Saturday, 23 June 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Facebook Group for those starting A222 in October 2012

If you are starting A222 in October 2012 there is a Facebook Group opened for this particular course, you can find it here, Facebook Group for A222 Oct 2012

And good luck with the course and you should enjoy it.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Course Review

Although I'm waiting on the result for this course, it is effectively over and so that is the second course of the six courses necessary to complete the PPE degree completed, so 2 down, 4 to go.

This was my first brush with philosophy as an academic subject, and now that I have had time to let the dust settle after the exam, and look back on the course, I can say that it has been well worthwhile. Quite apart from the actual 6 subject areas we looked at, the additional aspects of the course regarding constructing and deconstructing arguments has been very useful.

The other thing that I noticed was that the TMA essays were very different from the essays required for the DD101 course.  I either had a strict tutor this time round or a lax tutor for the first course, or maybe it is just that more is expected at Level 2, but my TMA marks were down by roughly 10% which was slightly annoying because if anything I put more effort in to these TMAs.

The final classification of this degree is based on the two Level 3 course results and the best two of the three Level 2 courses, so this course is not necessarily counting towards the final result, but of course there is no way of knowing that until the other two Level 2 courses have been completed.

So to the actual course.

It is emphasised that to fully engage with the course it is necessary not only to read philosophy, but to actually do philosophy. This means thought and discussion. The discussion part can be quite tricky, as not everyone in your social circle has the time or interest to engage with what can be abstract or emotional subjects, and those that do may not discuss in as ‘philosophical’ a manner as you would hope, parting comments of “well that is clearly bollocks” do not move the discussion forward in any meaningful way.

The course FORUM can be useful, but it can also be dominated by a few individuals, some of whom contribute knowledgeable and lengthy (sometimes very lengthy)  discussions, and some of whom just post a stream of what is effectively just SPAM

SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, boiled eggs….. and SPAM.

The Forum discussions also seemed to start before the point that the study planner would indicate that they should, so by the time I had read the course text and felt ready to contribute to the discussion the discussion was either well underway and covered all the points I wanted to make, or had effectively moved on to other subjects. I think that the Forum tutors/moderators should grip this a bit better as it must put loads of people off of contributing. For these reasons the Facebook group was really good and was used more than the OU Forum was.

The tutorials were a mixture of Face to Face tutorials and online ‘Elluminate’ tutorials. The Face to Face tutorials never really seemed long enough, and there was too much time spent covering what people should have already read before getting discussions underway. I think these could be better structured to do what we cannot do on our own, i.e. have large discussions and debates on the subject at hand. The Elluminate tutorials were only an hour and to be fair by the time everyone had logged in and sorted out minor IT problems with speakers and microphones, not a great deal got done – but at least this could be done (not done) from the comfort of your own home.

I thought it was worth attending to get some Face to Face communication with the tutor, as it always makes further email communication easier if you have met in person. Other than that it was no great problem for me to attend as they were only 40mins away, but any further for the next course and I will have to think twice about the value of such tutorials.

The course books were…..

The Self : Interesting discussion in to what makes me – me. Short introduction book to get onto the course and after a short discussion three very identifiable theorists which made it an obvious choice for the exam. I can’t understand those who did not choose this book.

Religion : Sort of skirted round the reasons to believe there is a God and the reasons not to, but it didn’t really get in to any significant depth on the subject. It did show however that long held views received without any proof from authority figures are very hard to change and indeed those that hold these views will protect them by ignoring self evident proof that is all around us. From a philosophical point of view it shows that science has a question and searches for the answer, whereas religion has the answer and modifies the question to ensure the answer remains.

Ethics : I was looking forward to this, but there was too much Bentham and Mills and not enough Kant. I had hoped for a course similar to Michael Sandel’s ‘Justice’ for Harvard University – check it out on YouTube – but this was not that.

Knowledge : I didn’t really do this book justice. All we needed for the TMA was Descartes and this book coincided with a  very busy period and I just did not have time to look at Hume and Popper and the rest of the Knowledge chapters.

The Mind : This book was completely spoilt by the nonsense that was the Chapter on the extended mind which was also the TMA. Their ‘paper’ had more holes in it than you would expect from an academic paper and the author does not seem to have moved his argument on in 15 years or so since it was published.

Politics : Excellent, interesting and useful for my next course. Challenges your ideas of both egalitarianism and libertarianism, and makes you questions your long held views. After reading this book, I’m really looking forward to my next course.

If there is a criticism of the course it is that it can be very compartmentalised and if you are short of time you can skip large chunks of reading in order to get the TMAs done and maybe not have to revisit the books again depending on what exam questions you pick.

