AN INTRODUCTION TO EPISTEMOLOGY (Approximately 30 hours)
This introductory Unit will provide a foundation for learners to engage with questions concerned with knowledge, what we can know and how we can know it. Since the 17th Century Epistemology has been a primary focus of Western Philosophy. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and sources of our knowledge. Epistemological questions include:
- What is the foundation of knowledge and how does it differ from belief?
- How is knowledge acquired and is the process distinct to the acquisition of beliefs?
- What methods of reasoning can bring us closest to the ‘truth’?
- And can we really ever know anything?
Learners will engage in research and discussion about traditional definitions of knowledge, including Plato’s tripartite account of knowledge (Justified True Belief). In considering the theoretical limitations of our knowledge, learners will examine Cartesian and Humean Scepticism.
In an introduction to sound philosophical reasoning, learners will be able to identify and consider the strengths and/or validity of inductive and deductive arguments.
Learners will also examine two distinct schools of thought on sources of knowledge; Empiricism and Rationalism. Learners will investigate these schools of thought and will analyse and evaluate arguments put forward by philosophers to support each approach.
Studies will include investigations in how alternative arguments attempt to refute the tripartite account. The skills in epistemology (the study of knowledge) will be relevant to, and may be applied to, all other units throughout this course. This introductory Unit will give students the tools and capabilities to analyse and evaluate philosophical arguments and differing perspectives. By understanding the foundations of knowledge students will be able to approach challenging philosophical questions with an understanding or how to arrive at a logical position based on sound reasoning.
Content will include:
- What is the difference between belief and knowledge?
- Tripartite Theory of Knowledge – knowledge is ‘true justified belief’; this account holds that three conditions must be satisfied in order for one to possess knowledge i.e. if you believe something, with justification, and it is true, then it can be classed as knowledge.
- Gettier; cases show that some justified true beliefs do not constitute knowledge
- An alternative to the tripartite theory: knowledge is true belief formed through a reliable method (cf. Robert Nozick)
- What is the structure of knowledge:
- Foundationalism asserts that knowledge is structured like a building. This requires that some beliefs are self-justifying. These self-justifying beliefs form a foundation upon which other claims can be known. The regress argument in favour of Foundationalism.
- Coherentism claims that knowledge has a web-like structure. Beliefs are justified by virtue of their coherence with other beliefs. The strongest argument for Coherentism is the failure of Foundationalism as an alternative.
- Foundationalism is a theory of knowledge resting upon justified belief (and correspondence).
- explanation and evaluation of Empiricism (Hume) and Rationalism (Descartes)
- Empiricism – the theory that all knowledge is based on experience derived from the senses. Emphasises evidence, especially that derived from experiments
- Rationalism –theory that reason rather than experience is the foundation of certainty in knowledge there is wide agreement that knowledge, however it is accounted for, includes:
- data (especially that provided by the senses)
- ‘thinking’ about data (or reasoning)
- Philosophers have disagreed about which is the more fundamental of these two components. Descartes argues that sense data is unreliable and therefore reason must be the fundamental foundation of knowledge.
- Scepticism: can we know anything? Sceptical arguments include Descartes method of doubt and Humean scepticism; specifically, Hume’s Problem of Induction.
- Inductive and Deductive Reasoning
- Inductive: a logical process in which multiple ideas or premises, all believed true (or found true most of the time), provide strong evidence for a conclusion; the truth of inductive reasoning is probable, not certain; arrives at a specific conclusion. Inductive reasoning is often used in applications that involve prediction, forecasting, or behaviour
- Deductive: a logical process in which one or more statements are used to reach a conclusion; based on the concordance of multiple premises that are generally assumed to be true i.e. deductive reasoning links premises with conclusions in which the conclusion is certain.
Investigations may include:
- investigating the foundations of knowledge statements and differentiate between knowledge statements and beliefs
- investigating Descartes ‘method of doubt’ and Hume’s ‘problem of induction’ as a means of illustrating philosophical scepticism
- examining the differences between the arguments for Empiricism (Hume, Locke or others) and Rationalism (Descartes, Plato)
- evaluating the effectiveness of inductive and deductive reasoning.
Learners may use epistemological questions to support analysis of philosophical theories and the nature of knowledge in subsequent Units 2-5. Refer to APPENDIX A for examples.
Learners will gain key knowledge and understanding of:
- the difference between belief and knowledge
- how to identify statements as belief or knowledge
- scepticism and its role in Epistemology
- the use of inductive and deductive reasoning in philosophy
- the major differences between Empiricism and Rationalism.
- analyse and evaluate one argument from at least one Empiricist
- empiricists may include Hume, Locke.
