OCR AS DCT Exam June 2018 part 1

I hope today’s Ethics exam went well for all of you. My year 12 students were quite happy with the questions – they fell into the same pattern of being on the three subjects that hadn’t come up last year again, so that was good. Plus 2 of them were fairly general questions – critically examine Utilitarian theories, and evaluate responses to voluntary euthanasia (or something along those lines), while the third was about the concept of agape in situation ethics.

If you look at my post here I actually write a paragraph evaluating the concept of agape in my prediction for today’s exam! Am I some kind of wizard or what!

My next task is to see what I can do on the development of Christian thought topic.

So last year there were questions on universalism in Death and the Afterlife, Jesus’ teaching in The Person of Jesus, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s teaching on civil disobedience in Christian Moral Action.

Therefore it is likely that we will see questions on Augustine, Knowledge of God’s Existence and Christian Moral Principles.

In my next post I will outline in more detail some areas to look at and try and do some more exemplar work for this. I’ll also look at the examiner’s report from last year and give some advice.

The Challenge of Secularism

One of the key areas in the A2 Development of Christian Thought is the question of Christianity’s contribution to society’s culture and values. Not only to what extent it has contributed but also to what extent it should contribute. These are two different questions. Many secularists would agree that it has contributed significantly to society’s culture and values in the past but disagree that it should continue to do so in the future.

Christopher Dawson whose theories I examine below said “a culture which has lost its spiritual roots is a dying culture, however prosperous it may appear externally” – he called this the ‘central conviction’ of all his work, and he argues most forcefully for it in The Crisis of Western Education. Joseph Ratzinger also points to the religious connotations of the word ‘culture’, which has its roots in the word ‘cultus’ meaning cultivation or worship. He argues that the West is undergoing an attempt to divorce culture from cultus which leads to dangerous forms of rationality which devalue the human person.

To what extent is Christianity a significant contributor to society’s culture and values? To what extent should it be?

“The great world cultures, like China and India and Islam, are classical examples of a moral order. Each of them possesses or possessed a sacred law and system of values on which its social life was founded.

The Western world today no longer possesses this principle of moral order. It has become so deeply secularised that it no longer recognises any common system of spiritual values, while its philosophers have tended to isolate the moral concept from its cultural context and have attempted to create an abstract subjective system of pure ethics. If this were all, we should be forced to conclude that modern Western society does not possess a civilisation, but only a technological order resting on a moral vacuum.

But Western society inherits the tradition of one of the greatest of the civilisations in the world, and in so far as one recognises this bond we are still civilised and it is still possible to restore moral order by a return to the spiritual principles on which our Christian civilisation was based. “

Christopher Dawson, The Crisis of Western Education

Earlier in this work, Dawson defines civilisation as a super culture – and argues that it is inherent within such super cultures to have their organising principles in sacred laws and values.

Here he argues that if we follow secularising forces where they inevitably lead, we will not have a civilisation at all, as we will lack an organising system of values, and we will have or already do have, a technological order resting on a moral vacuum.

Such an order will rapidly either destroy itself or die out. Such an order is unsustainable. ‘Instrumental reason’ as Charles Taylor calls it, is the method of dominant reasoning in such a secular age, and such reasoning can be easily hijacked by the merely powerful in pursuit of their own ends.

Interestingly, Dawkins himself, scourge of believers, seems almost sympathetic to such a viewpoint in many of his writings. He talks of the comfort he feels on entering an old church and he seems to be aware of the magnitude of what was lost. However, he wants to keep such musings at a purely aesthetic level, for his world view cannot allow Christian culture to have any intellectual punch. For him, it is a lot of stories you tell to children to comfort them when they are scared or sad. He invests in the simplistic view that religion is something to be outgrown, left behind like the childhood toys of the human race, and here he follows to a degree, Freud and Marx.

OCR AS Ethics Exam 25th May

Edit 20/5 – I have amended some of my questions as the ones I posted before were not quite right – I thought Kant hadn’t come up but he came up last year.

Well after the success of my last post in which I accurately predicted the three areas that would come up…

Actually let me burst my own bubble a bit here; as it is a new specification and there has only been one set of three questions for philosophy last year OCR would be unlikely to have questions on the same three topics again as they would want to make sure other areas of the spec were covered. So if three out the 7 topics came up last year that means I had a choice of 3 out of 4 possibilities this year, so it was pretty easy to pinpoint the general area.

