Philosophy Essay Questions

Essay Questions for Week One, Chapter One, “Why Philosophy?”

1. On page 4 of our textbook, Wilkens distinguishes between having an opinion versus coming to a conclusion. Opinions don’t have to be supported with factual information; conclusions do. Have you ever had a change of mind on an important issue? What was the issue? Why did you change your mind? Was the change illustrative of a move from an opinion to a reasoned conclusion or, at least, a more reasoned position than the one you previously held? Explain this move toward rationality. Is the issue now “closed” for you, or do you think there’s a possibility that more evidence may be forthcoming that could challenge your new position? Are you looking for more evidence to substantiate or challenge your current position? Explain.

 

2. The subtitle of our textbook is “Christianity and the Big Questions.” In chapter one, Wilkens defines “philosophy” as “thinking about things,” and the “thinking,” as you will see reflected in all the chapter titles in the text, involves questioning. Questions naturally arise in the minds of inquisitive people who are naturally curious, but everyone at some time is forced to ask important questions. “Why did I get this disease?” “Which offer should I take?” “Can I pass this class?” Asking questions is at the heart of the philosophical enterprise. Christians are often uncomfortable asking questions, often because those questions are expressions of doubt about some Christian teaching. Christians may also perceive such questions as irreverent challenges to rightful biblical or ecclesial authority. Some Christian colleges do not have philosophy departments or course offerings for the assumed potential of undermining the faith of the students. (I did not attend a Christian undergraduate school, and the teacher of my second philosophy course said essentially that if any of his students came to his course with faith, he wouldn’t regret their loss of that faith as a result of his instruction!)

I expect that you’ll be in a much better position to address the question of the value of philosophy in a Christian college environment following the work you’ll do in this course, but it’s a question that’s worth approaching even now, just as we begin this exploration into this discipline. So, as a student enrolled in Introduction to Philosophy, what do you see as potential values of developing a “questioning” spirit in your academic life? Your personal life? Your spiritual life? Then, what do you see as potential dangers in developing this questioning spirit?

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