Top 10 Philosophy Movies

Do you Study Philosophy at College or University? Watching a philosophy film is a great way to explore philosophical issues and questions such as ‘Does God Exist?’ and ‘Is there an afterlife?’

Top 10 Philosophy Movies

This selection of philosophy movies is great for a philosophy student or for a teacher to use in the classroom, (this is what I have based the choices on). They are also exciting movies for anyone who has an interest in….well….anything bizarre or supernatural!

My Top 10 Philosophy Movie list raises questions about God, afterlife, reality and the mind. They also feature top actors such as Keanu Reaves and Leonardo Di Caprio. So put your feet up, turn the lights down, and watch a good philosophy movie tonight.

#10 Bruce Almighty

Bruce Almighty
Bruce Almighty

Jim Carrey plays the role of Bruce, who is suddenly blessed, or burdened with the powers of God. As exciting as it seems in the beginning, Bruce soon realises that with this power comes great responsibility.

Bruce Almighty is a comedy, and works really well in the classroom, especially with years 9-11 studying God’s omnipotence.

#9 The Green Mile

The Green Mile (Single Disc Edition)
The Green Mile (Single Disc Edition)

The Green Mile, starring Tom Hanks, is an excellent film for Moral Philosophy and Ethics. It focuses on the issues of capital punishment.

#8 The Truman Show

The Truman Show
The Truman Show

How do we know that life is really as it appears? How do we know that it is not all set up as one big experiment? The Truman show follows Truman’s life, which is exactly that – a set up. How would human beings react in this situation?

Again, Jim Carrey plays a comical role in this must see Philosophical film.

#7 Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange

Clockwork orange is not to be taken lightly! This is one of my favourite films EVER! It touches on some serious moral issues including violence and psychological conditioning.

#6 Schindlers List

Schindler's List (Widescreen Edition)
Schindler’s List (Widescreen Edition)

Schindler’s list tells the emotional story of businessman Oscar Schindler, who took Jews into his factory during the Holocaust to save them from Hitler’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ at the Nazi death camps. This movie raises a lot of ethical issues for philosophical discussion.

#5 Blade Runner

#4 Minority Report

Minority Report
Minority Report

Can you be arrested for a pre-crime, or a crime that you have not yet committed?

#3 The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones
The Lovely Bones

When a young girl is brutally murdered, issues of ethics and life after death are raised. Is there really a life after death? Do some people not progress to heaven until certain things are resolved? This excellent drama explores these issues.

#2 Inception

#1 The Matrix

Starring Keanu Reaves, this is the perfect philosophical film that addresses the reality of existence. How do we know what is real?

The Matrix [DVD] (1999)
The Matrix [DVD] (1999)

Neo knows that there is something not quite about reality. Should he take the pill offered to him by Morpheus, that releases the truth about the world?

This is a fantastic philosophical film. How do we know if we are in reality or not? This film also offers parallels to Christianity, with Neo as Christ and Morpheus as John the Baptist, the forerunner.

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The Cosmological Argument According to Aquinas

The Cosmological Argument

The Cosmological argument for God’s existence argues from the ‘cosmos’ or universe itself.  It is therefore an A Posteriori argument – it is based on our experience of the universe and works up to God as a first cause.

The basis of the argument is this…

  • Everything in the universe is caused by something else – our universe is made up of a chain of causes and effects.
  • If everything has a cause, we could infinitely trace back cause and effect – infinite regression.
  • Infinity cannot be possible, therefore there must be a first cause.
  • The first cause of the universe is God

Aquinas’ Five ways

Catholic theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas developed Five Ways to argue for Gods existence…

  1. The argument from Motion
  2. The argument from Causation
  3. The argument from contingency and necessity
  4. The argument from beauty
  5. The argument from design

The first three of these arguments are cosmological.

