Journal Responses

Journal Responses

Chapter One: What is Philosophy?

1. Socrates compared himself to a gadfly. Identify a gadfly in our culture and discuss how he or she exhibits behavior that resembles a gadfly (not biting like a fly does a cow, but persistently criticizing and questioning for the purpose of instigating and stimulating debate.) This requires a little research. (Don’t forget to cite your source(s).)

2. Rene Descartes is buried in the nave of the Church of St. Germaine in France; in fact, it is the oldest church in Paris. But his remains do not include his head. Where is his head? Explain. (You can read Descartes’ Bones by Russell Shorto. It’s a detective story about one of the greatest minds in philosophical history – until he lost his head. Awesome book! Otherwise, consult the Internet for details.)

Chapter Two: Logic and Reasoning – Philosophical Tools

3. Analyzing and clarifying complex concepts is in integral part of philosophy; it often involves testing definitions. Definitions are lexical (from the dictionary) and real (Plato and Aristotle’s real definitions, which include necessary and sufficient conditions). Give an extended definition of ONE of the following concepts and explain WHY it is important to understand the real definition. (Refer to pages 21-23)





*impiety (that’s what Socrates was accused of – well, one of them.)


4. Fallacies are not sound due to errors in reasoning. The media is a great place to find examples of how your thinking is manipulated and influenced by fallacious reasoning. Advertisers, politicians, networks, televangelists, etc. You name it. Explain some common informal fallacies. Then identify an example of a fallacy in the media and write an analysis of how the source is using fallacious reasoning to influencing your thinking and behavior. (Refer to Chapter 5 of the Vaughn book for help.)

Chapter Three: Reality versus Perception – What Do We Know?

5. In The Matrix, Morpheus says "the Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to keep you from the truth." How would you interpret Morpheus’ quote?

6. Read about situations called a Gettier cases. (UQ text p. 47) Investigate an example of a Gettier case in literature. Discuss how the example of the Gettier case you researched is a challenge to the classical definition of knowledge.

7. Read Oliver Sacks essay – "The Mind’s Eye" from The New Yorker Write a thoughtful response to the question: how does one know what is real? Use excerpts from the reading to support your ideas.

The Mind’s Eye By Oliver Sacks Read For Journal Response If You Choose (Fascinating Read!)

Chapter 7 – Does God Exist?

8. Discuss the problem of evil. If God is all- good (omnibenevolent), why does he/she allow evil to exist in the world? Why do children suffer? (See the discussion of theodicies on page 192 of your text.) You may want to use a recent news story to explain your answer.

9. Pascal was a gambler. He even wagered on the existence of God: if God exists, then the consequences of believing is eternal bliss, but the result of not believing if God does actually exist is eternal damnation. So, it is better to believe. Discuss the pros and cons of Pascal’s Wager (see the text on pages 181-184 as well as resources in the Internet for ideas to help you give a balanced discussion.)

Pascal At Foxwoods For Journal Response If You Choose

10. There is a new, more recent category of Americans that are non-religious called nones (not to be confused with the very religious called “nuns.”). These are individuals who do not belong to a particular organized religion or profess a particular faith. Roughly one-fifth of adult Americans tell surveyors that they have no religious affiliation at all. Some are new-age religious, some are agnostics, and some are atheists. Does the rise of the religious nones indicate the end of religion? Is this the dire “end of the world” for religion or is it just a shift in the paradigm of religion and spirituality?

11. Take a look at the film Contact (1997) in which a scientist (Jodi Foster) discovers a signal being broadcast from space, which she believes is a sign of intelligent life. She proposes a means to make contact with this other life form. Even though she does not establish proof for its existence, her discovery challenges the belief system of many people. Where do beliefs come from? Is faith compatible with reason? (Also, the idea of Occam’s Razor is introduced in this movie. Comment on this.)

13. Discuss how civil disobedience is a viable alternative to violent confrontation and can be an effective agent of change. Discuss in terms of the contribution of Thoreau, Gandhi, King, or someone you research (How about Cesar Chavez?). Give concrete evidence and explanation.

14. Where is the line between justice and vengeance? (Discuss the rationale of the death penalty as vengeance, punishment, or deterrent.) Don’t forget to consider the definitions.

15. Do you think that the way Americans eat reveals anything about our national character and broader shared values? How are Pollan’s or Singer’s writings a statement not only about American diet but about American culture and life?