Practice Essay Questions

Philosophy of Religion

  • ‘The Simile of the Cave tells us nothing about reality.’ Discuss
  • To what extent can it be argued that education is about remembering, not learning?
  • How convincing is Plato’s idea of the Form of the Good?
  • ‘Aristotle’s theory of the four causes explains nothing.’ Discuss
  • To what extent has modern cosmology made Aristotle’s views on the universe redundant?
  • ‘Aristotle’s Prime Mover is an unconvincing construction to fill a hole in his theory.’ Discuss
  • ‘Aristotle’s understanding of the world is more convincing than that of Plato.’ Discuss
  • Assess whether substance dualism is a convincing approach to questions of body and soul.
  • To what extent is Plato’s belief in a separate body and soul convincing?
  • ‘It makes more sense to say ‘I am a body’, than to say ‘I have a body’.’ Discuss
  • ‘Religious faith demands belief in a separate body and soul.’ Discuss
  • ‘There is no design in the universe’. Discuss
  • To what extent is Aquinas’ first cause argument successful in proving that God exists?
  • How true is it to say that only the existence of God would provide a sufficient explanation for the existence of the universe?
  • ‘The universe is just there: it neither has nor needs an explanation.’ Discuss
  • To what extent does St Anselm’s ontological argument prove the necessary existence of God?
  • ‘We cannot derive the existence of God from his definition.’ Discuss
  • ‘As existence is never a defining predicate, it cannot be a defining predicate of the concept of God.’ Discuss
  • To what extent are the ideas of William James helpful in understanding religious experience?
  • ‘Conversion experiences are the most convincing form of religious experience.’ Discuss
  • ‘…religious experience has its own kind of logic’ (Ninian Smart), Discuss.
  • How satisfactory are religious experiences as proof of the existence of God?
  • ‘There is no satisfactory answer to the problem of evil.’ Discuss
  • ‘The free will defence resolves some but not all of the problems created by evil in the world.’ Discuss
  • To what extent is St Augustine more successful than Irenaean theodicy in explaining evil in the world?
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of John Hick’s theodicy.

Religious Ethics

  • ‘There is nothing in life which is truly evil.’ Discuss
  • ‘If there is no God, then nothing is right or wrong.’ Discuss
  • To what extent would someone living alone on a desert island have moral responsibilities?
  • To what extent is natural law the best way to resolve moral problems?
  • ‘Natural law theory succeeds because it takes human nature seriously.’ Discuss
  • ‘Natural law’s situationalism means that it does not offer precise answers to difficult dilemmas.’ Discuss
  • ‘Double effect is simply a trick. If we know something we do will have a bad effect, we cannot excuse ourselves by saying we did not intend to cause that effect.’ Discuss
  • Assess the significance of love in situation ethics
  • ‘Situation ethics suffers from all the disadvantages of utilitarianism and none of its advantages.’ Discuss
  • To what extent is it true to say that no action is wrong in every possible circumstance?
  • ‘Situation ethics is neither Christian nor believable.’ Discuss
  • To what extent is it true to say that the only requirement of morality is to do our duty?
  • ‘Kant does not properly establish postulates of God, Immorality and Freedom.’ Discuss
  • ‘We cannot universalise our ethical judgements.’ Discuss
  • To what what extent is Kant’s ethical teaching helpful in resolving all ethical problems?
  • ‘In having no place for rights, utilitarianism fails as a moral theory.’ Discuss
  • Assess how valuable act utilitarianism is in resolving moral dilemmas.
  • To what extent is utilitarianism helpful is living a truly moral life?
  • ‘Rule utilitarianism works as a moral theory, but act utilitarianism does not.’ Discuss
  • ‘Situationism is the best method of assessing whether euthanasia is morally acceptable.’ Discuss
  • Assess the view that the sanctity of life no longer has any place in twenty-first century medical ethics.
  • ‘Voluntary euthanasia is morally acceptable; non-voluntary euthanasia is always wrong.’ Discuss
  • To what extent is the quality of life principle useful when debating the issues of euthanasia?
  • To what extent is utilitarianism helpful in deciding whether whistle-blowing is a correct action to take?
  • ‘The only concern of business should be to make a profit.’ Discuss
  • Consider whether Natural Law is useful in dealing with the issues of business in a local context.
  • ‘Human dignity should be the main value of any good business.’ Discuss

Developments in Christian Thought

  • Assess the view that Augustine’s teaching on human nature is too pessimistic.
  • ‘If the Fall did not actually happen, then Christian teaching on human nature makes no sense.’ Discuss
  • Critically assess Augustine’s analysis of human sexual nature.
  • To what extent has Augustine’s teaching on human nature caused more harm than good?
  • ‘Without the reward of heaven Christians would not behave well.’ Discuss
  • To what extent is the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25 only about heaven and hell?
  • Assess the view that there is no last judgement, each person is judged by God at the moment of their death.
  • ‘Purgatory is the most important Christian teaching about the afterlife.’ Discuss
  • ‘God can be known because the world is so well designed.’ Discuss
  • Critically assess the view that the Bible is the only way of knowing God.
  • ‘Everyone has an innate knowledge of God’s existence.’ Discuss
  • To what extent is faith in God rational?
  • ‘Jesus’ role was just to liberate the poor and weak against oppression.’ Discuss
  • Assess the view that the miracles prove Jesus was the Son of God.
  • ‘Jesus Christ is not unique.’ Discuss
  • To what extent was Jesus just a teacher of morality?
  • ‘The Church should decide what is morally good.’ Discuss
  • Assess the view that the Bible is a comprehensive moral guide for Christians.
  • To what extent do Christians actually disagree about what Christian ethics are?
  • ‘Christian moral principles are not self-evident.’ Discuss
  • ‘Bonhoeffer’s most important teaching is on leadership.’ Discuss
  • Assess the view that Bonhoeffer’s teaching on ethics still has relevance today.
  • ‘Christian ethics means being obedient to God’s will.’ Discuss
  • To what extent was Bonhoeffer’s religious community at Finkenwalde successful?

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