The exam is another thing. Six books, two questions from each book, choose three questions to answer, but not from the same book, complete in three hours. Three hours is about as long an exam as it is possible to sit. I was OK after the exam but really fatigued later in the evening – it sort of caught up with me. So after writing TMAs that took hours of planning let alone writing, cobbling together an essay in an hour is never going to be up to the standard of a TMA. I am still thinking of things I should have added, but as I was basically writing for most of the three hours how could I have included these extra ideas.

So my advice to anybody thinking of doing this course is that it is a great course, but what you get out of it depends on what you put in (as with many things). It also helps if you have a good tutor and your regional forum is active – but don’t rely on that. Get stuck in to the reading early, note down all relevant theorists and ideas as revision notes from the word go. As you move through the course return to the previously read books and revision notes, all of the books either made more sense or became more obvious on second reading and there were some ideas and strands that worked across different books that you would not be aware of at the start. I will certainly try to do this for the next course, and it makes the revision not seem quite so daunting a task once the final TMA is out of the way.

So if you are going to study A222 – Exploring Philosophy, good luck, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

DD203 - Power, Dissent, Equality : Study Materials

I contacted the OU to ask when the study materials may be available for my next course, DD203, and received this reply.

"The course DD203, the materials are due to be dispatched week commencing 8 September, and the website will open on the 27 September."

I then asked if any of the learning materials for the forthcoming course, for which I have already paid, such as books or pdfs could be send out earlier. Their reply was.

"We would suggest you could try the website the University Book Search, to see if you can purchase any material for this course."

And indeed they are absolutely correct, as you can see from the image below it is possible to purchase some of the course materials from this website now.

So, as it appears that the OU are perfectly happy for me to purchase course materials from this website in advance of the course starting,  there can surely be no objections to receiving course materials for other sources before the 'official' course material is sent out on the 8th September. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

DD202 to be replaced by DD209

The Level 2 Economics course, DD202 - Economics and Economic Change, which is mandatory if you are studying for a PPE, is running for the last time in Feb 2012.

This will be replaced by DD209 - Running the Economy (Note: this is not Ruining The Economy) which will run for the first time in October 2013.

This, for me, is far more helpful as it means that I can finish DD203 in June and start DD209 in October, rather than have to try and study for two level 2 courses at the same time, or alternatively have a 8 month break from study.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Friday, 15 June 2012

DD203 - Power, Dissent, Equality : Facebook Group Open

If you are studying DD203 - Power, Dissent, Equality the level 2 Politics course starting this October, then you may be interested to know that there is now a Facebook Group open for that course.

The Facebook groups for DD101 and A222 were fun, interesting and good moral support, and at times more useful than the OU 'official forum', so if you are interested the link is here DD203 Facebook Group . It is a closed group but if you request to join I'm sure Karen will let you in :-)

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Well that's that then, exam and course over.

Well that's that then, exam and course over.

The exam went pretty well. Got there in good time, so no stress getting there and in and it was fairly comfortable in the room - there is nothing worse than being too hot or cold.

When the exam started I looked at the questions from Books 1,2, and 6 and 1, 3,and 12 jumped out. Didn't even look at questions 5,6,7,8,9 and 10, and I have no idea what there were or if my backups of abortion or Nagel and his bat came up.

So to the questions.....

Q1. Was am I the same person who started the module. 
So obvious questions with Parfit and Locke, although they got everything I had and references to Plutarch, Hobbs, Reid, Hume, Kant, Butler, Mackie & Taylor - I have no idea if this is a good idea, but I don't know what else to do - If I knew it, whoever marks it will now know I knew it. I think I made sense and wrote pretty well for most of the first hour.

Q3. Problem of Evil. 
Couldn't have been better - which doesn't mean I had a brilliant answer, but it was a great question. They got it all again - first the reasons to believe, then Epicuras, then the excuses for Evil then a conclusion. Again, wrote for pretty much the hour.

Q12. About Economic equality and self interest. 
This was a bit more left field....... Started with Rawls, contrasted with Nozick, added Dworkin, Kymlicka and a touch - just a touch - of Anderson and rambled a bit. Not the best answer but the one I'd revised to give - the other question was obligation and I knew I was better at this one.

I wrote on every other line in an attempt to help the marker read it. Paragraphs would start neat and easy to read and then get gradually worse until I noticed and reset myself. Ended up effectively filling the main answer book and 2 subsidiary books - so 32 pages of double space, roughly 16 pages normal, but big writing, so say 3 to 4 normal persons hand writting per answer.

The website says,

Overall module result

Your module result should be available by Friday 3 August 2012.

So, I guess that is it until about the 3rd August.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy - Revision Done for tomorrows exam.

First OU exam tomorrow, and its been quite some time since I sat an exam of any sort that requires 3 hours of hand writing.

So I guess it is now about turning up on time, not panicking, reading the questions properly and hoping the ones I want come up - and if not having a good stab at whatever is there.