If we apply the same logic to Ethics we can make these predictions:

2017: Natural Law

Kantian Ethics

Business Ethics

Thus 2018: Situation Ethics

Utilitarianism

Euthanasia

This of course comes with a massive caveat – there is no guarantee this will be the case.

So, my theoretical questions this time are:

1. To what extent does situation ethics’ lack of moral absolutes undermine moral decision-making?

2. “It is not possible to measure good or pleasure” Discuss

3. Critically examine natural law approaches to the question of euthanasia.

Have a go at doing these between now and the exam – set yourself half an hour and attempt without notes. That is a really good way of revising even if you don’t get it all in the essay, as you can then read it back with notes/textbook next to you and add in what you didn’t get.

Also don’t forget the examiners tip – don’t list everything you know in the AO1 – be specific and answer the question. And in the AO2 make sure you don’t do sweeping generalisations.

My students use a format in which they make sure that every paragraph has a back and forth between explanation, evaluation, counter evaluation and then link back to the question. For example, a paragraph for question 1 might look like this:

Fletcher emphasises the role of what he calls agape in every situation. The key question to ask being “what is the most loving thing to do in this situation?”. Fletcher’s rejection of legalism and emphasis on loving action means that the only guiding light in a moral decision should be what kind of consequences it will produce. As a consequentialist, relativist theory situation ethics is therefore open to some fairly strong challenges: for instance, what criteria do we have for deciding that one course of action is the most loving? W D Ross filled out some of the gaps here, but Fletcher’s theory is seriously lacking in detail on this point. It seems clear already from this that one of the key weak points when it comes to moral decision making is Fletcher’s emphasis on agape.

OK, good luck!

Revision Strategies

So today’s philosophy AS exam was interesting…

The questions were in the three general areas that I indicated:

Ancient Greek Philosophy

Religious Experience

Ontological Argument

Of course, I did not completely nail the titles. But a question on Aristotle’s view of reality, a question on conversion experiences and a question on Kant’s view of the ontological argument was close enough.

In fact, Plato’s view of reality would have made a good contrast to Aristotle’s in the first question, and an understanding of psychological explanations of religious experience would have helped to critique conversion experience.

Ethics is next, and I hope to post some more exam tips and revision chunks on this soon.

OCR Philosophy AS Exam May 17th

Earlier I shared a video I tried to make with advice for tomorrow’s AS exam. I say tried to make because my 4 year old daughter tried to steal the show…

Exam Advice

Anyway, My key advice was from the examiner’s report last year –

  1. In the AO1 don’t just write everything you know/all the scholars you know on the general topic – knowledge must relate to the question
  2. In the AO2 don’t do sweeping generalisation or resort to assertions without justification – use arguments
  3. Perhaps be ready for questions on the topics that didn’t come up last year, so that would mean:
  • Ancient Greek Philosophical influences (Plato and Aristotle)
  • Religious Experience
  • Ontological Argument
  • Teleological Argument

I then had a stab at three possible questions along these lines:

  1. ‘Plato’s rationalism is stronger than Aristotle’s empiricism’ Discuss.
  2. Critically evaluate physiological and psychological challenges to religious experience
  3. To what extent does Anselm’s ontological argument survive the criticisms of Gaunilo?

I have no idea if these will come up but they are as good a guess as any. That first one is quite hard though, perhaps too hard.

Some thoughts: Rationalism clearly has the strength of being capable of producing logically valid arguments which are true by virtue of their own inherent logic rather than relying on possibly flawed sense-data. On the other hand, there are many areas where we rely on empirical data for knowledge, for instance whenever we make predictions about the natural world such as weather forecasts. The fact that such forecasts may be unreliable does not mean people cease to use them.

Physiological and psychological challenges: Dennett, Dawkins et al argue that these are the best explanations for religious experience. Don’t forget that there are many flaws in reductive materialism, the worldview that is usually behind such challenges. For instance, it is self-defeating, as it if it is true, people are not actually free to hold any beliefs whatever, as they are just complex lumps of meat. In that case, on materialism’s own account, there is no reason why I should take the materialists views as any more valid than anyone else’s!

