Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, February 22, 2016

Study Guide

Thursday's exam questions will be reworded, when necessary, to fit the glossary format... so the best way to study is by revisiting the relevant texts. After the exam we'll commence group reports.


JAN 21
1. How do critics who conflate physicalism with eliminative materialism mis-portray atheists?

2. Why isn't atheism parasitic on religion?

3. Does Baggini agree that absence of evidence is never evidence of absence?

4. What did David Hume point out about our tendencies of belief?

5. Give an example of an abductive argument supporting atheism.

6. Why isn't atheism a faith position?

JAN 26
1. The Euthyphro Dilemma implies what about the properties of goodness?

2. What is Kierkegaard's (and Woody Allen's) existentialist point about Abraham and morality?

3. Does Baggini think it matters whether judgments like "pain is bad" are factual?

4. Did Sartre deny that human life lacks purpose or meaning?

5. Why doesn't Baggini think belief in an afterlife solves the problem of meaning?

6. What's the nirvana dilemma?

JAN 28
1. "Anaxagoras is the earliest historical figure to have been indicted for atheism" (Jennifer Michael Hecht, Doubt: A History... & see Tim Whitmarsh's Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World - "Disbelief in the supernatural is as old as the hills"), but the first "avowedly atheist work" was by whom? Who does Baggini name as some of his ancient precursors?

2. Did original Marxist communism advocate religious oppression?

3. Which of the traditional god arguments does Baggini find "philosophically interesting" but banal?

4. How do most believers justify their faith, according to Baggini?

5. What methodological principle does Baggini invoke, to reject the imposition of stringent standards of evidence and truth?

6. What's a humanist?


1. What does Samuel Scheffler ask us to reflect on, and what is his implicit view of Woody Allen's immortality joke?

2. What does Scheffler consider the primary condition or prerequisite for having a life? (Or, what must we do in order to live?)

3. Scheffler says confidence in a natural, collective afterlife is a condition of what?

4. How does he think most of us would respond to the 30-day doomsday scenario? What projects and activities seem least likely to be affected?

5. What's the purpose of traditions?

6. How does Scheffler think the world would react to the Children of Men infertility scenario?

1. Why wouldn't taking a drug to induce belief in the afterlife work?

2. What's the point of playing games?

3. To what do we lay claim, in valuing?

4. Why are we confounded when we try to integrate cosmic ideas into our thinking about what matters?

5. What evidence does Scheffler find in the popularity of the Times "In Memoriam" section?

6. Are we more altruistic than we realize, on S's view?

FEB 9, 11
1. What question did Scheffler shy away from, that Wolf finds irresistible?

2.  What does Wolf think might we come to recognize, when reflecting on our concern for those in immediate need of care after the immediate shock of doomsday has worn off?

3. Who asked Alvy Singer's question before he (and Woody) did?

4. What does Harry Frankfurt think Scheffler underestiimates?

5. What does Frankfurt consider more fundamental in understanding us than our expectations of the future?

6. What does Shiffrin find deeply tragic about the infertility scenario?

1. How can most of us not help but view Epicurus's argument, according to Feldman and others?

2. What strategy is at the heart of the Epicurean position (though they might have disagreed)?

3. What's an example of a desire that's potentially neither conditional nor categorical?

4. What's the paradox or puzzle at the heart of our mortal experience?

5. What's problematic about "reconceptualizing" immortality in noncorporeal and disembodied terms?

6. Does recognition of humanity's temporal limits exert a formative influence on our ideas of value?

FEB 16
1. What is Kolodny's point, in citing G.B. Shaw's quip about youth, with respect to temporal scarcity?

2. What does Scheffler mean (and not mean) by the "limits of our egoism"?

3. How might our human nature(s) have been differently constituted, with respect to the pursuit of long-term goals?

4. What source of great solace for the elderly and dying would be lost in the infertility scenario?

5. Does Scheffler think it would significantly mitigate the doomsday or infertility scenarios if a posthuman race remembered and appreciated us?

6. What does Scheffler make of our desire for worthwhile eternal life?


FEB 18
1. What's the premise of this book?

2. What two needs was religion invented to serve, according to deB?

3. What objection does deB expect from militant atheists?

4. What might atheists learn from a Catholic Mass?

5. What is superbia?

6. What human tendencies does deB say must be purged and exorcised if communities are to function?

FEB 23
1. What on deB's view poses the greatest risk to our chances of flourishing?

2. Who are some of deB's secular saints?

3. What is the point of higher education, according to J.S. Mill?

4. Who pioneered walking meditation?

5. What are some questions posed by religion that should intrigue atheists?

6. Why don't atheists like the Marian cult?

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