- analyse and evaluate one argument from at least one Rationalist
- rationalists may include Descartes, Plato.
Key concepts include:
- Rationalism and Empiricism
- inductive reasoning
- deductive reasoning
MIND/BODY PROBLEM (Approximately 30 hours)
This Unit investigates the mind/body problem. The question looks at the nature of the relationship between the mind, or consciousness, and the physical world, asking a number of questions. Are they separate? What is the relationship between them?
What is consciousness and how does it exist in matter? The mind/body problem has been addressed since the time of Plato and is evident in the works of philosophers since that time.
Historically, religion has been a signiﬁcant force in shaping answers to metaphysical questions. However, in more recent times, mainstream philosophical opinion has turned more towards materialistic or property dualistic explanations in the development of answers to metaphysical questions. Therefore, study in this topic will focus on these more recent schools of thought, but will not neglect classical philosophers, for example Descartes.
There are a number of responses that have been proposed to the mind/body debate although none are fully accepted universally. Content will include investigations into philosophical theories on mind/body:
- Dualist and Monist philosophical positions on the mind/body problem =
- the relative strengths and weaknesses of philosophical positions on the mind/body problem
- analysis of thought experiments on qualia and their relevance
- Cartesian Dualism and other forms that try to avoid the problem of interaction (Leibniz, Malebranche, Property Dualists). Physicalist evaluation of the problem of interaction and ‘ghosts in the machine’ (Ryle et. al)
- forms of Physicalism
- Thought Experiments and issues of Qualia (Jackson, Chalmers, Nagel); critique of Thought Experiments and Qualia (Dennett).
Investigations will include:
- at least one (1) one example of Dualism in detail
- at least one (1) example of Monism in detail
- at least one philosopher representing each view looking at their contribution to philosophy and the key understandings of their theories; includes analysis of their philosophical ideas and the relative strengths and weaknesses of their argument
- at least one (1) thought experiment and the relevance of that experiment to the mind/body problem
- at least one issue of qualia (properties of experience.)
Table 2: Key Theories/Concepts and Recommended Thinkers on Mind/Body
||Recommended Thinkers Include
|General Position 1: Dualism
1/ Substance dualism
2/ Property dualism
*May include discussions on qualia and consciousness
- Does the mind exist separately from the body?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of deductive reasoning?
- Is the mind a property of the body rather than a separate substance?
|The Problem of Interaction
- If the mind and body are separate entities, how do they interact?
Other ‘property dualists’
|General Position 2: Monism
- Can science provide a purely physical explanation of the mind?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of empirical scientific evidence?
- What are the implications of physicalism for personal identity and life after death?
Patricia & Paul Churchland
(Biological Naturalism)Evaluation of interaction and ‘ghosts in the machine’ (Ryle et. al)
|Identity Theory (Also known as Reductionism)
- Can psychology be reduced to biology, chemistry and, ultimately, physics?
- Is anything lost in this process?
- Can ‘mind’ be reduced to the physical? Or is ‘mind’ such a problematic concept that it should be eliminated altogether?
|Patricia & Paul Churchland
- Are mental states identified by what they do rather than what they are made of?
- What are the implications of a functionalist conception of mind for artificial intelligence?
Alan Turing (Turing Test)
John Searle (Chinese Room)
Relates to both Dualism and Monism:
- Do materialist theories account for the qualitative aspects of mind? Are there mental events that cannot be explained in physical terms?
- What is the nature of consciousness?
- Can consciousness be explained in purely physical terms?
Both Dualist and Monist thinkers
Philosophical theories/concepts that address Mind/Body:
- Dualism, the position that the mind is essentially not physical, and exists separately from the body. Dualism exists in various forms. Studies may include:
- Property dualism – this theory claims that we have mental states like thoughts and beliefs, and that these mental states are properties. Mental properties are viewed as different to physical properties.
- Substance dualism – the view that mental properties belong to the mind, and physical properties belong to the body. The mind and body are different substances
- Cartesian dualism is the substance dualism formulated by Rene Descartes. All Cartesian dualists are also substance dualists
- Problem of Interaction
- Interactionism - states that the mind and body have causal interaction
- Occasionalism - states the apparently causal links between mind and body are actually divine intervention
- Parallelism, which states that the apparent causal link between mind and body is an illusion, and that mind and body run parallel to one another.
- Monism, the position that the mind and body are not fundamentally separate. There are several types of mind-body monism:
- Physicalism, including most commonly-held positions today, which asserts that the mind may be reduced to the physical processes of the brain:
- Functionalism, which states that mental states are caused by behaviours, senses and other mental states
- Type physicalism, which argues that mental states are equivalent to brain states
- Behaviourism, which holds that discussions about mental states can be reduced to discussions about behaviours.
