S4 Core on Virtues

Hazel Findlay thinks that being brave in real life is just as important as being brave in climbing. Aristotle thought this was an important virtue too.

What do you think the most important virtue is? And who best exemplifies it?

Post your answer below including the associated vices of deficiency and excess..

Werner Herzog’s ‘Into the Abyss’

Conversations with death row inmate Michael Perry and those affected by his crime serve as an examination of why people – and the state – kill (IMDB).

In class we talked about Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss. The discussion questions are below if you click on the image.

into the abyss

For your review it would be great if you engage with the big questions the film poses rather than just critique the methods/techniques used in its production. In your answer you might like to include:

  • Your opinion(s) about the legitimacy of capital punishment
  • Your reasons for it
  • Some arguments and points made by different philosophers (especially Bentham and Kant)
  • Some mention of the case of Carla Faye that Captain Allan mentions
  • Some religious view points
  • A detailed and reasoned explanation as to which opinions you agree/disagree with and exactly why

The following might help:

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The Real Meaning of Jihad…


The word ‘jihad’ is becoming increasingly used in news, on the internet and even in films like Matt Parker and Trey Stone’s Team America. Your task is to research an example where someone has claimed that a violent act is somehow justified in Islam and to use everything you know about Islam to decide wheter or not you think this claim is well-founded.

Your answer should include a substantial description of the event itself, an account of your understanding of Islam’s teachings on violence and, finally, an evaluation of whether you think ‘true’ Islam would approve of the actions you have described. You should give balanced reasons for your answer.


Good Luck.


Kingdom of Heaven (and now Love and Pentecost) Part 2

Today we’re going to look at what some people understand by the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ today. If you look at the cooments on the above song on YouTube, you will see that there are a lot of people claiming that is what this song is about. By the end of the lesson you will need to write an answer on which of these two songs you think is most like the ‘Kingdom of God’. Remember Understanding beats remembering, applying beats understanding, and building and analysing beat everything else!! Good luck.

Tutu on Christianity Research Task

Today’s challenge is to find out as much as you can about Desmond Tutu’s understanding of Christianity. Tutu, though not as famous as his close friend Nelson Mandela, is in the words of Ron Burgundy ‘quite a big deal’! He is, however, quite controversial in some Christian Communities. Mandela claimed Tutu had made animmeasurable contribution to [his] nation” and that “Desmond Tutu’s voice will always be the voice of the voiceless”, but in other places has been called “evil” by Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and even racist, idolatrous and a bastion of the New World Order by Dean Ministries.

Your job today is to find out exactly what he thinks Christianity is all about. Obviously that’s a pretty big question and it’s going to be hard!

The following are just ideas and you might want to spend a bit of time reading as well as watching… The laptops are booked for you and there are some questions at the bottom that might help….

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Some questions to think about:

  • Why is Tutu so involved in human rights?
  • Tutu has been a key player in a number of big disagreements, take notes on as many as you can.
  • In South Africa, DT got into a lot of problems for claiming that “God is not a Christian”. What could that mean?
  • Find out about the Truth & Reconciliation in South Africa. What does it have to do with his Christianity?
  • Find about the fears about a ‘reversed’ apartheid that South Africans shared in 1994. What was Tutu’s understanding of it?

Kingdom of Heaven Challenge 2015

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Jesus had this massive idea to try and explain to people. To help them get it he gave lots of pictures. Try and work out what you think the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ really is…

To post your paragraph click on ‘leave a reply’ below. Just put your initials in the name box, any email (it won’t come up) and leave the web page blank, then paste your answer from word or pages… Try and make your answer the very best you can…

Thank You 🙂

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Today’s S4 Class – Utilitarian vs Kant’s Ethics

Is lying always wrong or does Jack Black do the right thing?

In this clip Elliot Vaugn decides that it is better to speed up Tom’s impending death in order to preserve DEX (life-preserving drug) to increase his own chances of survival. Utilitarianism in action or breaking a moral absolute?


