Monday, 17 February 2014



Here are some tips to help you in the examinations for the courses

1. The examination is very often three hours. Remember to read the instruction on the question paper to see how long the exam is and how many questions to answer per section.

2. Most exam questions are short essay format. You will be required to write short essays to the questions asked. Be brief but make sure you exhaust the questions. Essays generally should have some introductory remarks, the main body of the essay, and a conclusion.

3. Some terms to keep in mind when answering exam questions:
  • Critically discuss .... : You are required to first explain the topic that you are critically discussing, then you give some of the strengths of that topic, give some of the criticisms to that topic and end by taking a position or simply conclude.
  • Evaluate .... : Similar to assessing arguments, such questions are asking whether you think the argument is good and valid argument. It asks whether the argument has supporting evidence to make the claim. Whether there are weaknesses in the argument.
  • Explain ....: In clear terms showing the meaning of what is being asked. Give some details to what is being asked. Briefly explain --- type of questions demand that you should as precise as possible.
  • State ..... Mentioning what is asked for without giving any explanation.
  • Compare and contrast ....: Normally this involves two theories or concepts and it is asking for some similarities, difference, where one is lacking, whether one is better than the other .. etc.
  • Assess.....: Same as evaluate.
  • Describe .......: Giving details of the concept being asked on.
4. Of course read instructions on the question paper. Check if each section has its own instructions. This will serve you a lot of time. Sometimes students take a long time doing the wrong things or answering the wrong questions only to discover halfway in the exam that maybe only one question should be answered.

5. Read the instructions on the answer sheet  also. This is very important to avoid being penalized or having missing exam sheets.

6. Remember to ask the invigilators where things are not clear. There is no need brooding on your desk and trying to figure out something that your invigilator can easily help you with. Don's fear invigilators in exam -- this can also cost you valuable time.

Good luck in your examinations!!!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Helpful Online Sources

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Sanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Philosophy the Basics:

A helpful entry on Epistemology:
A helpful entry on Ethics:




General Sources
  • Popkin, R. H. and A. Stroll, 1989. Philosophy Made Simple. Oxford, Heinemann. -- Chapter 4
  • Warburton, N., 1999. Philosophy: The Basics. Third Edition. New York, Routledge.
  • PHI 1010 Course Batch available from through your course representative.
1.0 What is Philosophy of Religion?
  • What does Philosophy of Religion seek to Address?
  • Is There a God?
  • If There is a God, then What is He Like?
  • What Does that Mean for Us?
2.0 Forms of Religious Belief and Attributes of God
  • Theism, Monotheism, Polytheism, Pantheism, Deism, Atheism, Agnosticism
  • Traditional Attributes of God
3.0 Existence of God

3.1 Pascal's Wager Argument (Blaise Pascal - 1623-1662)
3.2 Cosmological Argument
3.3 Ontological Argument
3.4 Teleological Argument (argument from design)
3.5 Other arguments for the existence of God include those from religious experience, from miracles, from morality. But these are beyond the scope of this course.

4.0 The Problem of Evil
  • Why should an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God not remove evil in the world?
  • Maybe evil exists but human beings are limited to understand why even when God exists.
  • Maybe God does not exist at all.
  • Maybe this world is the most perfect of all worlds. 
  • The "Free Will" Defence

An Entry on Applied Ethics

This excerpt is from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on "Ethics" authored by James Fieser. It can be found on

Applied Ethics

Applied ethics is the branch of ethics which consists of the analysis of specific, controversial moral issues such as abortion, animal rights, or euthanasia. In recent years applied ethical issues have been subdivided into convenient groups such as medical ethics, business ethics, environmental ethics, and sexual ethics. Generally speaking, two features are necessary for an issue to be considered an “applied ethical issue.” First, the issue needs to be controversial in the sense that there are significant groups of people both for and against the issue at hand. The issue of drive-by shooting, for example, is not an applied ethical issue, since everyone agrees that this practice is grossly immoral. By contrast, the issue of gun control would be an applied ethical issue since there are significant groups of people both for and against gun control.