- Idealism, which claims that the mind is all that exists
- Phenomenalism, which reduces the physical world to perceptions which exist within the mind alone.
- Materialism, which claims that everything is either made only of matter or is ultimately dependent upon matter for its existence and nature. Materialism tends to reject the idea of spirit or anything non-physical although some may refer to spirit.
- Thought experiments
- Investigations will include analysis of thought experiments and their relevance. Epistemological approaches may be applied in this study.
Learners will analyse at least one (1) thought experiment, investigating and assessing its strengths and flaws, referring to the reasoning philosophers have used and any arguments that refute them.
- thought experiments are devices of the imagination used to investigate our world; for example, The Chinese Room and The Black and White Room; Philosophical Zombies.
- learners will investigate the reasoning behind the thought experiments.
In completing Unit 2, learners will gain key knowledge and understanding of:
- how the mind/body issue centres around the notions of mind (mental) and body (physical)
- whether we are made of the physical as in our body and/or the mental as in our mind?
- Dualism (a view that there is both mind/mental and body/physical) of which there are a number of theories including:
- Property dualism
- Substance dualism
- the Problem of Interaction.
- Monism (a view that there is only one of these, just mental or just physical), of which there are a number of theories
- Identity theory
- the strengths and weaknesses of Mind/Body theories
- Mental events, for example, thoughts; dreams; ideas; hopes; emotions: love, fear
- Physical events: states and functions of the body, for example, walking; falling; heart-beat; brain states
- Qualia – the qualitative nature of experience. What is it like, over and above the experiences themselves?
- analysis of thought experiments on qualia and their relevance, for example, The Chinese Room (Searle), Mary and the black and white Room (Jackson); Philosophical Zombies (Chalmers)
- philosophical views on the soul.
FREE WILL (Approximately 30 hours)
This Unit will consider the question of free will; what is meant by free will and whether human beings ever have the ability to choose freely. Is the power of acting freely determined by necessity or fate or do human beings have the ability to act at their own discretion?
Learners will define free will and become familiar with, and will investigate and analyse, different answers to the question of free will and the arguments that have been presented by philosophers and varying theses to support those answers. Studies will include investigations into determinism, free will versus determinism and how these perspectives are evidenced in daily lives.
The issue of punishment and moral responsibility will provide a context for learners to understand why the question of free will is important in today’s society and the effectiveness of determinism as a legal defence.
Studies will include investigations into three key questions on ‘free will’:
- what is free will and do humans possess it?
- is free will compatible with Determinism?
- what is punishment for and what are the implications of different views on free will?
What is free will and do humans possess it?
- examining contested definitions of Free Will - that people have choice in the way they act; that people are self-determined
- Libertarianism – argues that human beings are free to choose amongst alternatives available and not controlled by others or outside forces
- this view suggests that as humans have free will to choose their actions, they are morally bound to be responsible for them
- philosophers may include Descartes and Peter van Inwagen in evaluation of the Libertarian view (at least one (1) philosopher must be studied.)
- Determinism – the belief that everything humans do is pre-determined and that therefore they are not responsible for their actions; this is also an incompatibilist view. Determinism argues that the notion of ‘free will’ is an illusion.
- types of determinism may include: divine, causal, genetic, environmental, logical, physical, material, mechanical
- causality – determinism argues causality, that all events are determined by preceding events
- philosophers for the study of determinism may include la Place, Baron d'Holbach, Patricia Churchland, Schopenhauer or Galen Strawson (at least one (1) philosopher must be studied.)
- both Libertarianism and Determinism are incompatibilist views.
- Incompatibilism – denies the compatibility of free will and determinism. Some incompatibilists argue the belief that at least some persons have free will and therefore determinism must be false; that all or a part of the actions of people are not influenced by causation.
Is Free Will compatible with Determinism?
- Compatibilism provides a response to the disputed incompatibility of free will and determinism; an uneasy compromise of Libertarianism and Determinism. It proposes that free will is compatible with determinism; also expressed as a concept that argues compatibility between determinism and moral responsibility (i.e., that people can make free choices, for which they can be held morally responsible, even if determinism is true)
- Philosophers for the study of compatibilism may include Daniel Dennett; Hume (at least one (1) philosopher must be studied.)
- Hard Determinism (incompatibilist determinism) and Soft Determinism (compatibilist determinism). Both agree that determinism is true but disagree that free will is possible given that determinism is true. Does science now suggest that determinism is probably false?
- Indeterminism - there are events, particularly some human actions or decisions, which have no cause. This can be connected with the idea of uncertainty and indeterminacy (e.g. Werner Heisenberg’s quantum mechanics.)
