What Would Convince You?
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
- 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?