The second requirement for an issue to be an applied ethical issue is that it must be a distinctly moral issue. On any given day, the media presents us with an array of sensitive issues such as affirmative action policies, gays in the military, involuntary commitment of the mentally impaired, capitalistic versus socialistic business practices, public versus private health care systems, or energy conservation. Although all of these issues are controversial and have an important impact on society, they are not all moral issues. Some are only issues of social policy. The aim of social policy is to help make a given society run efficiently by devising conventions, such as traffic laws, tax laws, and zoning codes. Moral issues, by contrast, concern more universally obligatory practices, such as our duty to avoid lying, and are not confined to individual societies. Frequently, issues of social policy and morality overlap, as with murder which is both socially prohibited and immoral. However, the two groups of issues are often distinct. For example, many people would argue that sexual promiscuity is immoral, but may not feel that there should be social policies regulating sexual conduct, or laws punishing us for promiscuity. Similarly, some social policies forbid residents in certain neighborhoods from having yard sales. But, so long as the neighbors are not offended, there is nothing immoral in itself about a resident having a yard sale in one of these neighborhoods. Thus, to qualify as an applied ethical issue, the issue must be more than one of mere social policy: it must be morally relevant as well.

In theory, resolving particular applied ethical issues should be easy. With the issue of abortion, for example, we would simply determine its morality by consulting our normative principle of choice, such as act-utilitarianism. If a given abortion produces greater benefit than disbenefit, then, according to act-utilitarianism, it would be morally acceptable to have the abortion. Unfortunately, there are perhaps hundreds of rival normative principles from which to choose, many of which yield opposite conclusions. Thus, the stalemate in normative ethics between conflicting theories prevents us from using a single decisive procedure for determining the morality of a specific issue. The usual solution today to this stalemate is to consult several representative normative principles on a given issue and see where the weight of the evidence lies.

a. Normative Principles in Applied Ethics

Arriving at a short list of representative normative principles is itself a challenging task. The principles selected must not be too narrowly focused, such as a version of act-egoism that might focus only on an action’s short-term benefit. The principles must also be seen as having merit by people on both sides of an applied ethical issue. For this reason, principles that appeal to duty to God are not usually cited since this would have no impact on a nonbeliever engaged in the debate. The following principles are the ones most commonly appealed to in applied ethical discussions:
  • Personal benefit: acknowledge the extent to which an action produces beneficial consequences for the individual in question.
  • Social benefit: acknowledge the extent to which an action produces beneficial consequences for society.
  • Principle of benevolence: help those in need.
  • Principle of paternalism: assist others in pursuing their best interests when they cannot do so themselves.
  • Principle of harm: do not harm others.
  • Principle of honesty: do not deceive others.
  • Principle of lawfulness: do not violate the law.
  • Principle of autonomy: acknowledge a person’s freedom over his/her actions or physical body.
  • Principle of justice: acknowledge a person’s right to due process, fair compensation for harm done, and fair distribution of benefits.
  • Rights: acknowledge a person’s rights to life, information, privacy, free expression, and safety.
The above principles represent a spectrum of traditional normative principles and are derived from both consequentialist and duty-based approaches. The first two principles, personal benefit and social benefit, are consequentialist since they appeal to the consequences of an action as it affects the individual or society. The remaining principles are duty-based. The principles of benevolence, paternalism, harm, honesty, and lawfulness are based on duties we have toward others. The principles of autonomy, justice, and the various rights are based on moral rights.

An example will help illustrate the function of these principles in an applied ethical discussion. In 1982, a couple from Bloomington, Indiana gave birth to a baby with severe mental and physical disabilities. Among other complications, the infant, known as Baby Doe, had its stomach disconnected from its throat and was thus unable to receive nourishment. Although this stomach deformity was correctable through surgery, the couple did not want to raise a severely disabled child and therefore chose to deny surgery, food, and water for the infant. Local courts supported the parents’ decision, and six days later Baby Doe died. Should corrective surgery have been performed for Baby Doe? Arguments in favor of corrective surgery derive from the infant’s right to life and the principle of paternalism which stipulates that we should pursue the best interests of others when they are incapable of doing so themselves. Arguments against corrective surgery derive from the personal and social disbenefit which would result from such surgery. If Baby Doe survived, its quality of life would have been poor and in any case it probably would have died at an early age. Also, from the parent’s perspective, Baby Doe’s survival would have been a significant emotional and financial burden. When examining both sides of the issue, the parents and the courts concluded that the arguments against surgery were stronger than the arguments for surgery. First, foregoing surgery appeared to be in the best interests of the infant, given the poor quality of life it would endure. Second, the status of Baby Doe’s right to life was not clear given the severity of the infant’s mental impairment. For, to possess moral rights, it takes more than merely having a human body: certain cognitive functions must also be present. The issue here involves what is often referred to as moral personhood, and is central to many applied ethical discussions.

b. Issues in Applied Ethics

As noted, there are many controversial issues discussed by ethicists today, some of which will be briefly mentioned here.

