3 Journals in Philosophy

The following is a journal entry a student submitted in a past semester. Note what makes this a good entry:

  • It is at least 150 words in length
  • It is written clearly and understandably
  • It shows evidence of thoughtfulness

“The design argument for God’s existence is interesting to me but I’m not sure I can fully endorse it. It argues that because there is design throughout the universe, there must be a universal designer, i.e., a god, in turn. However, when considering the endless probabilities and eons that our world has gone through, this argument is somewhat disproved. We know many different “designs” are merely adaptations, and often times we, as humans, tend to “see” a design when there is, in fact, none there (like seeing faces in electrical sockets). The design argument also does not account for entropy found in nature, and the general decline into disorder that can be found in many systems – surely a designer wouldn’t design that? Also, there are the many examples of natural disasters and tragedies that mar our world, and which place the idea of a designer in doubt. I like to relate this problem to what we read in the introduction to Philosophy Made Simple, about the Book of Job in the Bible. Even a believer in God such as Job had trouble understanding how a good and almighty God could be responsible for all the disorder happening in his own life. So again, while the design argument is interesting, I do see some problems with it, and how it could be challenged by a skeptic.”

Topic one (pick one)

Select any one of the following topics/questions to write about.

1. Which of the six big areas of philosophy described by the “Five-Minute Philosopher” is most interesting to you? What are some specific questions within each area that particularly interest you, or that you yourself have wondered about?

2. The “Five-Minute Philosopher” suggested several specific ways in which the study of philosophy has value for people living in contemporary society. Summarize what he said, and discuss whether you agree with him about this. In a time when there is such pressure to “get a good job,” does a subject like philosophy really have value? Would you require college students to take it (be honest!)

3. Plato offers some very specific ideas on what the “good life” for human beings is, and how we ought to try to conduct our lives. What are your thoughts concerning his ideas? Does he offer an ideal for living that you yourself find appealing–why or why not?

4. Do you agree with Plato that all wrongdoing is the result of ignorance? What examples help support, and/or undermine, his claim?

5. Socrates made many enemies by challenging the values of his contemporaries. Do you think this is a valuable role for someone to play in society–that is, to challenge others to think about what they are doing, and why? Can you think of any specific examples of persons who, like Socrates, have challenged society’s values, and perhaps been persecuted for this activity?

Second Topic (pick one)

1. What are your thoughts on Aristotle’s ideal of the “Golden Mean”? Is this an attractive ideal for living? Do you see any problems in putting it into practice?

2. Explain how you think any of the traditional virtues (such as courage, generosity, patience, self-discipline, forgiveness, etc.) might be put into practice in contemporary life, or in your own life. Or, what are some specific examples you can think of (from current events, your own life, literature, history) of any of these virtues put into practice?

3. What are your thoughts on Epicurus’ philosophy of hedonism? Is this an attractive ideal for living? Do you see any problems in putting it into practice?

Third Topic (pick one)

1. Explain how you could apply Stoic principles in your everyday life.

2. What are your thoughts on the problem of the freedom of the will? Do you see a way to resolve the problem?

3. What are your thoughts on the “trolley problem”? What do you think the right thing to do is? What would you personally do if you were in that situation?

4. Do you think the moral theory of utilitarianism can survive the criticisms of the textbook authors on pages 34-35?

5. Which moral theory do you prefer, utilitarianism or Kant’s ethics of duty (deontology)?

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