Final Exam Essay Questions


Online students take the final exam entirely within WebCT. You access the Final Exam exactly the same way you have been accessing quizzes. You get maximum continuous two hours for the final exam.


The final exam is comprehensive, combination objective and essay. The essay portion will consist of three questions. WebCT randomly selects three questions for each student from the following list of questions. You must answer two of the three questions WebCT presents you. You cannot answer more than two questions.

The essay portion will comprise 50% of the total points on the final. Plan to write much longer essays than you have been writing for the quizzes. Your essay answers should be as complete as possible.


Please write essays in your own words, legibly using complete sentences in standard English. Any direct quote or close paraphrase without proper citation — any use of anybody else’s words without giving proper credit — is plagiarism. Any student who violates the academic code (e.g., by cheating or plagiarism) will, at minimum, receive a final course grade of F. This rule is rigidly enforced.





1.      What is the Ontological Argument? What is it intended to prove? Does it succeed?


2.      Explain any philosophical problems alluded to in the following:

Our God, some contend, is immutable;

And their faith is, indeed, irrefutable;

When He does what He should

It's because “He is good,”

When He doesn't, “His ways are inscrutable”.


3.      Does the existence of evil disprove the existence of a God who is all-powerful and all-good? Critically discuss Mackie's arguments on this question.


4.      What is Plato's Theory of Forms? What problems in metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics is it intended to solve? Does it work?


5.      Your lover says “After studying Plato I realize that I don’t love you at all. I can only love your beauty, your goodness, your intelligence, your courage, and so on.” Should this bother you?  Explain clearly why Plato thinks individuals are unknowable.


6.      Dave's car's fuel gauge, which has always been reliable, says he will run out of gas soon. But Dave is convinced that there is no necessary connection between causes and effects, and no guarantee that the future will resemble the past. So Dave doesn't buy any gas. Dave runs out of gas in Gilroy and calls you to come and rescue him. Should you be annoyed at Dave for being irrational? To what philosopher(s) does Dave owe these views? How does that philosopher support these views? What philosopher(s) have opposed these views, and why?


7.      What is logical positivism? What arguments can be advanced for and against it?


8.      Critically analyze Gilbert Ryle’s contributions to twentieth-century philosophy.


9.      Why are philosophers interested in the writings of non-philosophers such as Freud, B. F. Skinner, and Ruth Benedict? In answering this question, please explain the ideas of Freud, Skinner, and Benedict, and show why their ideas would be of interest to philosophy.


10.  Soft determinism has been adopted by many famous philosophers, including Descartes and Hume. What is soft determinism (be precise) and what are its chief weaknesses?

11.  Terry says, “For all I know, I'm really a brain in a vat, with my sense inputs controlled by space aliens. The real world may be nothing at all like the world I experience.”  Assuming Terry is not hallucinating or insane, what arguments might Descartes present to convince her that her view is unreasonable? Berkeley? Hume? Kant?


12.  A common view says that people “are” (or “have”) souls and bodies. The soul is thought to be the “real” self; the body is thought to be a kind of container for this soul. The soul is thought to be free, while the body is governed by physical laws. In addition, souls are thought to be immortal, bodies mortal. What reasons might be given in support of this view? (Note: give reasons. Do not simply re-state the view.) In opposition? If this view is correct, how are people free?


13.  Modern philosophical rationalism and empiricism ended with Kant. Why?


14.  An alien spaceship lands on earth. The aliens' bodies are unsuited to the earth's atmosphere; the aliens will die if they remain outside the spaceship for long. The aliens notice that earth people have no trouble with earth's atmosphere, however, and so they hatch a plan to take over the bodies of some earth people. Their alien minds will simply be transferred into the earth people's bodies. Once the transfer has been made, the aliens figure they'll be able to do whatever they like, within the constraints of earth bodies. Will the aliens' plan work? Why or why not?


15.  The verificationist principle says, in effect, that a statement is meaningful only if you know what would verify it and what would falsify it. If correct, this principle would classify as meaningless many statements in metaphysics. Give some examples of statements that would have trouble passing the verificationist criterion. Explain why they would not pass, and defend them if possible.


16.  Defend or criticize: “Theological assertions are nonsense”. Be sure your answer reflects familiarity with assigned reading.


17.  What would Sartre say about hard and soft determinism?


18.  How does Kant argue for Categorical Imperatives?  What are common criticisms of Kant's views?


19.  What is utilitarianism? What are typical arguments against utilitarianism? Clearly explain the distinction between act and rule utilitarianism, and discuss why rule utilitarianism came about.


20.  The world is threatened with drought, so people are urged to conserve water. Jack lives far from his neighbors, and no one ever drives by Jack's house. The water company has forgotten that Jack exists, so he receives no bills and no meter-reader ever comes to his house. Jack knows about the conservation effort, but he really wants a green lawn. He knows that if he waters his lawn, he won't be harming anyone because his lawn is small and the amount of water he uses won't affect the drought. So Jack continues to water. What would Kant say about this case? An act-utilitarian? A rule-utilitarian? Give reasons, not just conclusions!


21.  Must we refrain from making moral judgments about cultural practices of other societies? Must we refrain from intervening on behalf of “victims” of those practices, even if we find the practices morally abhorrent (as Star Trek’s “Prime Directive” commands, for example)?  Why or why not?


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