Biomedical ethics focuses on a range of issues which arise in clinical settings. Health care workers are in an unusual position of continually dealing with life and death situations. It is not surprising, then, that medical ethics issues are more extreme and diverse than other areas of applied ethics. Prenatal issues arise about the morality of surrogate mothering, genetic manipulation of fetuses, the status of unused frozen embryos, and abortion. Other issues arise about patient rights and physician’s responsibilities, such as the confidentiality of the patient’s records and the physician’s responsibility to tell the truth to dying patients. The AIDS crisis has raised the specific issues of the mandatory screening of all patients for AIDS, and whether physicians can refuse to treat AIDS patients. Additional issues concern medical experimentation on humans, the morality of involuntary commitment, and the rights of the mentally disabled. Finally, end of life issues arise about the morality of suicide, the justifiability of suicide intervention, physician assisted suicide, and euthanasia.

The field of business ethics examines moral controversies relating to the social responsibilities of capitalist business practices, the moral status of corporate entities, deceptive advertising, insider trading, basic employee rights, job discrimination, affirmative action, drug testing, and whistle blowing.

Issues in environmental ethics often overlaps with business and medical issues. These include the rights of animals, the morality of animal experimentation, preserving endangered species, pollution control, management of environmental resources, whether eco-systems are entitled to direct moral consideration, and our obligation to future generations.

Controversial issues of sexual morality include monogamy versus polygamy, sexual relations without love, homosexual relations, and extramarital affairs.

Finally, there are issues of social morality which examine capital punishment, nuclear war, gun control, the recreational use of drugs, welfare rights, and racism.

4. References and Further Reading

  • Anscombe,Elizabeth “Modern Moral Philosophy,” Philosophy, 1958, Vol. 33, reprinted in her Ethics, Religion and Politics (Oxford: Blackwell, 1981).
  • Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, in Barnes, Jonathan, ed., The Complete Works of Aristotle (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984).
  • Ayer, A. J., Language, Truth and Logic (New York: Dover Publications, 1946).
  • Baier, Kurt, The Moral Point of View: A Rational Basis of Ethics (Cornell University Press, 1958).
  • Bentham, Jeremy, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), in The Works of Jeremy Bentham, edited by John Bowring (London: 1838-1843).
  • Hare, R.M., Moral Thinking, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981).
  • Hare, R.M., The Language of Morals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952).
  • Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, ed., E. Curley, (Chicago, IL: Hackett Publishing Company, 1994).
  • Hume, David, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740), eds. David Fate Norton, Mary J. Norton (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).
  • Kant, Immanuel, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, tr, James W. Ellington (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1985).
  • Locke, John, Two Treatises, ed., Peter Laslett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963).
  • MacIntyre, Alasdair, After Virtue, second edition, (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 1984).
  • Mackie, John L., Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, (New York: Penguin Books, 1977).
  • Mill, John Stuart, “Utilitarianism,” in Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, ed., J.M. Robson (London: Routledge and Toronto, Ont.: University of Toronto Press, 1991).
  • Moore, G.E., Principia Ethica, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903).
  • Noddings, Nel, “Ethics from the Stand Point Of Women,” in Deborah L. Rhode, ed., Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990).
  • Ockham, William of, Fourth Book of the Sentences, tr. Lucan Freppert, The Basis of Morality According to William Ockham (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1988).
  • Plato, Republic, 6:510-511, in Cooper, John M., ed., Plato: Complete Works (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997).
  • Samuel Pufendorf, De Jure Naturae et Gentium (1762), tr. Of the Law of Nature and Nations
  • Samuel Pufendorf, De officio hominis et civis juxta legem naturalem (1673), tr., The Whole Duty of Man according to the Law of Nature (London, 1691).
  • Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism, trs. J. Annas and J. Barnes, Outlines of Scepticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
  • Stevenson, Charles L., The Ethics of Language, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944).
  • Sumner, William Graham, Folkways (Boston: Guinn, 1906).

Author Information

James Fieser
University of Tennessee at Martin
Last updated: May 10, 2009 | Originally published: June 29, 2003
Categories: Ethics

Tip of the Day! - Moral Philosophy...

