Philosophy AS AQA

Summary and some evaluations of the AS course of philosophy! 


Plato: The Concept of the Forms and the Analogy of

evaluations of the concept of the forms:

  • forms could just be ideas preserved in people's mind. Richard Dawkins has reffered to the passing on of ideas like this as "memes" (the Selfish Gene)
  • are there really forms of everything? Plato is not really interested in the Forms of material objects, but in the Forms of concepts such as truth, beauty, justice, etc. If there is a Form for goof things such as justice and truth, is there a Form for bad things such as disease and suffering?
  • the existence of any other world apart from the world of appearances cannot be proved
  • Plato never clearly explains the link between Forms and the world of appearances, for example, what is the link between the Forms of justice and for instances of justice in the world?


  • There are two worlds - appearances (this world) and reality (world of the Forms)
  • The Forms are immortal and unchanging, they are archetypes for things that exist physically
  • The Form of the Good is the highest Form and the source of all other Forms. 
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Aristotle: Ideas about Cause and Purpose in Relati

Evaluating Aristotle's Ideas:

  • Is there a final cause or purpose to the universe? It could be simply that everything that exists can be explained by the laws of science or simply by chance. Or as Existentialists say, there is no purpose and we have to make our own. Perhaps we cannot cope with the knowledge that there is "nothing out there" and that all we have is this life, here and now.
  • Maybe human beings have evolved to look for purpose in the world around us to help with our survival. This has led us to believe that there is one objective purpose to life and the universe.


  • Aristotle rejected Plato's Theory of the Forms
  • Aristotle's Four Causes: Material, Formal, Efficient and Final
  • The Prime Mover causes motion and change in the universe without itself being changed - "Unmoved Mover"
  • The Prime Mover exists by necessity, is the Final Cause and is God. 
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God as Creator

Evaluation of the Concept of God as Creator:

  • Belief in God as Creator can be challenged by Science
  • Taking the creation stories as myth rather than literal truth stresses the importance of the message that God is the omnipotent creator, that the world He created is good and created for humans.
  • Analogical language and anthropomorphisms can sometimes hide the message as God is made to seem too human
  • If God is the craftsmen of the world, why did he include faults?
  • Even if Science can explain how the world is, it still does not completely explain that it is, and why it exists.


  • God is the Creator - a craftsmen and designer
  • "Creatio ex Nihilo" shows God's authority over Earth
  • Humans have a special place in creation
  • God as creator is omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent
  • God is responsible for creation.
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The Goodness of God.

Evaluation of the concept of the Goodness of God:

  • there is too much evil and suffering in the world for God to be good.
  • Creation itself may point to the Goodness of God - but science may give other explanations
  • God's Goodness, as seen for example in miracles, does not seem to be experienced by many people today.
  • the Ten Commandments may show people how to live a morally good life byut many of the actions of God in the Bible do not seem good, for example the complete destruction of the enemies of Israel or the command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. 


  • God is good
  • God's actions are good
  • God's goodness is revealed in creating and sustaining the world
  • God's goodness cannot be questioned by humans
  • God's commands makes an action good and people should obey them
  • God's commands are meant to help people lead a good life
  • God's commands are part of his covential relationship with Israel
  • God is a judge as well as a lawgiver. 
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The Ontological Argument

Evaluation of the Ontological Argument and the Challenges:

  • Aquinas' rejected Anselm's argument as he said God's existence is not self-evident
  • Aquinas said humans cannot understand God's nature
  • Kant argued that existence is not a predicate, but Malcolm argued that necessary existence could be a predicate
  • A definition does not make something exist - a unicorn is a magical horse with a horn; we now what it is, but that does not mean that it exists.


