering the following questions. What does Sartre mean by his slogan that 'existence precedes essence?' Why is God's non-existence relevant to ethics? How would he criticize a secularized version of natural law theory without God? On what basis does one choose how to act, and what does it mean to 'choose for all people'? How does Sartre respond to the charge that his theory makes choice arbitrary? Finally, evaluate Sartre's criticisms of a secularized natural law theory.
  5. Foreknowledge and freedom. Explain the initial argument that Boethius puts forward for the incompatibility of foreknowledge and freedom. (Make sure you explain what sort of 'freedom' is at stake here.) Why does that argument fail, according to Boethius, and what is the relationship between God and time? Why does Nelson Pike think that foreknowledge by a necessarily omniscient God in particular is incompatible with freedom? With whom (if either) do you agree, and why?
  6. Theism, Libertarianism, and Compatibilism. Explain Lynne Rudder Baker's reasons for why Christians should not be libertarians. Along the way, explain how being a compatibilist would help solve the problems of foreknowledge and freedom and of divine providence, and why she thinks libertarian free will is irrelevant to salvation. How does she respond to the charge that without libertarian free will we are just puppets? Finally, evaluate one part of her position. (I.e., that compatibilism helps solve the problems of foreknowledge and freedom and of divine providence, or that libertarian free will is irrelevant to salvation, or that we aren't just puppets without libertarian free will.)
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