Moral Philosophy (Ethics)
Should you help a stranded motorist on the side of the road? Should you tell your boss that your co-worker has been stealing office supplies regularly for the past year? Why wouldn’t you tell your best friend’s wife that your best friend has been cheating on her? Should you abort an unwanted fetus? Further, what grounds or reasons or justifying principles are you appealing to when you face these decisions? In other words, why did you lie to your friend that time? If you are a doctor, what grounds might you have for treating a police officer rather than a homeless man? Which principle are you appealing to when you claim that you disagree (or agree) with capital punishment? Are there objective moral rules that apply in all types of situations, no matter what country or culture you’re living in?

These are the kinds of questions that people who study moral philosophy ask. In essence, moral philosophy (also known as ethics) is the branch of philosophy that investigates and critiques:
   (a) human actions that affect morally relevant beings (definitely humans; probably many animals) and
   (b) the principles that people appeal to when they act.

Moral Philosophy can be defined as the study of human actions that affect beings capable of being harmed in some way (definitely humans, as well as many animal species) and the principles that people appeal to when they act.
In other words, Moral Philosophy (or Ethics) is concerned with questions of how people ought to act, and the search for a definition of right conduct (identified as the one causing the greatest good) and the good life (in the sense of a life worth living or a life that is satisfying or happy).


Excerpt taken from: Arp, R. and J. C. Watson, 2011. Philosophy Demystified. New York, McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. Chapter 10.

Friday, 1 March 2013


Hopefully, in deciding to study philosophy, you are motivated by an interest in the subject for its own sake – the questions it addresses, the methods it uses – and by a sense that there is something special about being a philosopher. Let us look at the study of philosophy in a bit more detail, to see why we think it is valuable, and what you are likely to gain from it.

The study of philosophy enables us to think carefully and clearly about important issues. We need to be able to look beneath and beyond specific circumstances or examples to examine whether our beliefs, theories and arguments contain hidden assumptions or gaps which might lead us to jump to unwarranted conclusions, or to hold inconsistent opinions. While we can often afford to take for granted such received wisdom in our daily lives, it is vitally important to be able to examine issues critically, to spot where underlying opinions influence areas of our thinking (for good or ill), and to identify what the consequences might be if we are led to change our beliefs.

In  studying philosophy, we learn to take a step back from our everyday thinking, and to explore the deeper, bigger questions which underpin our thought. We learn to identify hidden connections and flawed reasoning, and we seek to develop our thinking and theories so that they are less prone to such errors, gaps and inconsistencies. This is a vital contribution to human knowledge. It is also a crucial life skill.

The focus of your philosophical study will be to learn not what to believe, but how to think. This is one of the distinctive strengths, and key benefits, of studying philosophy. Whereas the knowledge learnt in other disciplines may become outdated, due to future discoveries, the ability to think critically will not. In fact, it will equip you with the  tools of thought  you need to  react to  changing situations.

Studying philosophy sharpens your analytical abilities, enabling you to identify and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in any position. It also hones your  ability to  construct and articulate powerfully persuasive arguments of your own. It prompts you to work across disciplinary boundaries, and to think flexibly and creatively about problems which  do  not  present immediate solutions. Because philosophy is an activity as much as a body of knowledge, it also develops your ability to think and work independently.

There are no no-go areas for philosophical enquiry, and philosophical techniques are universally applicable. Different schools of philosophy have argued for systems which colour every aspect of human life in highly contrasted ways. Your study of many aspects of philosophy will leave you enriched with an understanding of the complexity of the physical and human sciences which students of other disciplines may lack.

All these abilities will enhance your educational experience while you are studying, but they will also make a lifelong difference to your future. Such qualities are in huge demand in the wider world – employers in all fields look to recruit potential leaders who can demonstrate analysis, judgement, problem solving, influencing skills, flexibility,  creativity and high-level communication skills.

Although  all degree  programmes seek to  develop  such  skills, arguably no  discipline grants them  the  preeminence  they  are accorded  in  philosophy. A  degree  in  philosophy, therefore, provides you with an excellent grounding for your future – its distinctive focus on developing your critical thinking abilities is one which has value in all walks of life.

This text is taken from: Saunders, C., D. Messley, G. M. Ross, and D. Lamb, 2010. Doing Philosophy: A Practical Guide for Students. Ed by J. Closs. New York, Continuum International Publishing Group.  PP . 8-10.