The first of Aquinas’ five ways is from motion. Through motion in the universe, we can see that things need to be caused, and that there must be an uncaused cause. Aquinas meant more than just movement, eg. movement of the planets. Motion for Aquinas also refers to the movement from potentiality to actuality. For example, a cup of tea may be actually hot, but potentially cold. When it makes the motion to become a cold cup of tea, it has moved from potentially being cold to actually being cold. This was the motion to which Aquinas referred.

The second of Aquinas’ five ways was the argument from causation. Everything in the world has a cause. Therefore, there must be a first cause – this we call God.

The argument from contingency and necessity (the third way) is slightly more complex to understand. Aquinas identified the universe to be full of contingent things – that is, things which are dependent on other things for their existence. For example, as human beings, we are dependent upon our parents.  If there was once a time when there was nothing, a necessary being had to create something from nothing.  The argument therefore suggests a necessary being to bring contingent beings into existence, and this we call God.

Nietszche and the Death of God

Who was Nietzsche?

Nietszche was a German philosopher of the enlightenment period. Nietzsche is often misunderstood as pessimistic and anti-religion. It is Nietzsche’s concept of the death of God that seems to cause the most controversy.

What did Nietzsche mean when he said ‘God is Dead’?

Nietzsche made this radical statement in his book ‘The Gay Science’. He explores the concept of God through ‘the madman’ who asks ‘Where is God?’ the answer, of course, was that God is dead, and we have killed him.

When Nietzsche stated that ‘God is dead’ he did not mean that God was once alive and that we have literally killed him. God is not personified. What he meant was that the concept of God had died a death due to the process of secularisation. Society was moving away from revolving around the Parish and the importance of God in people’s lives was diminishing.

Nietzsche and Nihilism

If God is dead, does that mean that we no longer have moral values? And if we no longer have moral values, does that mean that we descend into nihilism? The problem is that without ethical values of Christianity, what morality do we have?

The answer, for Nietzsche, is to replace the slave morality of Christianity with the master morality of mankind. When we strive to become the ‘Ubermensch’ of Nietzsche’s philosophy, we no longer ascertain to the moral values of God or indeed anyone else.

What doe you think about Nietzsche’s philosophy? Is God dead? Are we all striving to become the Ubermensch?

Click here for further reading on Nietzsche: Death of God.

How to answer Philosophy Exam Questions

The classic problem with students answering philosophy exams is that they just don’t get to the point. Many students see a single word in an exam question, and go off on one, writing everything that they know about that topic! With the A-Level and IB philosophy exams recently marked, many examiner’s reports will state that they misunderstood or misread the question. Here’s the philosophyzer’s guide to how to answer in an exam.

How to answer Philosophy exam Questions…

The Examiners language

It is important that you read the question carefully and answer what the examiner wants to know. For example, if the question says explain the design argument according to Paley, do you evaluate it? No, because the examiner has not asked you to! Do you mention Aquinas? No, because the question is about Paley. Stick to the point of the question, and do’t waffle on about things that are not relevant. This will save you time and gain you marks.

Here is some of the terminology that an examiner may use. It is important that you understand it…

Explain or illustrate – Say what a concept is and use evidence and examples.

Evaluate/Discuss – These are the essay style questions where you must give two sides of an argument.

To what extent do you agree – another way of trying to get you to look at both sides of the argument!

Students-sit-for-the-phil-007

How many Marks is the Question Worth?

Remember to also look at how many marks each question is worth. For example, on the AQA exam paper, there are two types of question. Shorter questions or part (a) are 10 mark questions and the longer essay style (part b) are 30 mark questions.

So you need to get your timing right and spend twice as long on part b as you do on part a. As a general rule, it is around a mark per minute on an exam, so a 30 mark question should last around half an hour. It is important that you keep an eye on the clock and get your timing right.

Practice makes perfect!

The best thing to do to ensure that you are fully prepared is to download past papers and mark schemes for the exam board that you use.

God and the Problem of Evil

There is no doubt that God and the problem of evil contradict each other. In today’s blog, I am going to explore why the existence of evil and suffering in the world causes such a big problem for a belief in the Judeo-Christian God.  With such evils happening in the world, such as the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, how can God exist?