Table 3: Is Free Will Compatible with Determinism?
|POSSIBILITIES: exclusive & exhaustive
||Determinism EXCLUDES free will
||Determinism DOES NOT EXCLUDE free will
|Determinism is true. (All human actions arise from antecedent causes that necessitate their result.)
|Determinism is false
What is punishment for and what are the implications of different views on free will?
Some hard determinists (e.g. Clarence Darrow in the Leopold and Loeb case, 1924) have argued that our current practices of punishing the guilty cannot be justified if hard determinism is true. But this depends on what purpose punishment serves. Does it exist to exact retribution and give criminals their just deserts (the retributivist view)? Does it exist to promote good outcomes such as deterring potential offenders, keeping the public safe from danger, or rehabilitating offenders (the consequentialist view)? The relevance of different views on free will to punishment depends in part on the function punishment is supposed to serve.
Examples of investigations may include:
- if people have ‘free will’ should they be responsible for their actions? How does this impact on the law?
- are ‘free will’ and determinism incompatible? Discuss in relation to the position of at least two philosophers
- apply the themes of ‘free will’ to a range of everyday situations
- define and explain hard determinism and soft determinism. Discuss in relation to creating arguments in standard form or different epistemic approaches
- define and explain the position of Libertarianism
- examine the implications of different views on free will if the primary purpose of punishment is retribution. What if the primary purpose is deterrence or rehabilitation?
In completing Unit 3, learners will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- the contested definitions of ‘free will’
- the responses of philosophers and thinkers to the question of ‘free will’
- the argument that determinism is compatible with free will and impacted by causality
- the nature of Indeterminism, Hard Determinism and Soft Determinism
- the main philosophical positions including the compatibilism and incompatibilism theses
- the issue of punishment/moral responsibility and the effectiveness of determinism as a legal defence
- the contribution of philosophical debate to contemporary issues of law
- explanation and evaluation of philosophers’ positions for Libertarianism, Determinism, and Compatibilism.
ELECTIVE STUDIES: ETHICS or SCIENCE AND FAITH (Approximately 30 hours)
Table 4: Elective topics
||ELECTIVE TOPICS (select one only)
One topic of:
|4.1: Contemporary Conflicts in Moral Theory
4.2: Life the Universe and Everything
CONTEMPORARY CONFLICTS IN MORAL THEORY (Approximately 30 hours)
This Unit elective investigates questions relating to contemporary morality. What does it mean to think, act, and exist morally? Is it relative to context, both circumstantial and cultural? Have humans made meaningful moral progress throughout history? Is there an objective, universal morality to which humanity is given access, or are we condemned to be free and create our own codes? How are we to exist as moral agents in a contemporary context?
This study of moral theory explores ideas about what it means to think, act and reason ethically, with an emphasis upon applying modern philosophical schools of thought, and speciﬁc skills to contemporary issues.
The aim of this Unit of study is to educate and engage students in a study of moral theory that will assist them in becoming empowered ethical thinkers and accountable young adults.
Studying moral theory in the context of a broad range of contemporary issues offers learners the ability to undertake a study of applied ethics, utilising the skills of previous units to formulate, reﬁne, challenge and make accountable, their own ethical perspectives of the world.
This study develops an understanding of moral theories, thinkers and themes, whilst encouraging learners to make meaningful choices in an empowered and informed sense.
Learners will investigate both moral theories and contemporary ethical issues. Learners will undertake investigations of at least two moral theories and at least one contemporary ethical issue. Of the two moral theories investigated, one will be from the ‘core’ moral theories listed below. These investigations will include the application of the chosen theories to the chosen issue(s).
Core moral theories include:
- Moral Relativism – argues there are no objective or universal moral standards. Moral claims are only ever true for – never simply true. (may include: cultural relativism, Ruth Benedict, David Hume’s ‘you cannot derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’)
- Moral Nihilism – argues that all moral claims, whether absolute or relative, are simply false. There is no such thing as rightness or goodness. (may include J. L. Mackie or Hume’s ‘no ought from is’ principle)
- Deontology – argues there are universal moral laws (may include: Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative or Rawls’ original position and principles of justice)
- Consequentialism – argues only the consequences of actions are morally signiﬁcant (may include: Jeremy Bentham’s classical utilitarianism and hedonic calculus, John Stuart Mill, Judith Jarvis Thompson’s trolley experiment.
Other moral theories that may be considered include:
- Preference Utilitarianism – is the satisfaction of preferences a better measure of utility than happiness? (for example: Peter Singer)
- the capabilities approach – is providing opportunities for individuals to ﬂourish by utilising human capabilities the greatest ethical consideration? (for example: Martha Nussbaum)
- virtue ethics – is the building of good character more important than rules or consequences? (for example, Aristotle)
- existentialist ethics – If God is dead, is everything permitted? Are we ‘condemned to be free’ and to act as if all acted in accordance with us? (for example, Jean Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche.)
