Buddhism Refresher Questions

This is mostly for those of you who haven’t come across Buddhism before, but the rest of you may wish to use it for prelim and final exam revision. The BBC video “Life of The Buddha” is available on youtube here:


It is conveniently broken up into 5 short chapters and will hopefully make a change to working from your books…

To download the sheet click the picture above or int 2 life of buddha questions.

Nietzsche & Christianity

Here are the slides from today’s class… I will post up the Jesus and the Marilyn Manson ones soon so you can make your comparisons. Below is the video we watched part of in class with quotes from The Antichrist. The comments are ridiculous. Don’t waste your time.

The real meaning of Jihad

After watching the short clip from Team America: World Police you will a certain understanding (and importance)  of this word is assumed. The word Jihad is now used massively, often meaning very different things. Your task:


Describe what happens in the clip you have seen. What do the characters seem to understand the word Jihad as referring to?


Consider the way it is used on at least five websites and summarise your findings. This will provide a context for learning about what Islam itself teaches about Jihad.

Joint H Philosophy Class 23 Sept 10

The Philosophy Bites podcast is available to download here

Answer the following questions in your notes. Leave space for corrections.

1 What are the two components of Utilitarianism described here?
2 What does hedonistic mean (look this up, a precise definition is important)?
3 How does Bentham understand happiness & unhappiness? Where does Roger Crisp suggest this idea comes from?
4 How did Bentham calculate pleasure?
5 What does RC say is different about Mill and how does this affect his philosophy? Mention Wordsworth.
6 Try and come up with a contemporary analogy to replace Socrates and the pig.
i. What is this analogy a reaction against in Mill?
ii. Think carefully about the notion Mill is suggesting. Do you agree? Give (real life) reasons.
7 What are Higher and Lower Order Pleasures? What’s the difference?
8 Do you agree with NW that human sexual pleasures should be classed as lower order? Keywords: rape, kissing, procreation, animal +.
9 Is Mill still a hedonist?
10 Think about what is meant by the phrase ‘partiality to the self’. Can you think of any traditions you have studied previously that this sits particularly well with/sits is direct contrasts to?
11 Why is utilitarianism so hard to criticise?
12 How does Peter Singer develop the utilitarian principle? Find out a little about him (when, what, where etc.).

The Prozium World: Utilitarian Dream or Nightmare?

This is the opening scene from 2002 film Equlibrium. As (now) experts in Bentham’s moral philosophy you are equipped to engage with many of the issues the film raises.

Would you take prozium? Why?

Would you want to live in Libria (this is sightly different question)? Why why not?

What would Bentham have said, do you think (answer with support from the core texts)?


Knowing the ‘right’ thing to do…

Here’s the video clip we watched in class last week. Post your answers to the question below. You will need to use an alias.

1. Do you think Peter does the ‘right’ thing in the clip. This is not a yes or no question. You will need to highlight the complexities as you see them and explain how they impact your thoughts.

2. Who was Jeremy Bentham? What would he have thought was the right thing to do? Why?

3. Do you think he gives us a solution to thinking about life decisions? Why/ Why Not? Again this will be a thoughtful and extended answer. You will probably need to think through several real life situations as ‘thought-experiments’ to help you decide on this.

Sacrifice of Isaac Lesson

[youtube wT2n192WWxc]

[youtube 76OfrcYAOKE]

Task: Read pages 4&5 in the Judaism textbook. Watch the two videos, or read the sheet provided.


1. Why do you think Jews still find this story important today?

2. Complete a comiclife of the story. Make it brilliant. Complete the extension if you have time…

EXTN: Watch the third clip. Why is it funny? Is it? It probably has something to do with the fact that few people take seriously the fact that a man was about to kill his own son. Moreover this man is thought of as a moral hero in many of the major faiths. The real question here is about whether God saying something makes it right or not. What do you think? How would you work out what to do in this situation?

[youtube e0WFtvov_qk]

S4 Cover work – Moral Philosophy Recap

This clip shows a Captain in the British Navy in the Second World War. He is forced to make a difficult decision. As part of a convoy containing many ships he must decide whether to drop depth charges killing some allied sailors who are known to many of his on crew. To decide to save these men would be to risk the lives of every other seaman in the convoy…


1. Why is the Captain’s decision so difficult?

2. Why do you think the Captain makes the decision he did? Was he right?

3. What sort of moral philosophy is underlying this action? Why?

4. What do you think Kant would have claimed was the right thing to do (think duty, moral absolutes, universalisability)?

5. What ‘Duties’ are involved in this decision? Do they conflict?

Watch the second clip:


1. Is the Captain a murderer? Why/why not?

2. Does the action become more or less ‘right’ if the U-boat was not where they though it was? Explain your answer.

3. Do you find Kant’s approach or that of the Utilitarian more satisfactory in this case? Why?

4. What is moral luck? How does it fit in with this situation?

5. The Captains of the other ships recommend he drink away his ‘thoughts’. How did you feel when you heard them suggest this? What role does your conscience play in determining what is ‘right’?

Keown on Buddhist attitudes to Euthanasia

I was just reading a journal article from 1995 which referenced to two occurrences in the Buddhist tradition of which I was previously unaware. Both of which are valuable in outlining how the tradition arrives at its opinions on the validity (or more accurately non-validity) of helping someone to die. This will be of more use to students sitting the exam at Higher and Advanced Higher Levels.

The first case was recorded by Buddhaghosa where some members of the sangha had recommended, it seems out of compassion or at least benevolence, that  it may have been better for a dying monk to end his life prematurely. Of course this argument, that death may be preferable to suffering, is still common (sense?) today. Buddhaghosa records that these Buddhists were found to be guilty of breaking the first precept as they ‘made death their aim‘ in speaking. This idea when further developed clearly prizes the sanctity of life over personal autonomy.

The second case is even older and found in the Vinaya where the origins of the monastic precepts are explained. It appears that the Buddha himself included a further precept explicitly excluding the taking of human life after an ascetic community was discovered where monks had committed suicide or ‘sought help’ from the laity.

Again here we can see that the principle of autonomy is thought of as secondary to the sanctity of life. This idea has nuances in Buddhism that set it apart from the formulations with which we are perhaps more familiar. Belief in samsara involves a recognition that there is something special about being human, not least as it it the only realm from which one may attain enlightenment. For many of us, this may not impact our ethical outlook but it is nonetheless a valuable warning. Today, explicitly in Singer and Warnock, sanctity (though they might not use this word) is often understood as being underpinned by one’s autonomy, not the reverse.

‘Killing, Karma and Caring’ in Journal of Medical Ethics Vol. 21 No.5 (Oct 1995), pp 265-269.


Just to clarify for those of you revising at the moment… So far we have covered:

The Whole Medical Ethics Unit

The Cosmological Argument and The Problem of Evil (up to free-will) in the Philosophy of Religion Unit.

The Life and Teachings of the Buddha (including 4 signs, 4 noble truths, life of Siddhartha, his journey, temptation by Mara and Enlightenment, 8fold path, 3 root poisons, 3 marks of existence) in the Buddhism Unit.

Make sure you know it all. The slides that are not up yet will be soon.

Good Luck