God and the Problem of Evil: The Epicurean Trilema

The traditional Judeo-Christian God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent. Omnipotent means that God is all powerful (remember ‘p’ in it for powerful!). Omnibenevolent means that God is all loving.

There is a trilema here (three possible options). Either God does not love us, so evil exists in the world. Or, God is not omnipotent – he does not have the power to stop evil, so evil exists. Or, God does not exist. This was originally asserted by Epicurus, hence the name Epicurean hypothesis. It is also sometimes known as the inconsistent triad, because of the inconsistencies surrounding God and his existence with reference to evil and suffering.

God and the Problem of Evil: Ways forward for Christians

Indeed, this is a big problem for the Christian believer, as it challenges the essence of God, or the existence of God himself. However, many Christians believe that there are reasons for evil existing in the world. Perhaps this is all part of God’s plan and beyond human understanding.

Indeed, if evil and suffering did not exist, we would not learn and develop as human beings. Nor would we have the opportunity to do good and help others. Another key argument is that it is man who causes evil and suffering, not God. If God did not give us freewill, we would not be individuals, but simply robots.

There are several theories have been put forward by Christian philosophers to try to overcome the problem of evil. If you are interested in finding out more, I recommend that you read about the Augustinian and Irenean theodicies.  Follow this link to find out more about God and Suffering: Augustine on Evil.

St Augustine's Confessions available on www.amazon.com

St Augustine’s Confessions available on Amazon

What do you think about God and the Problem of Evil?

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on God and the Problem of Evil, so please feel free to comment on this blog.

The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God

The Ontological argument for God’s existence is often the most difficult to understand.  I would like to simplify the argument and break it down into easy understandable steps! The Ontological argument is a popular exam or essay question in AS, A-Level and degree level philosophy.

The Ontological argument was first asserted by St. Anselm. It is the only A Priori argument for God’s existence. That means that it derives from logic and reasoning rather than from experience.

The Ontological argument according to Anselm in 4 easy steps…

1. Anselm defined God as ‘a being than which nothing greater can be conceived’.

2. If we conceive of a God that has existence, and a God that does not have existence, which would be greater

3. If God with ‘existence’ is greater than God without existence, it follows that God must have existence in order to be ‘a being than which nothing greater can be conceived’.

4. Therefore, God must exist.

Get it?  No? Ok, imagine a Mars bar in your mind. If you look in the cupboard and find a Mars bar that actually exists, you can eat the one that has existence, but not the one in the mind. Therefore the Mars bar in reality is greater than the one in the mind.

Criticisms of Anselm’s Ontological Argument

In Anselm’s argument, God appears to have necessary (rather than contingent) existence. Whether or not necessary existence is possible is another matter. Also, it could follow that using Anselm’s logic, you could conceive of anything at all coming into existence! If you are interested in looking at the criticisms of the Ontological argument in more detail, have a look at Gaunilo. He criticised Anselm by saying that using this logic, he could think about the most perfect conceivable Island, and that the one in reality would be more perfect than the one in the mind, therefore it must exist!

Further Reading on the Ontological Argument for God’s Existence

An excellent book on the arguments for God’s existence is John Hick. For more further reading, click here.

All you need to know about the Teleological argument

The teleological argument is A posteriori, it uses our experience of ‘design’ in the world to argue for the existence of a designer – God.

Examples of this could be the sky, the human brain, even emotions – the concept would say that if things exist they must have a designer.

St Thomas Aquinas

Aquinas asserted that there were five ways to prove Gods existence, one of which is the teleological argument. He thought that the regularity in the universe shows design, which he referred to as ‘Design qua regularity’.

  • Beneficial order – things that exist work towards an end
  • Beneficial order – cant happen by chance
  • Many of the objects that work towards an end wouldn’t have the intelligence to do so by themselves
  • Therefore such objects must have been directed to do so – by God.