- Feminist ethics – is there a distinctively feminine ‘ethic of care’ that should supplement masculinist moral reasoning that places emphasis on impartiality and principles?
Moral theories applied to contemporary ethical issues may include:
Environmental Ethics: What are our ethical obligations to the environment?
- human interaction within and interference with the natural world
- the rights of animals
- climate change and its consequences (displaced peoples and disappearing species)
Political Ethics: What are our rights and responsibilities as citizens of the state and in the world?
- the basis, justification, and constraints upon our individual rights
- liberties in an age of terror (terrorism, torture, privacy, surveillance, whistleblowers)
- responsibility to less economically developed nations and to domestic minorities (decolonisation and the legacies of Empire, rights of First Nation peoples, wealth inequalities, altruism and charity, economic exploitation, overconsumption, rights of corporations, and consumer ethics in capitalism, moral imperialism)
- international military intervention; the theory of the Just War invoked by Jimmy Carter in his article in NY Times prior to the Iraq war 9 March 2003.
Feminist Ethics: What is our role and ethical imperative in identifying and deconstructing gender inequalities and patriarchal privilege?
- the fundamental principles of feminism and the right to equality
- sexism: social expectations, objectification, and access to power or wealth
- ‘women’s work’: division of domestic and paid labour in society
- perception of women in power, affirmative action and quotas
- contemporary manifestations of inequality between the sexes (online harassment, social media, gamergate).
In completing Unit elective 1, learners will gain key knowledge and understanding of:
- the nature of morality, moral theory and specific schools of thought
- how to identify, articulate and analyse ethical questions
- the contemporary context of ethical issues in a globalised world
- how to explore ethical ideas, responding to foundational ethical questions, viewpoints and arguments with clearly expressed logical analysis and evaluation
- how to apply moral theories to a range of contemporary issues, under a number of broad strands
- how to utilise key terms and approaches of moral theory
- how to evaluate the strengths and limitations of moral theories
- the ways in which moral conflicts and their solutions reflect values and ideological positions.
Life, the Universe and Everything (Approximately 30 hours)
This unit elective explores competing views to the universal questions around the origin of the universe and life on earth. The two main explanations studied are scientific explanations and theist explanations.
Learners will investigate key theories and understandings including:
- Science and Faith as ways of knowing (including paradigms)
- Theories for the origin of the universe and proponents of these theories
- Theories about the origin of human life and proponents of these theories
Table 5: Content: Life the Universe and Everything
||Philosophers/Thinkers may include
|Science and Faith as Ways of Knowing
Learners study both topics. Including how faith based institutions have responded to scientific developments.
Science as a way of knowing using the basic Scientific Method
- the Problem of Induction
- Verificationism & Falsifiability
- Paradgims & Incommensurability
Faith as a Way of Knowing
- Faith answers questions science can’t adequately answer; faith answers ‘why?’
- Pragmatic Arguments for God’s existence
- Fideism and irrationality
Hume, Nelson Goodman
Soren Kierkegaard, Bertrand Russell (critic)
|Theories for the Origin of the Universe
Learners study both Big Bang Theory and at least one example of the Cosmological argument; including how traditional cosmological arguments have been challenged by the Big Bang theory
- Big Bang Theory
- Modal (Contingency Argument)
- Temporal (Kalam Argument)
Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson (1965)
Aquinas, Leibniz, Hume, Plantinga, William Lane Craig, Swinburne
|Theories about the Origin of Human Life
Learners will investigate theories about the origins of human life including how design arguments have been challenged by the theory of evolution.
Learners study at least one evolutionary argument in detail.
- adaptation and speciation
- Natural Selection and Common Descent
- new evolutionary theories
Learners will study at least one Teleological argument in detail
The Teleological (design) argument
Thomas Aquinas, Behe, Hume, Paley,
Swinburne and Tennant
Science and Faith as Ways of Knowing
Investigations into ‘Science as a way of knowing’ may include but are not limited to:
- The Scientific Method
- the most common means of distinguishing scientific knowledge claims from non-scientific or pseudo-scientific claims is the method used to arrive at claims. The scientific method consists of: empirically observing patterns in the natural world, forming hypotheses to explain empirical observations, using hypotheses to make predictions, testing predictions through experimentation, and finally, amending hypotheses or devising further predictions depending on results of experiment
- there exist problems with the scientific method, including the problem of observation (fallibility of senses & quantum observer effect) and the problem of induction. To what extent do these problems undermine the status of science?
