PHIL 108: Introduction to Philosophy of Religion
Study Guide: Exam #1
Overview: Identified below are examples of typical questions that will appear on the exam. If
you can answer these questions in essay form using the criteria specified in the grading
guidelines, you should be well prepared for the exam. The exam requires you to answer two
questions in essay form.
1. Is the idea of a maximally perfect reality coherent? In answering, explain what is a meant by
the phrase maximally perfect reality, identify some objections to the claim that a maximally
perfect reality is coherent, and assess the merits of these objections.
2. Is the concept of a personal maximally perfect reality plausible? In answering, identify and
explain some of the problems with conceptualizing a maximally perfect reality as a person.
Furthermore, explain the sorts of traits theists commonly associate with a personal maximally
perfect reality. Finally, identify at least one objection to giving a personal maximally perfect
reality these traits and assess the merits of the objection.
3. Is the ontological argument successful? In answering, identify and explain the ontological
argument along with at one objection to it. Assess the merits of the objection.
4. Is the cosmological argument successful? In answering, identify and explain the cosmological
argument along with at least one objection to it. Assess the merits of the objection.
5. Is the design argument successful? In answering, identify and explain the design argument
along with at least one objection to it. Assess the merits of the objection.
6. Are miracles possible and plausible? In answering, explain what miracles are and how they
might help establish the existence of a maximally perfect reality. Also, identify at least one
objection to the possibility of miracles and assess the merits of the objection.
Reading the Questions: Each question begins with a broad question for which there is more than
one right answer. However, this does not mean that there are no wrong answers. Each broad
question is followed by some tasks that you should perform when writing your essay.
How to Answer the Questions: To answer one of the essay questions, begin by thinking about
the best answer to the broad question. Make connections between the questions and ideas from in
the readings, class sessions, and homework assignments. Next, you should clearly and directly
answer the broad question in a single sentence that will serve as the thesis for your essay. For
example, if the question begins by asking, “Is the ontological argument successful?” then when
answering it you might begin with the phrase: “The ontological argument is…” and then finish
the sentence. The bulk of your essay should contain evidence supporting your thesis. When
performing the tasks that follow each question you should make connections between your
answers to them and your thesis statement.
Understanding the Tasks: The tasks following each question require you to do specific things.
Identify simply means to state something. For example, a shopping list identifies the things you
plan to buy. Explain means that you should clarify what is not immediately obvious. In other
words when you explain a philosophical problem you clarify the nature of the problem. When
you are asked assess the merits of an objection, you are being asked to make a judgment about
what is good and bad about the objection. To make a strong judgment, you should state your
opinion and also identify evidence that supports your opinion.
How to be Successful on the Exam: I expect you to practice writing out rough drafts. Doing so
will help you organize your ideas, remember the material and plan your essay. I also expect you
to bring your rough drafts to me for help, feedback, and support. I want to see you be successful
in this course and I will do my best to help you.
Grading Criteria: The following are the criteria used to evaluate student essays. They are listed
in the form of questions so that you can review your own rough drafts by simply asking and
answering the questions. For each item, allocate a score of 0-5 points. To score “5” on any item
clearly indicates that you performed perfectly in that endeavor.
1. Did I clearly answer all of the questions?
2. Did I present a clear thesis, a reasonable progression of ideas, and an appropriate
3. Did I support my answer with appropriate evidence?
4. Did I include my own original arguments (an argument is a claim supported by evidence)?
5. Is my essay relatively free of grammatical errors?
6. Did I include the best examples and illustrations to demonstrate my ideas?
7. Is my essay factually accurate?
8. Did I use and define relevant philosophical terminology?
9. Did I fully explain the ideas I discussed?
10. Could or should my essay be used as a positive example for teaching others?
Think of each component in the following way and then assign each component a score:
No Minimally Barely Somewhat Mostly Completely
0 1 2 3 4 5