1. Is there anything you would willingly die for? What?2. If you had only a few minutes to live, what would you do withthem? What if you had only a few days? Twenty years?3. A famous philosopher once said that human life is no moresignificant than the life of a cow or an insect. We eat, sleep, stayalive for a while, and reproduce so that others like us can eat, sleep,stay alive for a while, and reproduce, but without any ultimatepurpose at all. How would you answer him? What purpose doeshuman life have, if any, that is not to be found in the life of a cowor an insect? What is the purpose of your life?4. Do you believe in God? If so, for what reason(s)? What is Godlike? (That is, what is it that you believe in?) How would youprove to someone who does not believe in God that God doesindeed exist and that your belief is true? (What would changeyour mind about this?)If you do not believe in God, why not? Describe the Being inwhom you do not believe. (Are there other conceptions of Godthat you would be willing to accept? What would change yourmind about this?)5. Which is most “real”—the chair you are sitting on, the moleculesthat make up the chair, or the sensations and images you have ofthe chair as you are sitting on it?6. Suppose you were an animal in a psychologist’s laboratory butthat you had all the mental capacities for thought and feeling,the same “mind,” that you have now. You overhear the scientisttalking to an assistant, saying, “Don’t worry about that; it’s justa dumb animal, without feelings or thoughts, just behavingaccording to its instincts.” What could you do to prove that youdo indeed have thoughts and feelings, a “mind”?Now suppose a psychological theorist (for example, the lateB. F. Skinner of Harvard University) were to write that, in general,there are no such things as “minds,” that people do nothingmore than “behave” (that is, move their bodies and make soundsaccording to certain stimulations from the environment). Howwould you argue that you do indeed have a mind, that you arenot just an automaton or a robot, but a thinking, feeling being?7. Suppose that you live in a society in which everyone believes thatthe earth stands still, with the sun, the moon, and the stars revolvingaround it in predictable, if sometimes complex, orbits. You object,“You’re all wrong: The earth revolves around the sun.” No one29Chapter 1–Philosophical Questions30agrees with you. Indeed, they think that you’re insane becauseanyone can feel that the earth doesn’t move at all, and you can seethe sun, moon, and stars move. Who’s right? Is it really possiblethat only you know the truth and everyone else is wrong?8. “Life is but a dream,” says an old popular song. Suppose thethought were to occur to you (as it will in a philosophy class) thatit is possible, or at least conceivable, that you are just dreamingat this moment, that you are still asleep in bed, dreaming aboutreading a philosophy book. How would you prove to yourself thatthis is not true, that you are indeed awake? (Pinching yourselfwon’t do it. Why not?)9. Describe yourself as if you were a character in a story. Describeyour gestures, habits, personality traits, and characteristic wordphrases. What kind of a person do you turn out to be? Do youlike the person you have just described? What do you like—anddislike—about yourself?10. Explain who (what) you are to a visitor from another planet.11. We have developed a machine, a box with some electrodes and alife-support system, which we call the “happiness box.” If you getin the box, you will experience a powerfully pleasant sensation,which will continue indefinitely with just enough variation tokeep you from getting too used to it. We invite you to try it. If youdecide to do so, you can get out of the box any time you want to;but perhaps we should tell you that no one, once they have gotteninto the happiness box, has ever wanted to get out of it. Afterten hours or so, we hook up the life-support system, and peoplespend their lifetimes there. Of course, they never do anything else,so their bodies tend to resemble half-filled water beds after a fewyears because of the lack of exercise. But that never bothers themeither. Now, it’s your decision: Would you like to step into thehappiness box? Why or why not?12. Will a good person (one who does no evil and does everythinghe or she is supposed to do) necessarily be happy, too? In otherwords, do you believe that life is ultimately fair? Will a wickedperson surely suffer, at least in the long run? (If not, why shouldanyone bother trying to be good?)13. Do you believe that it is wrong to take a life under any circum-stances? Any life?14. Have you ever made a decision that was entirely your own,that was no one’s responsibility but yours? (That is, it was notbecause of the way your parents raised you, not because of theinfluence of your friends or television or books or movies, not31because you were in any way forced into it or unduly influencedby someone or by certain circumstances.)15. Is freedom always a good thing?16. Do you want to have children? If so, why?


(USA, AUS, UK & CA PhD. Writers)


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