- falsifiability is a further means of distinguishing science from non-science. Proposed by Karl Popper, this theory aims to eliminate the problem of verificationism by insisting that science must aim to disprove and to eliminate false beliefs
- Thomas Kuhn challenges Popper’s theory of scientific falsificationism by suggesting that the development of a science is not uniform but has alternating ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ phases. Normal science resembles the standard cumulative picture of scientific progress. paradigm shifts (examples are the shift from geocentrism to heliocentrism and Newtonian to Einsteinian mechanics)
- paradigms: knowledge claims can only be evaluated from within a paradigm. There is no common measure for claims outside of a paradigm. Therefore, we have no means of determining the value of theories in an objective way. This is Kuhn’s incommensurability thesis. To what extent does incommensurability make assessing scientific theories problematic? Does incommensurability mean that there is no way to determine whether religious or scientific paradigms better explain life and the universe?
- Investigations into faith may include but are not limited to:
- faith can answer questions that science cannot, i.e. why is there something rather than nothing?
- faith can answer the ‘why’ questions where science is limited to ‘how’
- criticisms of faith as a way of knowing, including faith does not revise beliefs as new evidence comes to light
- faith provides the answer then looks for evidence to support the answer rather than the other way around.
The Big Bang Theory
- Learners will investigate key understandings in the Big Bang Theory and the Cosmological Argument. Content may include but is not limited to:
- the leading and most widely accepted scientific theory about how the universe began; the principle proposes that the universe began with a small ‘singularity’, transforming over the next 13.8 billion years to the cosmos of today
- many of the understandings of the big bang theory stem from mathematical theory and models; astronomers support the theory through a phenomenon called the ‘cosmic microwave background’, an ‘echo’ of the expansion
- it is open to change and refinement in the future
- does not explain the origin of the ‘singularity’; as such questions are raised regarding whether it is a theory of the origins of the universe, or a theory regarding the transformation of the universe
- questions also grapple with the notion of the Big Bang theory being described as scientific (as the laws of physics could not apply in the ‘beginning’). Does it rely upon a ‘leap of faith’ to accept the Big Bang theory?
- the emergence of light or Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB); early theorists such as Alpher (1948).
- The Cosmological Argument - an argument ‘type’ using a pattern of argumentation; it utilises certain alleged facts about the world (the cosmos) making inferences to the existence of an external agent or being. First Cause – argues that if the universe exists, there must have been something that ﬁrst caused it to come into being. Otherwise there would be an inﬁnite regress of causes with no beginning
- Investigations into the cosmological argument may include ‘modal’ and ‘temporal’:
- Modal (associated with possibility):
- Contingency argument: contingency distinguishes those things that must exist, or could not have failed to exist, and those that exist contingently (caused by something, not a necessary existence.)
- Temporal (associated with time) cosmological argument or Kalam Argument
- distinguished from other cosmological arguments, that there is a point in time in which the universe began to exist. If the universe began to exist it must have had a cause. As no scientific account can accurately explain its cause, it must therefore have been caused by an agent or being; God.
Theories about the origin of human life and our place in the universe
Learners will investigate key theories for the origin of human life including:
- The Teleological argument (design)
Evolution – Darwinism; explanation of the process in which living organisms have developed from earlier forms; evolving in response to their environments and by improving survival and continuancee as a species; seen as an evidence-based explanation for the process of the history of life on Earth and the variety and diversity of life. Scientists use evidence to demonstrate that the evolutionary process explains the existence of human life as one part of life on Earth over millions of years. Learners will investigate evolutionary evidence and arguments.
Investigations will include at least one evolutionary argument and the evidence that underpins it in detail:
- Adaptation – adaptation provides an improved function that impacts on the success of a species; provided by natural selection
- Speciation – where a species evolves into two or more separate species; involves genetic change
- Natural Selection - the process in which organisms better adapt to their environment to survive and produce more offspring; explaining evolution (Charles Darwin) Common Descent – explains evolutionary biology and how a group of organisms may share common ancestors; that all living things on earth descended from a common ancestor. The notion of common descent is supported from DNA evidence
- Extended Evolutionary Synthesis: the concept that has dominated evolutionary thinking focuses on genetic inheritance and, given new evidence, theorists propose more nuanced evolutionary explanations. The theory of EES (Extended Evolutionary Synthesis) argues drivers of evolution, that organisms are constructed in relation to their environment as well as through more direct genetic expression. EES does not replace traditional thinking but argues that there is more to evolution than just genes with a single expression and that there are multiple routes to adaptation between organism and environment.
Teleological (design) Argument: argues that the Cosmic Order and its complexity are the result of intelligent design - the work of an external being. A key question in the Teleological argument poses is ‘Does the designer continue to have input into the design?’
