Philosophy Journals

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The following is a journal entry a student submitted in a past semester. Note what makes this a good entry:

  • It is at least 150 words in length
  • It is written clearly and understandably
  • It shows evidence of thoughtfulness

“The design argument for God’s existence is interesting to me but I’m not sure I can fully endorse it. It argues that because there is design throughout the universe, there must be a universal designer, i.e., a god, in turn. However, when considering the endless probabilities and eons that our world has gone through, this argument is somewhat disproved. We know many different “designs” are merely adaptations, and often times we, as humans, tend to “see” a design when there is, in fact, none there (like seeing faces in electrical sockets). The design argument also does not account for entropy found in nature, and the general decline into disorder that can be found in many systems – surely a designer wouldn’t design that? Also, there are the many examples of natural disasters and tragedies that mar our world, and which place the idea of a designer in doubt. I like to relate this problem to what we read in the introduction to Philosophy Made Simple, about the Book of Job in the Bible. Even a believer in God such as Job had trouble understanding how a good and almighty God could be responsible for all the disorder happening in his own life. So again, while the design argument is interesting, I do see some problems with it, and how it could be challenged by a skeptic.”

You may choose to write on any of the following topics,

Journal one

1. Which view in the mind-body debate seems to you most reasonable: substance dualism, or materialism/physicalism? Why?
2. Does it strike you as possible that thought could actually be just a brain activity? What inclines you to think so?
3. Do you believe you possess free will? Why?
4. Suppose determinism could be proven to be true: how might that affect (1) our self-image as humans; (2) the criminal-justice system?
5. What sorts of factors do you think take away from a person’s moral responsibility? Do you believe there really is such a thing as “not guilty by reason of insanity”?
6. Write about any topic related to philosophy, inspired by your readings and the classes so far, or by your own experiences, thoughts, current events, etc.

Journal two

1. Which, if any, of the arguments for God do you find convincing? Why?
2. Do you agree with the logic of Pascal’s wager? Is he correct that belief in God is a “good bet”?
3. On page 171 of the textbook Pascal discusses the limitations of human knowledge. Do you agree with what he says in this passage? Can you think of any examples which support what he has to say?
4. Do you think religious belief is required for life to be genuinely meaningful?
5. Do you think that natural religion is a useful support for revealed religion?
6. Write about any topic related to philosophy, inspired by your readings and the classes so far, or by your own experiences, thoughts, current events, etc.

Journal three

1. Who are some examples of “gadflies” besides Socrates? Do you think the role of gadfly is an important one for society?
2. Select a statement or two of Socrates’ from his trial that you find particularly interesting or provocative, and comment on it.
3. What are your thoughts on the Sophists and their relativistic views? Do you think morality is just a matter of custom? Why or why not?
4. What lessons do you derive from Plato’s allegory of the cave? What sometimes happens to people when their illusions are shattered and reality is revealed? What is an example of this effect in real life?
5. Describe other “caves” in modern life in which people might be “imprisoned” or feel “imprisoned.”
6. When the liberated prisoner goes back to the cave and tries to explain what he now knows to his former fellow prisoners, what kind of reaction does he get? Why? What are some examples of this effect in real life?
7. To what extent do you find Socrates’ point about the human tendency to confuse “shadows” with “reality” relevant today? Examples?
8. Do you think “fake news” is a genuine problem today? When do you trust/distrust news stories?
9. Write about any topic related to philosophy, inspired by your readings and the classes so far, or by your own experiences, thoughts, current events, etc.

Journal four

Select anything you learned in the course that you found particularly interesting, worthwhile, memorable, provocative, stimulating, annoying, or mistaken, and explain your selection and your thoughts about it.

So you need to write 4 Journals

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