Anselm I will leave to you to have a think about…

Good luck tomorrow!

Epiphaneia Archive: Envisioning Education: Parents as Partners or Primary?

The Scholars Blog

by Todd Wedel

At times visual media gives insight into the dominant symbols of a position or issue, helping us to see the meanings behind the debate. So it is with the contrasting visions of education embodied in Common Core and The Academy, seen clearly in two videos, one advocating Common Core (see below) and The Academy’s Expectations video (see second video below).

Though cast as something new, the Common Core standards are nothing more than another iteration of the progressive approach to education. While an emphasis on critical thinking and written expression might seem new, the telos, or end, remains the same as that first propounded by men such as John Dewey and William James who viewed students as units of production to further the economic and social progress of society. The “new” emphases come not from a renewed understanding of the holistic nature of education but from…

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Old Spec Philosophy of Religion AS predictions 2017

Here we go, at last I have caved to pressure after weeks of people asking for predictions for the old spec AS exams – I almost expected people to start knocking on my door and asking me to do this! Sorry about the wait! Yes, they are similar to a certain other blogger’s predictions – we often have similar guesses, because it usually possible to see where there have been gaps in previous years which makes prediction easier. As usual the disclaimer: These are by no means bound to come up and you only have yourself to blame if you only revise these and none of the topics come up!

 

1 a) Explain the relationship between concepts and phenomena in Plato’s thought

b) ‘Plato’s theory of Forms is unnecessary – the world makes more sense without it’ Discuss

 

2 a) Explain Hume’s criticisms of the cosmological argument

b) To what extent was Hume successful in his critique of the cosmological argument?

 

3 a) Explain how the Bible shows God as craftsman involved with his creation

b) ‘It is impossible for God to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent’ Discuss

 

4 a) Explain theistic views of evolution

b) To what extent is evolution compatible with theism?

 

1a has not come up as a question but it is on the spec – I will post more on that. Question 2 I have lots on Hume and cosmolgical argument on the site – see these old posts here and here. God as creator with this emphasis has not come up before. Science and Religion could well come up too.

MYSTICISM: Message To Poets, by Thomas Merton

For the poets

The Value of Sparrows

(NOTE: This message was read at a meeting of the “new” Latin-American poets – and a few young North Americans – Mexico City, February 1964.  This was not a highly organized and well-financed international congress, but a spontaneous and inspired meeting of young poets from all over the hemisphere, most of whom could barely afford to be there.  One, for instance, sold her piano to make the trip from Peru.)

We who are poets know that the reason for a poem is not discovered until the poem itself exists.  The reason for a living act is realized only in the act itself.  This meeting is a spontaneous explosion of hopes.  That is why it is a venture in prophetic poverty, supported and financed by no foundation, organized and publicized by no official group, but a living expression of the belief that there are now in our world new people, new poets who…

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“Scripture Is The Only Valid Form Of Revelation” Discuss (35 Marks)

“Scripture Is The Only Valid Form Of Revelation” Discuss (35 Marks)

A revelation is often referred to as “a divine disclosure, whereby God reveals Himself in some way to a person”. Christians claim that God reveals himself to us in many ways namely; through nature: the universe with its vastness and complexity gives testimony to God and His glory, He is also revealed through our conscience: all societies have a certain moral code built into them in which stealing, lying, murder, and such are universally condemned. Humanity’s sense of right and wrong testifies to God’s existence as it is a sign of His goodness, they also believe that the work of Jesus reveals God: Jesus Himself testified that He had come to earth to reveal the will of God the Father. All of these revelations have come from the Christian scripture.The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to humankind. The Scripture says “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof for correction, for instruction in righteousness”(2 Timothy 3:16).The Bible is humankind’s source for the knowledge of God and His plan. In this essay I will outline different types of attitudes towards Christian scripture and evaluate the claim that “Scripture Is the Only form of Revelation”.

In philosophy, there are two different ways in which people understand the idea of revelation from God; propositional revelation and non-propositional revelation. Propositional revelation is often understood as God revealing truths about His nature to people.The revelations are made up of non-debatable statements of facts and the information given reveals inerrant knowledge which is without need of interpretation. An example of a propositional revelation is the ten commandments, given to Moses.