On a piece of paper and for each clip:

  • Describe what happens in the clip you watched.
  • How would a good utilitarian have acted in this situation – you must explain why as well as what you think.
  • How would Kant insist one should act in this situation? Again you must argue for your answer. (We only began to talk about this last day so you may struggle to remember that Kant said “if you’re not sure what to do you should imagine that everyone will do what you’re about to do all the time”. If you think everyone doing that would be okay then you can do the action, if you wouldn’t – you shouldn’t.) Remember, Kant is concerned with whether the action is logical – whether then intentions are good or selfish – think Sheldon Cooper!

Need more help? Click the image below.
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  • What did you think was the right thing to do here? Were your reasons more Kantian or utilitarian?

Vardy on the Ontological Argument

In high-school education, Philosophy of Religion in general, and the traditional arguments for God are becoming a well (perhaps over-?)trodden path. The danger of this is that if it is taught badly, or even indifferently, students can be left at the end of a unit feeling like they haven’t changed their minds about anything and feeling that they must agree with a certain understanding of causation, say, to maintain their original beliefs. Philosophy then becomes a sort of stroll or tour to apparent complexity but remains uncritical and impotent. Perhaps this is unavoidable before university (though I certainly it is not) and I am sure I have just condemned myself in saying the above.

I’m certainly not claiming that there is a clear and obvious ‘right’ answer in a lot of the areas we discuss, only that there are plenty of ideas that, under closer inspection, show themselves to be problematic.

ANYWAY, the reason I was prompted to think of this was that in his Thinkers Guide to God, Peter Vardy makes a claim that breaks from this ‘tour’ of different but equally valid offerings. He quite plainly accuses John Hick of misunderstanding non-realism, claiming that this leads him to err in his judgement of ontological arguments (87).

In doing so he is making a claim about what the religious believer means by ‘God exists’ in a way that reminds the reader of Swiss theologian Karl Barth’s interpretation of Anselm’s famous argument. Noting Malcom’s reliance on Wittgenstein, Vardy suggest that we must look at religious experience to progress in discussions about God’s existence. For the believer, God’s existence is certainly thought to be necessary, where the non-believer do not presume this in the same way. Vardy is claiming that such an argument offers no proof that the YHWH of Christianity, Islam and Judaism exists and in doing so he is in the company of both Hume and Kant.

Every year…

Every year I get at least one email from a student that shows me they have really ‘got’ what we have been studying. Last year a guy found Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons and was adamant (completely correctly in my view) that the philosophy described a sort of Christian ‘Platonism’, an idea of the human’s essence that was rejected by Jean-Paul Sartre (this was what we had been studying).

Anyway there’s more about that on my ib philosophy page, but the email I got this year was about the experience of doing philosophy. IB philosophy is a wonderful course with an emphasis on doing philosophy rather than just learning about it.It takes two years and the entire structure of the course is about helping the students to become the IB learner profile rather than just gaining some knowledge in order to repeat it. It is far more academically challenging and philosophically useful than any of the courses I have encountered that are taught elsewhere in Scotland or England. Those students that choose to take the ‘higher level’ (HL) version of the subject complete and exam paper on the question of ‘What is Philosophy?’, reflecting upon their mounting experience of studying it, and all students of both HL and Standard levels are required to complete a unit on ‘what makes a person?’

Of course this question is central to almost every other philosophical foray and it has always astounded me how certain exam boards think they can simply ‘miss it out’ of their syllabi. What’s nice about the song the student above emailed me is that it includes both of these elements:

Imagine if the life that you thought you shared
Wasn’t really there.
It was made up in your mind,
Could be anyone/anywhere


As the dust clears and it all starts to disappear,
It may get harder ’cause you just restarted.
And wherever you are, land on another star!
It may get harder ’cause you just restarted.

The Revolution Will Be Televised

Great for testing your critical thinking skills:

So It’s a well known fact that if we got rid of the Queen, within a couple of years we’d be a communist state led by anarchists led by Ken Livingston.

Look at the French, they got rid of the Monarchy and they’re a bunch of Ar***oles. Do we want to be like the French?


We’ve got not not actual evidence that she is a witch, but then again we have no actual evidence that she is not a witch.

If you ask yourself why has The Sun witch-hunts against paedophiles, Muslims and Gypsies but never against actual witches? conspiracy theory?