  • Anselm defines God as "that than nothing greater can be concieved of"
  • To be the greatest, God must exist in reality as well as in the mind - Anselm claims that existence is a predicate of God.
  • Anselm says God is a necessary being
  • Gaulino's Island - you cannot define an idea into existence
  • Anselm argues that an island is contingent
  • Descartes argues that as part of a triangle's essence is three sides, so part of God's essence is existence (as he is perfect and contingent)
  • Kant argues that existence is not a predicate - this was against Descartes' argument but it also works against Anselm's Ontological argument. 
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The Cosmological Argument

Evaluation of the Cosmological Argument:

  • the argument is based on empirical evidence - motion, causation and contingency
  • things do require a total explanation - principle of sufficient reason
  • alternative explanations for the universe are possible, and the universe can just be a "brute fact" (Hume)
  • An Infinite Regress may be posible


  • Ways 1 and 2 are concerned with motion and causation
  • there is a first mover that causes everything to exist
  • God is the first efficient cause of the universe
  • Way 3 argues from contingency - God necessarily exists
  • Copleston reformulated Way 3 & argued that the universe can only be sufficiently explained by reference to God - God is his own sufficient cause. Copleston also thought it was important to explain why there is a universe
  • Russell rejected Copleston's ideas - humans cannot explain the universe & there is no need to
  • Hume questioned the idea that every event had a cause - it is not necessary to say the universe has a cause just because things within it do. 
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The Teleological Argument


  • Aquinas' Way 5 is a Teleological argument
  • Aquinas' argument for telos and natural laws set up by God which show regularity of succession
  • God is the final cause
  • Paley has two arguments design qua purpose and design qua regularity
  • Paley uses the watch analogy to argue that nature requires a much greated Designer than the watch
  • Paley illustrates the complexity of nature by referring to the human eye
  • Hume challenges the use of analogy, consideres that posibility of an incompetent designer, says there could be more than one designer and claims that random activity can lead to order rather than disorder
  • Mill questioned the idea of the goodness of nature - there is too much suffering and cruelty for there to be an Intelligent Designer
  • Darwin's theort of natural selection can explain how complex living organisms are developed without any need to refer to a designer or purpose. There is no intended design. 
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The Moral Argument


  • Moral actions, according to Kant, are about doing duty
  • The reason to do duty is to achieve the SUMMUM BONUM - highest good.
  • This SUMMUM BONUM must be achievable
  • God would make it achievable
  • Freud says moral values are a result of our experiences and mainly our conscience (ego, super-ego and id)
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Problem of Evil


  • The problem: if God is all powerful why does he not prevent suffering? There is so much evil in the world that God cannot be good.
  • Theodicy - a justification for evil and the existence of God
  • Types of evil - moral and natural
  • Augustine's theodicy - God is all good, he created a good world, evil is a privation, angels and humans created evil through their own free choices. Free will is so valuable that God allows evil to occur. SOUL DECIDING 
  • Irenaeus' theodicy - God is all good, the creation develops over time, humans are created imperfect and grow over time into Go's children. Free will is valuable. SOUL MAKING 
  • John Hick - epistemic distance, eschatological aspect - salvation for all. Free will is valuable. 
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The Problem of Evil - Augustine

Evaluating Augustine's Theodicy

  • Schleiermacher in "The Christian Faith" said that Augustine's theodicy was flawed. He said it was a logical contradiction to say that a perfectly created world had gone wrong, since this would mean that evil had created itself "ex-nihilo", which is impossible. Either the world was created imperfect or God allowed it to go wrong.
  • If the world was perfect and there was no knowledge of good and evil, how could there be freedom to obey or disobey God, since good and evil are unknown? The fact that Adam and Eve and the angels disobeyed God means that there was already knowledge of good and evil. Is Augustine's interpretation of the tree of knowledge flawed?
  • The ideat that evil comes from misuse of free will is defended by Richard Swinburne, who argues that the imagery of the Fall is valid, even if the story is taken as myth.
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The Problem of Evil - Irenaeus

Evaluating Irenaeus' Theodicy

  • Hick's version of Irenaeus' argument says that everyone goes to heaven. This seems unjust as immorality is not punished. It is inconsistent with orthordox Christianity as it denies the Fall and Jesus' role is reduced to a moral example.
  • The quantity and extremity of evil seems unnacceptable in soul-making. Is evil, such as the Holocaust, necessary?
  • Heaven could be open to everyone because if life just ended, God's purpose would never be fulfilled
  • Heaven could justify the enormous amount of suffering on earth. 
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Religion and Science


  • The Big Bang is the scientific theory that explains how the universe was made
  • Different types of Creationism believe that God created the universe and all life
  • Irreducible Complexity means that there is an Intelligent Designer behind organisms as some are just too complex to have evolved by chance
  • Evolution is the theory of how different species evolved through natural selection. 
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