Many people criticise this view as it suggests that the receiver of the revelation is passive. However, psychologically, the human mind does not passively receive information, it actively receives it, for example when you learn something, you remember it. Additionally, when trying to learn, we can make memory errors, this means propositional revelations of God may not have been recorded accurately as humans are not infallible. To add, many people claim that the zealous after effects of a revelation can act as proof of the genuineness of the revelation however, this is not the case. There is no direct way to prove that a propositional revelation has happened. Furthermore, different religions, claim to have received propositional revelations, yet sometimes truth claims from different religions conflict. This could mean that all revelations are limited by the ability of receivers to interpret the revelation into their own religion, making it an interpretation, not a statement of fact.

Various Christians take a propositional view when approaching the Bible. As they believe it is the absolute word of God. These people are traditionally known as fundamentalists as they oppose liberal approaches who interpret the Bible, often doubting miracles and the creation story. They also believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and that it is therefore infallible. To them, the Bible is an authoritative book that reveals God’s will to His people through historically accurate documents. Fundamentalism is limited in that it does not aid you in interpreting the Bible which can be deemed uninspirational. Their view is also subjective and only accepts one way of interpreting the Bible without knowing of it is the correct way.

Moreover, many fundamentalists use the term “verbal inspiration” to describe how God gave His word to the people. “Verbal Inspiration” refers to the divine origins of every word in the Bible. It claims that God dictates the books of the Bible through divine inspiration, this means that every word of the Bible should be respected in the Bible as you will therefore be following God’s absolute words. This means you can consult the Bible for guidance about moral dilemmas and problems in life, and your answers will be found in the Bible. This view is highly criticised as of the Bible is followed this way, believers must accept harsh punishments like the death penalty for many offences. This is seen by many as barbaric and cruel as this would mean women who commit adultery and who are not virgins before they get married should be stoned to death. Similarly, the idea of how creation happened is highly disputed among all Christians as many liberals do believe in the theory of evolution. To add, of the Bible is divinely inspired then disobeying the Bible in any way is a rejection of God’s commands so a fundamentalist should agree to the stoning of women even though it would be shunned in our society today.

The other way in which people understand revelation from God is through the non-propositional approach. This refers to the idea that religious believers recognise God’s revelation through his action in human history and through experience. The role of the receiver is therefore crucial in this instance as God’s revelation will be a subjective experience. This approach means that humans are free to respond to God’s revelation or not to since the receiving of the revelation is active. An example of a non-propositional revelation is noted by the author Arthur Cohen through his character of Sherlock Holmes, he argues for the existence of a God from the beauty in the world. William Paley also stated that the structure of the eye is so meticulously designed that is must have had a creator. Other examples of non-propositional revelations are the gospels as the are an account of what was revealed through Jesus’ life as His apostles understood it. From reading the Gospels we can form an image of what Jesus’ was like and decipher what this means for us today.

Many people criticise this view as the claim that non-propositional revelations do not reveal direct knowledge of God, nor can they be considered as infallible. This means there is no way of resolving theological debates apart from appealing to one’s own experience. Additionally, the content of a non-propositional revelation is a matter of interpretation. It is equally possible to be amazed by the beauty and nature of the world without experiencing a non-propositional revelation. Dawkins also argues that we have evolved through our genes and are now able to understand a little of our place in the universe and in the process of evolution. Through the development of the prefrontal cortex we can admire art and socially interact. Non- propositional revelations simply attribute a level of consciousness that we have developed from the process of evolution to God. To add, another criticism is that a believer in this approach cannot claim absolute certainty about their belief systems the way a propositional believer can as they have no factual evidence to support them.

Furthermore, people who apply the non-propositional approach to the Bible, will also believe that the Bible is a record of human experiences of God. The inspiration of God makes the author write down their experiences and understanding of God’s action in the world. The author of the Bible is not divinely dictated to but uses their own skills and understanding to record their revelation of God. They tend to coin the term “divine inspiration” to describe how the Bible came about. This refers to the belief that God inspires the writers of the books of the Bible. This view is criticised as there is a discrepancy over what the specific instructions from God are, as of the book is divinely inspired, then the revelation of God is within the text but identifying the exact nature of the revelation would be problematic. Additionally, the instructions in the Bible are difficult for some to come to terms with for example, no divorce for women and men in abusive relationships. To add, some passages in the Bible conflict with modern attitudes. This is evident in St Paul’s patriarchal view of women’s roles in Churches as they are somewhat oppressive and anti-feminist. Many people would argue that scripture is culturally relative and time bound and so is not relevant today.