William Paley

Paley argues for ‘Design qua regularity’ and ‘Design qua purpose’. An example of Paley’s design qua purpose argument is the Watch Analogy. The watch analogy simply states that if you were to look at a watch and examine its inner workings so perfectly put together, in synchronicity you would never claim it just created itself – he therefore asks how on this premise could you assert the same about a human being or the world as a whole.

Modern versions of the Teleological argument.

Arthur Brown

Brown, in his 1943 book ‘Footprints of God’, examined the ozone layer and how it is the exact thickness for its purpose. He states that his shows evidence of a plan and therefore design.

F.R.Tennant

Tennant puts forward the Anthropic Principle, which states that it is highly unlikely that science or evolution alone is responsible for intelligent life.

No Designer = Chaotic world

He believes that Intelligent OrderSustained Life and Intelligent Progression provide evidence to support the design argument.

Tennant also puts forward the Aesthetic argument. The ability to appreciate aesthetics has no evolutionary value, such that the only explanation as to why we can appreciate creation must be that God gave us the ability as a gift.

Richard Swinburne

Swinburne also sees the complexity in the universe and cannot put it down to mere chance – stating that the most likely explanation would be that God is the creator.

Okham’s Razor: Holds that the simplest explanation is the most likely.

There are many arguments for and against the design argument. If you are for or against the principle please comment, let us know what you think of the teleological argument.

Problems with Descartes’ Philosophy: ‘I think therefore I am’

I think, therefore, I am

This is an interactive blog post, where the philosophyzer gives you a stimulus and questions, and asks you to provide the answers!

When Descartes said ‘I think, therefore, I am‘ what did he mean?

What are the problems with this aspect of Descartes philosophy?

Please check out this Descartes image and leave your comments on this blog.

Troll Philosophy

Voltaire

Who is he?

Voltaire (21st November 1694 – 30th May 1778) was a French Enlightenment thinker, his real name was Francois-Marie Arouet. He was famous for his plays and poetry as well as Political, Religious and Philosophical writings. He worked to defend Civil Liberties, he thought that the rich were favored by the political situation and that the poor were to ignorant to no any different.

The shaping of his views…

Voltaire had strong anti establishment beliefs, his criticism of the government landed him in prison. Whilst in prison Voltaire wrote ‘The Henriade’, a criticism of King Henry IV and an attack on extreme religionists, its publication after his release led to a violent dispute with Chevalier de Rohan (a french nobleman). Voltaire found himself imprisoned again without trial. Voltaire suggested an alternative and he was granted exile to England, where he stayed for three years. Voltaire grew to love Britain, he approved of the constitutional monarchy and of freedom of speech and religion.

‘Letters Concerning the English Nation’…

Voltaire thought that the British system could work for France and wrote about the changes he thought we necessary. Again his work was percieved as heretical which resulted in him fleeing to the French borders. It was at this point that Voltaire wrote plays and researched science and history.

Political views…

  1. Voltaire thought that the political system in France was corrupt and unfair, that it favored the Aristocracy and noblemen and the poor commoners had little rights.
  2. Voltaire was not a fan of democracy, he thought it was used to make the underclasses think they had rights.

Religious views…

  1. Voltaire was a Christian and thought that everyone had a right to religious freedom.
  2. He was not a fan of the Bible and was vigorously against the Catholic Church – The Church were gaining from been involved in politics by pocketing a religious tax, which is why Voltaire thought they had no place in politics, they were in politics for there own gain and were using fear tactics help suppress the lower classes.

Views on the Aristocracy …

  1. Thought that there was an unfair balance of power and taxes between royalty and noblemen and the commoners
  2. He saw this as corruption in the aristocracy, yet believes the poor were to ignorant to realise.
  3. He did however think that it was aristocracy that was the key to charge only if he had backing of a king would political change occur

Voltaire and change …

  • The introduction of laws that gave everyone the right to a fair trial
  • The Separation of church and state.
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of religion

If you would like to explore Volataire’s work here is a link to his book ‘Dictionnaire Philosophique’