Examiner’s Report 2019: Any surprises?

I felt very uninspired by this year’s set of questions. We are only into the second round of linear exams but I found the questions very ‘samey’ from the previous year. I am not sure that the questions enabled the students to show a depth and breath of knowledge and understanding or gave them the opportunity to really shine and show off the tireless amount of work and revision they all do.

So I turned to the examiner’s report to grasp an understanding of what is expected from our students. I unfortunately found them to be quite brief, not always that insightful and quite repetitive in parts (which is fine as it just means students are making the same mistakes across the board.) I like how they have provided samples of answers this year to back up the points made but this seemed to replace a lot of the depth found in previous reports.

So here are the main highs and lows of this year’s exams.

General (fairly predictable):

Good points:

  • Evaluation throughout
  • Focus directly on question not general topic
  • Outlined line of argument at the beginning (often in introduction) and followed this throughout answer (AO2 driven). Those that added evaluation near end of each paragraph often did not score into higher brackets.
  • Relevant material used

Bad points:

  • Write everything I know on that topic (pre prepared formulaic answers)
  • Evaluate through juxtaposition of different views. In other words putting one name against another name and thinking this is evaluation. You need to say which view is stronger/ more convincing ect.
  • Lack of planning leading to long rambling answers- paragraphs are your friend!
  • Lack of awareness of Q’s/ language used on Spec.

Philosophy:

1. How successfully does the language game concept make sense of religious language?

Good points:

  • Varied examples
  • Critical dialogue with Wittgenstein
  • Contrasted views e.g. Ayer, Flew and Hare’s bliks
  • Effective evaluation including whether language allowed for inter-faith dialogue (seems like a very clever synoptic link to me!), was prone to fideism (belief that faith is independent of reason or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths) and whether or not you can escape language games.

Bad points:

  • Misunderstandings around the importance of groups agreeing on rules for language to be valid – not just meaningful to the individual.

2. Critically compare the logical and evidential aspects of the problem of evil as challenges to belief.

Good points:

  • Focus on the critically compare
  • Explored how Augustine’s privatio boni defeated the logical problem by removing ‘evil’ from the Inconsistent Triad (very clever!)
  • Explored how Hick’s vale of soul making accounted for the scale of evidential evil
  • Compared the ‘a priori’ nature of logical with ‘a posteriori’ nature of evidential
  • Discussion of God’s attributes and FW (synoptic links to Nature of God)

Bad points:

  • Unprepared for this question
  • Inconsistent Triad not linked to Q
  • Some students thought the theodicies where the evidential problem of evil

3. Analyse Aristotle’s four causes.

Good points:

  • More interesting responses used own examples to show four causes
  • Discussion around Aristotle’s empirical approach/ reliance on senses/ a posteriori knowledge vs Plato’s rational a priori approach. This was then evaluated by linking to whether Aristotle was successful in explaining the main parts of his argument: potentiality, PM, change and movement ect.
  • Fallacy of Composition used effectively against Aristotle, whether humans do have an innate purpose (Sartre) and evolution as a challenge to purpose

Bad points:

  • Confusing the four causes or not knowing and understanding the formal cause”
  • Confusing the views of Aristotle and Aquinas’ three ways

4. The world was created by chance, not by God’s design.” Discuss

Good points:

  • Aquinas, Paley and Tennant used well, as well as Hume’s Epicurean Hypothesis as an alternative to chance
  • Dawkins’ blind watch maker was used to demonstrate chance and no foresight with Tennant’s aesthetic as a counter argument
  • Big bang, red shift and evolution used well to support chance
  • Kant was used well by some, as well as Douglas Adam’s conscious puddle and Mill on POE.

Bad points:

  • Confusion over teleological and cosmological with some even drawing upon Ontological argument too
  • Over simplistic use of Paley’s watch
  • Over use of Ockham’s razor which did not add to their argument.

Ethics:

1. “Natural law provides the best approach to sexual ethics.” Discuss

Good points:

  • Develop PP beyond reproduction, providing various secondary precept links to sexual ethics
  • Four tiers and Biblical material was used but MUST have been explicitly linked to the Divine Law tier.
  • Explored how NL might be troubling with increasing liberal and secularised society
  • Naturalistic fallacy used against NL

Bad points:

  • Bible material given but demonstrated a misunderstanding that NL, Catholicism and Bible are effectively one.
  • Evaluation limited to outdated and religious
  • Contrasting or juxtaposing views rather than evaluating (DO NOT just put names together Aquinas says this… whereas Dawkins says that… this is not evaluation! You need to say who is better/ more convincing etc in line with your argument)
  • Describe three or four ethical theories and evaluation at the end, thus failing to give enough on NL.
  • Some students wrote at length about abortion. How? Why? Students should not be learning about abortion (old spec alert!!) and therefore have no reason to confuse this as a topic where something like that is relevant.