Others would argue that scripture is the only valid form of revelation as they hold so much authority. This is due to the fact that after the early Church, leaders could not directly refer to the first apostles for guidance and so developed a new authority. This was based on the rule of faith and the Bible. The rule of faith encompassed traditions, teachings of leaders and beliefs of Christians that had been passed down from the time of the apostles. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is also a form of literary authority as it is written by apostolic teachings and by previous popes who hold papal succession. This stems from the belief that Jesus gave the apostles authority as they were witnesses of His work. Bishops and popes are therefore successors of the apostles and hold the same authority, this means their writings are infallible. The Bible is also seen by many people as the law and should be followed, this has been stated by Maurice Willes. This however poses many problems as laws are seen to be constructs of social order for the time they are created in. This could mean that because the Bible was written over 2000 years ago, its laws and instructions are outdated and need to be in accordance with todays society in order to maintain relevance for the people. It would be plausible to suggest however that Christians would claim the Bible is transcendent as it is divine.

In conclusion, I believe Scripture is the only valid from of revelation as many other forms of revelation stem from it. This is evident in the revelation of God through Jesus as his works are described to us in the Bible.Our sense of morality and conscience can also be taken from the Bible for example, in the beatitudes, revealing God’s expectations of us. Additionally, through reading the Genesis and the creation story we are given an answer to the beauty of the world and therefore can attribute nature’s cause, to God.

A Level (A2) Predictions 2017 – OCR Philosophy and Ethics

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It’s that time of year again. Let’s see whether we can take a look at the previous questions and take an educated guess about what might come up. The truth is that this has become harder and harder to do. A few years ago there were a few topics that hadn’t come up. Now everything has pretty much come up in previous years. Still, I’ll have a go at predictions. Just remember the usual disclaimer: I am not psychic and I don’t know the future. These are *guesses*! Anything could come up! Please revise all areas, you just may want to have a little look in more depth at these topics. OK, that said here goes:

Philosophy:

Religious Experience: ‘Voices are not proof of God but evidence of psychological neurosis.’ Discuss (35) (Click link for essay)

Miracles: ‘Hume’s understanding of miracles is flawed’. Discuss. (35)  (Click link for essay)

Attributes of God: ‘God’s foreknowledge is incompatible with human free will.’ Discuss. (35)

Life after Death: ‘Resurrection is more coherent than reincarnation’. Discuss. (35)

Religious Language: To what extent does analysis of the uses and purpose of religious language overcome the criticisms of the logical positivists? (35)

Ethics

Free Will and Determinism: Critically evaluate theological determinism. (35)

Conscience: How convincing are Newman’s claims that conscience is the voice of God? (35)

Virtue Ethics: ‘Virtue Ethics is the best approach to environmental issues.’ Discuss (35)

Sexual Ethics: Assess the usefulness of religious ethics as an approach to the issues surrounding contraception. (35)

So why have I predicted these ones? Well, in philosophy, the only topics that have never come up as far as I can see are voices in religious experience, Hume’s definition of miracles (different from his criticisms of miracles, which has come up), and the uses and purpose of religious language. Then the other two from life after death and attributes have not come up for a while.

With ethics it was a case of choosing between quite a few options – as far as I can see, no-one apart from Butler has been specified in a question, so there could be a question on any of the other conscience scholars. Also never seen a specific question on predestination which seems odd? The two applied topics have never come up in that combination.

There you go – hope that helps with revision! Now to do ‘predictions’ for AS – a bit pointless really as it is the first year, so literally anything could come up! That hasn’t stopped other people from having a go at it though!

BTW – are you interested in a really useful revision guide for AS? Get mine here: https://rs.pushmepress.com/titles/as-religious-studies-revision-guide-for-ocr-a-level-religious-studies/trade-paperback-uk