If there is one thing I have learned from this experience it is not to leave the revision to the last minute, or even until after the last TMA, but to do a little and often through the year. Easy to say, harder to do, but I'll certainly try and remember this for my next course. 

So tomorrow.......

Book 1 'Self' - fairly happy to see any questions about "Is there an inuring self" or "Personal Identity across life" - Locke was in the TMA, so only leaves specific questions on Hume or Parfit and if so I'd take Parfit.

Book 2 'Religion' - bring it on, "Problem of Evil", "Miracles and Experiences" or "Reasons to believe" would all be OK, just got to ensure I answer the question fully and in the way they want.

Book 6 'Politics' - far happier with the second half of the book, so anything about egalitarianism, libertarianism, Rawls, Nozick, Dworkin and Anderson would be great. Less happy with Obligation and political dissent.

But most importantly I must keep reminding myself that I am supposed to be doing this for FUN, nothing disastrous will happen if I do badly and there is no great reward for doing well, so the biggest challenge may be to go there and ENJOY the experience......

So 'Good Luck' to everyone sitting the exam tomorrow, 
I hope the questions are kind to you.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Book 2 'Religion'

Early start this morning, which means I may get to watch some more football this evening....... not sure my priorities are in the right order...... oh well.... on to the last book,


polytheism, pantheism, theism, atheism, fideism

Blaise Pascal's Wager, William James,

Reasons To Believe in God
1. Personal Experience
2. Hstory
3. The Way the World Is
4. The nature of the idea (ontological argument)

Way The World Is
1. Argument from Design (teleological argument)
2. Fact the world exists at all (cosmological argument)
3. Existence of orders of causes -Aquinas's Second Way.

World like a machine adjusted to an accuracy that ravishes in to admiration all men who have ever contemplated them. ANALOGY Machines have creators, so must the world.

Watch on the heath. Precise organisation and function. same basic ANALOGY.

Discredited creationalist moron. Proof of God within evolution.......

Proof of God as a prerequisite to evolution - DNA / RNA.

Proof of God as creator of the world.

If God created the Earth, who created God. Is the God of this creation a God we would recognise?

Problem of Evil - Epicuras
If God is all powerful and all loving, why is there evil.
1. He doesn't interfere with the natural processes.
2. He hides his face to give humans choice
3. To give people a desire to put things right.

i. 2+2=4 God can not change this, so he is not all powerful.
ii.Freewill Defense
iii. Why can't God design  humans that do good things.
iv. Future Hope Defense - It will all be OK in the end.... whenever that is.

Acts of God
Arguments for God's existence from miracles.

Miracles "violation of the laws of nature by the immediate interposition of a deity" Hume

Hume - It is never rational to believe a report of a miracle,
i. How many witnesses
ii. Do they have a vested interest in being believed.
iii. Are they of sufficient character.

Proof v. Proof
Confidence in the reporter can be high, but the unlikely event means confidence should be low, so cancels out. Violation of a law of nature - confidence should be non-existant.

Hume - Which is less unlikely, that someone misinterpreted or misrepresented what they experienced ? or that a miracle occurred?

i. Past experience not perfect in predicting the future.
ii. More often it happens the more reliable
iii. reliability of reports depends on past reliability
iv. Person's character can be unreliable in many ways.

Miracles - other arguments.
1. Those reporting have in general low credibility
2. Passion of surprise and wonder an agreeable emotion
3. Reports from backward cultures
4. Different religions have miracles - so cancel out.

Sillyness v. Selectiveness.

Religious Experience
1. Not just a sense of God, anything wonderful or morally positive.
2. Should make you a better person.
3. Culturally bound.
4. Comes with interpretations that can differ.

Parallels of argument to Miracles

Miracles                              Experience
Hume's Argument               Should be rejected because it
                                            doesn't fit in to Scientific explanation
selective-ness                      selective-ness

agreeable emotion               it has a scientific and not religious explanation

i. We can explain belief in miracles without supposing they happened.
ii. silly, sentimental and self-serving
iii. Chapman and Suttcliffe experience
iv. Why would God have silly and sinister experiences.
v. Cultural differences show experience are man made.

That has ended up as a bit of a ramble through the book, but it is there in essence, and I'm quite happy for a question on Pascal's Wager 'cos as my son said,

"Well if you apply that sort of slack thinking to everything, the government would be building anti-alien attack missile silos and safety bunkers, and we'd have a dragon trap in the back garden, just in case, you never know, can't be too sure, better safe than sorry and all fact better strengthen the front door there may be a YETI collecting for charity and you know how hard they knock on doors...."

I'm not sure he's helped matters.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Book 1 'The Self'

Today's big decision - just stick to revising three books. I am pretty happy with the three books that I have chosen, so concentrating on them must be better than 'wasting time' on back-up questions...... I don't think this is a gamble, but time will tell :-)

So the theorists to remember from Book 1:

Plutarch & Hobbs
Ship Of Theseus, what is identity anyway ? Qualitatively v. numerically identical.