2. Assess the view that Utilitarianism does not help with business ethics.

Good points:

  • Whistle blowing and globalisation were used well
  • Deeper exploration of what it means by happiness and pleasure beyond profit.
  • Tyranny of the majority was used well to say how Mill’s approach could be an improvement on Bentham’s.

Bad points:

  • Either Utilitarianism or business ethics understanding was weak (I think due to this there is a high chance of another Utilitarianism Q this year on either Bentham or Act vs Rule).
  • Peter Singer and Preference not often used well
  • Lack of examples led to  vague evaluation
  • CSR not clear and equating Freidman to Utilitarianism ( I am not really sure what this means as students have to link Friedman to Utilitarianism otherwise it would not be relevant to question?)
  • Long sections on Kant with few links back to Q.

3. “The terms good, bad, right and wrong reflect only what is in the mind of the person using them.” Discuss

Good points:

  • Confident in explaining and exploring three perspectives, cognitive vs non cognitive and how emotivism/ Stevenson and Ayer’s verification (I thought this was philosophy so would only be a synoptic link as Ayer says more about emotivism than just verification?) link to the question.
  • Students who used Moore and recognised the potential issues associated with the use of intuition, irrespective of what can be known of goodness through intuition were successful.

Bad points:

  • Pre-prepared overview of meta ethics (often occupied with meaningfulness)

4. To what extent is Freud’s psychological approach to conscience the most helpful approach?

Good points:

  • Aquinas skilfully used to critique Freud, linking information always back to Freud and the Q
  • Good analysis of Freud using validity and falsification of views.
  • Good use of Dawkins, evolution, Piaget and Fromm to support Freud (Even though not required)

Bad points:

  • Confusion over where conscience is found in the Id, Ego or Superego
  • Conflation of conscience and consciousness
  • Psychosexual stages not linked to Q with often lengthy descriptions of the Oedipus complex
  • General discussion of Freud’s view on religion rather than the Q
  • Focus on too many other names and theories often juxtaposing names rather than evaluating.

Christian Thought:

1. “Humans have an innate knowledge of God.” Discuss

Good points:

  • Discussion of natural vs revealed theology worked well
  • Calvin contrasted with secular views
  • Less frequently Acts 17 but would have maybe been useful for discussion
  • Conscience, intuitionism and God as standard for goodness were usually made relevant to the Q.

Bad points:

  • Not understanding word ‘innate’
  • Careful using pre – Christian thinkers and applying them to Christian Q (I am guessing they mean the likes of Plato or Aristotle for example) yet if handled well can be an asset to an answer.

2. Discuss the view that the idea of purgatory makes more sense than hell.

Good points:

  • Excellent use of biblical passages most notably the Sheep and Goats and Rich Man and Lazarus.
  • Discussion around God’s omnibenevolence and lack of purgatory in the Bible and awareness of the nature of Apocrypha (?)
  • Other names were used well in moderation including Dante, Hick and Hume
  • Discussion around if the afterlife is symbolic or an actual place (linking directly to the wording on the spec) which was often done skilfully inline with this specific Q

Bad points:

  • Forgetting AO1 to explore the other half of the Q on hell
  • Misunderstandings about purgatory in Catholicism – not a waiting room, nor a place before judgement nor a ‘trying again’.

3. “Inter-faith dialogue strengthens Christian communities.” Discuss

Good points:

  • Set texts were clearly known and explored well
  • Exploration of what makes a Christian community and how this might be strengthened.

Bad points:

  • Too long on going through the Sharing of Gospel when it could have been summarised far quicker.

“For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23) Critically assess this teaching for the 21st century family life.

Good points:

  • Explored the nuances in the Biblical text without writing it off immediately as sexist and outdated.
  • How the quote can pose a challenge to men as well as women

Bad points:

  • Too much time spent on Daly and/ or Ruether
  • Narrow view of Mulieris Dignitatem which can be seen to be not quite as negative towards women (possible exam Q for next year?)
  • Missed the focus on family life in the Q

If you have any thoughts or reflections from last year’s papers please feel free to comment 🙂

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