Whilst travelling down to the NATRE conference in Cheshire on the train, what better than the examiner’s report from 2018 to keep me busy? No huge surprises (but a few concerns) from the first year Philosophy, Ethics and Christian Thought reports. So here is a summary of the best bits or the bits you need to know if you haven’t had chance to read them:
- A significant number of essays had little to no evaluation
- Distinct lack of scholarly views
- Make sure examiners can read your handwriting!!
1. “Conversion experiences do not provide a basis for belief in God.” Discuss
- Clear focus on conversion
- Developed evaluation of the effects
- Effective use of William James, Swinburne and Freud
- Long descriptive accounts of conversion, mostly St. Paul and Nicky Cruz
- Thinking that St Paul was an atheist before his conversion
- Not applying Swinburne’s principles to answering the question.
2. Critically discuss Aristotle’s understanding of reality.
- Very good accounts of Aristotle’s empiricism, explanation of four causes and prime mover (who draws things to him in a disinterested manner).
- Used Plato in an evaluative way in relation to Aristotle scored higher bands
- Confusion between efficient and formal causes (note: this has been an issue throughout the legacy papers as well)
- Wrote all they knew about Plato and only compared with Aristotle in the final paragraph.
3. To what extent does Kant successfully criticise the ontological argument?
This section stopped me in my tracks. The report starts by saying “while a popular question, candidates struggled to produce good responses and very few recognised that Kant is critiquing the Cartesian version of the ontological argument.”
Now this annoyed me slightly. I cover Descartes in passing as I think he presents interesting links to the concept of predicate, using his example of the triangle and valley (I often find it helps students understand the concepts further). However Descartes has been completely removed from the spec and makes absolutely no appearance in the new spec (not even in the discussion pointers or recommended books).
So if you are new to the spec and don’t realise Kant’s links to Descartes and/or do not cover Descartes at all and closely follow the specific wording of the spec (as time does not allow us to cover all and everything!) then the examiners were expecting something not made clear and marked according to (I think) an old spec mark scheme not a new one. When I teach Kant I explain his views on predicates and get the students to link back to Anselm (who is on the spec) with Descartes links as a passing activity/ mention. I think the question is fine, I think the examiners marking/ report is way off!