PI1006 Central Problems in Philosophy Assignment Example TCD Ireland
Philosophy is often seen as a field of study that deals with abstract concepts and difficult problems. In this module, we’ll take a look at some of the central problems in philosophy, and discuss some of the theories and arguments surrounding them. This module will explore the Philosophy of Religion, Introduction to Ethics, Philosophy of Mind, and Metaphysics.
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Assignment Task 1: Describe some main philosophical questions related to religious belief and practice
The philosophy of religion is the philosophical study of religious belief and practice. It examines questions such as:
- What is the relationship between faith and reason? Reason and faith may seem at odds with each other, but they actually have a complicated relationship. It’s often claimed by religious believers that their beliefs don’t need to be supported by reasons since these are matters of “faith.” However, some philosophers have suggested that any belief that is based on faith alone may sometimes be irrational.
- Can belief in God be rational? Some people claim that it is rational to believe in God, while others argue that belief in God is irrational. What factors might go into deciding whether or not belief in God is rational?
- What is the nature of religious practice? To what extent is a religious practice based on beliefs about God? The philosopher of religion William Alston has suggested that one factor to consider when examining the rationality of religious belief is whether or not there are good reasons for believing in God.
Assignment Task 2: Critically evaluate philosophical arguments concerning religious belief and practice
In addition to considering the relationship between faith and reason, philosophers of religion also evaluate philosophical arguments for and against religious belief. Some of the most famous arguments in this area include:
- The Argument from Design, which suggests that evidence of design in the universe proves that there must be a designer God who created everything.
- The Problem of Evil, which tries to show that if God exists, he must be evil since there is so much suffering in the world.
- The Ontological Argument, which tries to prove that God exists by showing that it is logically necessary that he does.
Assignment Task 3: Analyze and interpret historical texts in Moral Philosophy
- Socrates is one of the best-known and most widely significant moral philosophers. In this reading from Plato’s Apology, we see Socrates’ famous “midwife” technique for helping people consider ethical questions: examining things through questions and cross-examination to determine what we truly believe about them.
- Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE), student to Plato, founder of the Peripatetic school, was the author of Nicomachean Ethics which dealt with human good and action. It was one of the earliest attempts in Western philosophy to deal with questions about man’s moral life in a systematic way.
- Hume (1711-1776) is recognized as one of the great philosophers in Western intellectual history. He is known for having a skeptical view of religion and promoting tolerance among different religions. His An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding made the case that humans form their fundamental beliefs about God through habit and custom, rather than by reasoning from evidence.
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Assignment Task 4: Show an understanding of important concepts in the philosophy of mind, and knowledge of the arguments for and against the main positions on the mind-body question
The philosophy of mind is the branch of philosophy that considers the nature of the mind, its relationship to the body, and the implications of this for our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
Many philosophers in this field believe that the mind is identical to the brain, and that studied behavior (including language) can be explained in terms of neurophysiology. Others see mental events as occurring outside the brain; dualism, for example, holds that thought or consciousness exists independently of our physical bodies.
There are various theories that seek to solve the mind-body problem including dualism, behaviorism, identity theory, and functionalism.
- Dualism is the view that mental states (like thoughts, feelings, and sensations) are non-physical entities that exist separately from our physical bodies. Dualists typically believe that the mind and body are distinct substances and that mental events cannot be reduced to physical events.
- Behaviorism is the view that psychological phenomena can be explained in terms of observable behavior, without any reference to mental states or processes. Behaviorists usually deny the existence of any non-physical entities like minds or thoughts.
- Identity theory is the view that mental states are identical to certain physical states of the brain. Proponents of this view argue that there is a one-to-one correspondence between mental states and brain states, such that when we have a particular thought or experience, it is because a specific area of the brain is activated.
- Functionalism is the view that mental states are not identical to brain states, but rather that they are constituted by certain patterns of brain activity. Functionalists argue that we can understand mental phenomena by studying how they function in relation to behavior and the environment.
Assignment Task 5: Critically assess arguments about identity over time, and on the existence of universals
Identity over time
Identity over time is the view that a person or object remains the same entity from one moment to the next, even though their properties may change. This position is opposed to the view that entities are constantly changing and that there is no such thing as an individual entity that persists through time.
There are two main arguments for identity over time. The first is the ‘memory argument’. This states that personal identity can be secured by reference to memories so that I remain the same person as long as I remember things correctly. The second argument rests on the causal continuity of my body, mind, and personality over time.
The main arguments against identity over time are those which claim that it is impossible for all of the properties of substances in an entity to remain constant if that entity is constantly changing.
Existence of universals
The existence of universals (for example redness, triangularity) is often denied because it seems to imply that there are entities that exist independently of their instances. Those who think that there are such universal entities argue that they explain various features of the world, without relying on the existence of mind-independent particulars.
The most important argument against universalism is an epistemological one. This states that we are unable to know about the properties which are supposed to be instantiated by universal entities because these properties belong to a world beyond our sensory experience.
There are various arguments for and against the existence of universals. Those in favor of universals typically argue that they are needed to explain various features of our experience. Arguments against universals usually claim that there is no evidence for their existence and that they lead to problems like infinite regress.
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Assignment Task 6: Show an understanding of important foundational concepts within metaphysics, such as identity, property, substance, and necessity:
Metaphysics is sometimes described as the most general philosophical investigation into what there is. It is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of reality, including questions about identity, property, substance, and necessity.
The first step of understanding identity is to recognize what it means for an object to be the same as itself. The second step is realizing that it makes no sense to say that something is the same as itself, but not the same as anything else. This takes us to Leibniz’s Law. If x=y, and z is not x, then z cannot be y.
From here, we can start to understand the different types of identity. The sameness of an object (or numerical identity) is when two objects share all of the same properties. The sameness of kind (or qualitative identity) is when two objects have all the same properties but are of different types. For example, a human being and a chimpanzee are both qualitatively identical, because they have all the same properties, even though they are of different types.
Thirdly, we can look at identity over time. This is the view that an object remains the same entity from one moment to the next, even though its properties may change.
A property is a characteristic or attribute of an object. It is important to realize that not all properties are physical. For example, weight and shape are physical properties, but the color is not.
There are two main types of property: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic properties are those which the object has in and of itself. Extrinsic properties are those which the object does not have in and of itself, but rather derives from its relationship to other objects.
A substance is an entity that has intrinsic properties. It is important to realize that substances do not have to be physical. For example, a number can be a substance, because it has intrinsic properties (such as being two).
Substances can be divided into two categories: particulars and universals. Particular substances are those which exist in space and time. Universals are those which do not exist in space and time, but rather are abstract objects.
Necessity is a concept that is related to both substance and identity. Necessity is the view that some properties are essential to a substance, and without them, the substance would not be what it is. For example, weight is an essential property of a physical object, because, without it, the object would not be a physical object.
Necessity can be divided into two categories: metaphysical and physical. Metaphysical necessity is the view that some properties are essential to the identity of a substance, regardless of whether or not it exists in space and time. For example, being male or female is an essential property to Sam Harris’s identity as a male, but this property is not essential to the identity of a rock.
Physical necessity is the view that some properties are essential to the existence of a substance, regardless of whether or not they are intrinsic. For example, rock needs to have mass in order to exist.
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