Learners will investigate at least one Teleological argument in detail.
Investigations may include:
- Intelligent design – the reinterpretation of scientific knowledge in accord with belief in the literal truth of the Bible, especially regarding the origin of matter, life, and humankind; attempts to find scientific support for creationism
- creationist Michael Behe (1996) advocates the theory of ‘intelligent design’; that certain biochemical processes are ‘irreducibly complex’ in which he argues that species could not have evolved from natural selection as the removal of any one element (proteins) would destroy the viability of the organism. He argues therefore that organisms could not have evolved but must have been a product of intelligent design; the ‘mousetrap design’
- Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274): proposes the cycle of the existence of God; Creation; Man; Man’s Purpose; Christ; the Sacraments; back to God
- the Teleological argument; for example: William Paley and his ‘watchmaker’
- the Anthropic argument is a Law of Human Existence; human existence depends on a range of cosmological constants. If any of these parameters or constants changed, so would the existence of the universe as we know it
o the Fine Tuned Universe and argument from Suspicious Improbabilities are modern versions of Teleological Arguments that criticise the ‘randomness’ of evolution;
o both the Fine Tuned Universe and Suspicious Improbabilities have been subjected to fallacies of assumption arguing their vulnerabilities as theories.
In completing Unit 4 elective 2, learners will gain key knowledge and understanding of:
- competing theories for the origin of the universe (Big bang theory and the cosmological argument)
- explanations and evidence for the Big Bang theory
- explanations for the cosmology argument.
- theories about the origins of human life and our place in the universe:
- arguments for evolution
- arguments for Teleological or ‘design’ theories
- discuss and analyse the views of proponents and opponents of each view (evolution and ‘design.’)
- strengths and weaknesses of theories
- how the scientific method differs from faith based belief systems
- how deductive, and inference to the best explanation methods of reasoning are applied.
Philosophers and the Good Life (Approximately 30 hours)
Humankind has long sought answers to the questions around the issue of how we live a good life. Modern Philosophers have drawn certain conclusions around what is needed for us to fulfil a good life. This unit examines the views of some of those philosophers.
There are opposing views on what the good life is. Some philosophical positions argue that life is a preparation for death and what people do in life will reverberate in the afterlife; this necessitates that life is approached aspiring knowledge, discipline and justice. Certain religious views may argue that the good life is submitting to the Divine Will; some argue that living the good life requires fulfilling natural function; still others argue that we should live in the now, while we can, as death awaits us all. Philosophical views on the good life vary greatly and are influenced by social, cultural and religious views.
Key questions are central to this study; these are linked to a particular philosopher and it is the views of that philosopher which will be studied to understand and address the questions.
This unit investigates four (4) key questions and the theories/concepts associated with the philosophers identified for this study. Learners will undertake an overview of all four questions (and associated philosophers) and investigate one (1) question and philosopher in detail:
- What roles do our bodies and our reasoning play in helping us achieve the good life? (Montaigne)
- What roles do biology, gender and freedom play in living a good life? (de Beauvoir)
- What is the role of life's difficulties in the formation of character? (Nietzsche)
- What is the role of the natural world in achieving the good life? (Thoreau)
What roles do our bodies and our reasoning play in helping us achieve the good life?
Michel de Montaigne (1553-1592) closely studies the minutiae of his own lived experience and his own ‘attempt’ at a good life in order to illuminate some general characteristics of good lives. His intimate Essays explore the roles of reason, judgement, culture, bodies, sex, pleasure, aging and death in living a good life. In exploring these subjects, he studies what human lives actually involve - the daily realities of being human that are often overlooked in philosophy. He preaches sober thinking so that we may adopt more reasonable perceptions and expectations of human life and, in doing so, he brings the classical conception of humans as essentially rational ‘down to earth’ in his focus on embodied experience.
Learners who choose this inquiry will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- Montaigne’s sceptical account of the role of reason in a good life.
- The role of judgement in thinking about the body and culture.
- His philosophical method of examining his own life as one ‘attempt’ at the good life.
Evaluative questions relating to this inquiry include but are not limited to:
- Is Montaigne’s esteem for reason too low?
- Is a plural notion of good lives or a singular/universal conception of good life more appropriate?
- Does Montaigne’s suggested practical modesty inhibit human greatness?
- Does his method fail to offer a robust philosophy that provides real/concrete answers to the questions concerning the good life?
- Learners may, but are not required to, consider the arguments of different philosophers in evaluating Montaigne’s arguments.
What roles do biology, gender and freedom play in living a good life?
