These Discussion Forums are an opportunity for us to be “doing” philosophy. The first time an individual tries to argue about issues he or she has rarely or never before discussed, the result may be awkward, clumsy, and frustrating. That is OK.
Often we think that we do not have a particular view on a subject, but once we state our position and begin to discuss it, we realize that we have a very definite view. But, we still may not have good reasons for believing it.
The way to explore your views and make them genuinely your own is by working with your views through reflection, stating them, publicly defending them, and committing yourself to them.
That is the point behind philosophical discussions in general; they to teach us how
- to think about, articulate, and argue for the things we have come to believe in,
- to clarify and perhaps revise our views, and
- to present them in a clear and convincing manner to other people.
Very often, therefore, philosophy proceeds through disagreement, as when two philosophers or philosophy students argue with one another. But, polite differences of opinion are a good thing in the Discussion Forums. The key, however, is using politeness to cool down a discussion before it becomes over-heated.
Someone else may offer an argument which causes you to rethink your position and possibly even change your mind. Or, you may find that you have better reasons for being committed to your view than you originally thought and can share your new evidence with classmates who still are not sure about their own positions.
As we are ”doing” philosophy here in the Discussion Forums, the practical aspect is that we will learn more about ourselves and what we believe.
Some important rules to follow:
- There will be no Ad hominems (attacks against the person); not following this rule may result in failure of the assignment. You can disagree with a person’s opinions, but you may not attack other people. You may, however, disagree with the ideas of others, but do so in a constructive manner. For example, you can say, “I don’t agree with your post. I think instead that . . . ” But, you cannot say, “You’re an idiot” or even “That’s just plain stupid.” Academia requires a diversity of opinions but presented politely; after all, ethics is part of Philosophy.
- Avoid making statements meant to be absolute (such as, “There is no other way to think about this”). Instead of asking closed-ended questions looking for a “yes” or “no” or the “right” answer, ask open-ended questions (such as, “Have you thought about . . . ?”)
- Try to connect the current discussion to topics from other lessons. Remember that all of the Philosophers wrote about more than a single topic and the way they think about one area of Philosophy probably affects other areas as well. For example, it might be extremely useful to mention John Stuart Mill’s ethical theories from an earlier lesson during a later discussion of his support for women’s rights and equality.
- Rather than simply reacting to the readings and the responses of your classmates, think about the arguments being made. Really consider the effectiveness of these arguments. “I agree” responses are not useful to the discussion and will not receive credit.
Give some serious consideration to the topic or scenario before answering; and, then, using the questions below as a guide, write a 75-100 word initial response about the issue being discussed. Next, please take the time to respond to at least two of your classmates.
- Whether or not you believe in God, what are the characteristics that God has (or that God would need to have) in order to be considered “God”? For example, would God have to be all-knowing and/or benevolent and so forth? Explain why these features are necessary for God to be considered God.
- If you don’t believe in God, what would convince you that God does exist? If you do believe in God, what would convince you that God does not exist?
- Explain your answer to this continued conundrum: Assuming God is all-powerful, can God create a rock too heavy for God to lift?