Existentialist feminist, Simone de Beauvoir (1908 - 1986), argues that many women are prevented from living good lives. Her critical project, developed in The Second Sex, examines the way that patriarchal societies constrain women and establish them as inferior ‘others’ who are considered less fully human than men. She analyses the roles of biology, culture, sexuality, love, marriage, raising children and work in producing women as ‘other’. Her emancipatory project is to empower women to realise that their constrained state is not natural or inevitable – there is no female ‘essence’ that determines the way women live. Women’s liberation involves creating oneself through authentically free action. Although primarily focusing on the lives of women, her existentialist philosophy also applies to men, who ought to reject the notion of a masculine essence in order to live authentically.
Learners who choose this inquiry will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- The ways women are cast as ‘other’ by society and the way this inhibits one’s ability to live a good life (focus on marriage and children).
- The rejection of essentialism in favour of existentialism.
- Freedom and transcendence as central to authentic lives.
Evaluative questions relating to this inquiry include but are not limited to:
- Is the rejection of essentialism justified? Do fundamental natural differences between women and men exist? To what extent?
- Does Beauvoir’s anti-essentialist individualism marginalise important feminine virtues such as caring? Are difference feminists and maternal feminists right to argue that Beauvoir only offers women ‘the freedom to be men’?
- In critiquing marriage and gender roles, does Beauvoir undermine the harmonious functioning of society?
- Learners may, but are not required to, consider the arguments of different philosophers in evaluating Beauvoir’s arguments.
What is the role of life's difficulties in the formation of character?
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) rejects the notion of objective truth and argues that all claims to truth are, at base, expressions of power. This means that answers to the question of the good life are expressions of power by those who utter them. Greatness, for Nietzsche, involves the rejection of traditional morality, especially the ‘slave morality’ of Christianity and democracy. The great individual is a free spirit who creates their own values and freely expresses what Nietzsche calls the ‘will to power’. They are life affirming, strong, optimistic and passionate to the point where gesture toward a new being: the ubermensch. These arguments are developed throughout Nietzsche’s vast body of work, but are most clearly addressed in Beyond Good and Evil and The Genealogy of Morals. Nietzsche’s unashamedly elitist philosophy proposes that ‘pinnacles of humanity’ are the greatest concern in life and he sheds no tears for the ‘herd’ who are unwilling or unable to forge greatness in the crucible of suffering.
Learners who choose this inquiry will gain knowledge and understanding of
- The will to power as the metaphysical foundation of Nietzhsce’s argument concerning greatness.
- Master and slave morality, the transvaluation of values & overcoming hardship/suffering.
- Eternal recurrence and embracing all of life’s difficulties as the measure of greatness.
Evaluative questions relating to this inquiry include but are not limited to:
- Is Nietzsche’s rejection of slave morality justified? Is there value in humility, obedience, compassion, and self-sacrifice?
- Is Nietzsche’s elitist individualism problematic? Should society and community play some role in the good life?
- Should alleviating the suffering of the destitute be a greater focus than the cultural elite in human life?
- Learners may, but are not required to, consider the arguments of different philosophers in evaluating Nietzsche’s arguments.
What is the role of the natural world in achieving the good life?
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) proposed a worldview that contradicted the dominant views of his time in arguing that people are a part of nature as opposed to being masters of nature. He endows nature with spiritual significance and argues that by observing nature, we can apprehend truth – especially moral truths. In his major work, Walden, Thoreau advocates a simple and self-sufficient life lived in a natural environment and argues that material possessions are inhibit living ‘deliberately’ and well. His essay, ‘On Civil Disobedience,’ argues that when one believes the laws of one’s nation to unjust, they ought to non-violently resist. In other words, one ought to act morally rather than conform to a government’s laws.
Learners who choose this inquiry will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- Thoreau’s arguments concerning nature, truth and the ethics of perception.
- His arguments about simplicity, economy and self-sufficiency.
- His political/moral philosophy and civil disobedience.
Evaluative questions relating to this inquiry include but are not limited to:
- Is Thoreau’s romantic conception of nature relevant and/or justified in the Anthropocene era?
- Is Thoreau’s emphasis on independence problematic? Should there be a greater focus on community, family and interdependence?
- Is it reasonable to expect people with dependents (e.g. families and children) to go to jail for their beliefs? Or is civil disobedience only a reasonable expectation of independent people?
- Learners may, but are not required to, consider the arguments of different philosophers in evaluating Thoreau’s arguments.
In completing Unit 5, learners will gain key knowledge and understanding of:
- philosophers’ responses to key philosophical questions in relation to the ‘good life’
- analysis of philosophical arguments on the ‘good life’
- the strengths and weaknesses of philosophical responses to living the ‘good life’
- how philosophers’ responses apply to modern life
- analysis of how philosophical responses to the ‘good life’ may address problems of modern life
- epistemic basis for beliefs on the good life.