Man, Person, Substance, Soul,
Personal identity important in matters of moral responsibility and the day of judgement.
Issues of PRAISE and BLAME, mainly retrospective
5 thought experiments: Prince/Cobbler, DayMan/NightMan, Drunk/Sober Man, Detached Little Finger, Mayor of Quinborough,

Reid's challenge through Boy-YoungOfficer-General,

Mackie says that rather than just being retrospective knowing that we will be a day of judgement in the future should/may influence out behaviour now to make a better life for a future self. How does this change if we are a different person in the future through memory loss ?

Self is a fiction. No evidence of an enduring self when we reflect on our experience.
Empiricist and skeptic
Ideas and impressions, giving perceptions and experiences.
How could you have the idea of colour or taste without an impression
Bundle Theory of Self
Impressions vivid - ideas faint
Hume's Fork If an idea is neither derived from an impression or true by definition then it is worthless and 'can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion'

Butler said there was an unchanging self and that it was primitive, and we are all conscious of our continued personal identity. We can perceive a continuing soul.

Hume Cont.
Complex ideas can be made from multiple impressions. The idea of a  Snowy Mountain having the impression of snow and the impression of a mountain.
The Self is a simple idea, a faint copy of the original impression, but there is no impression.
Impressions, heat, pain, taste, pleasure, grief - no single impression gives the idea of self.
You do not survive death.
Theatre of the Mind - with ideas and impessions passing across it.

Kant - self was a structural notion. There has to be a self to have a thought. There must be an 'I' to have an 'I think'. - Descartes ?

Hume Cont.
The experience of perceiving an unchanging object (a stone) and that of perceiving an object that through a series of linked stages changes somewhat can be very similar. So we describe things that succeed each other as one identical thing, but this is a mistake.

Thought experiments, Split Brain, Teletransporter,
Are we the same person as we were when we were 8, or that we shall be when we are 80.
Like Locke psychological continuity matters.
Like Hume has thought experiments that ow the self is an illusion.
Survival is the important thing.
Parfit says we have various successive 'selfs', some of which are so distantly related we should not care for them. Phases of a single life.
Parfit wonders if we should worry about death, as it will not be our present self that dies but a different future self in which, depending on when death happens, some, all or none of the present self will exist.

Taylor's criticism of Parfit - we have to understand ourselves in terms of our WHOLE life's experiences, attitudes,concerns, as a life narrative so that we can make sense of ourselves. We are not like a car..... There is a relationship between our sense of self and questions about the meaning and purpose of our lives.

So, it is a matter now of getting a good question, interpreting and answering it correctly and not panicking and forgetting everything........

Monday, 11 June 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Book 6 Politics

My wife went for an OU exam today and she said there was roughly 30% no-shows.  It seems a bit of a waste of money and time not to at least have a stab at the exam.

So with that in mind, it has been a fairly good revision of Book 6.

And the names to remember are :

Plato                 - Obligation, parental, fairplay, contract,
Nozick               - Free-Riding, no obligation through benefits
Locke & Hobbs   - consent tacit and implicit
Hume                 -unconscious man carried aboard a ship
Rawls                 - original position, veil of ignorance, two principals,
                           difference principal
Kymlicka           - difference principal allows the lazy to get resources
                           from the productive
Nozick               - Re-distribution is forced labour,
Dworkin             - Luck Egalitarianism distribution should be
                           choice-sensitive and luck-insensitive.
Anderson           - Democratic Egalitarianism, equal moral worth, judgements
                            about responsibility are abandoned.

So on to Book 1 again tomorrow.....

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy - Final Revision Plan.

Well the Spain v. Italy and Ireland v. Croatia matches effectively put a stop to any revision tonight.

Final Exam Revision Plan.

Monday Night:
Watch France - England (miss Ukraine - Sweden) then study Book 6 Politics.

Tuesday Night:
Watch Greece - Czech Rep (miss Poland - Russia) then study Book 1 Self

Wednesday Night:
Watch Denmark - Portugal (miss Holland - Germany) then study Book 2 Religion

Thursday Night:
Watch Italy - Croatia (miss Ireland - Spain) read through all notes so far.

Friday Night:
Euro2012 football viewing schedule returns to normal.

On top of this, I can probably get an hour and a half of listening to the audios to and from work each day, and then to the exam. Plus 4 lunch hours of reading.

Ah, I'm sure this will be plenty - it had better be, its all a bit too late now otherwise :-)

A222 - Exploring Philosophy - Too many distractions.....

Back from a great week walking the West Highland Way. The weather was great, the scenery was spectacular and I feel mentally refreshed and ready to study.

At least I did fee ready to study until I released that there are 2 football matches a night   this week for Euro2012.

So, this is terrible scheduling by the OU, they should keep all exams clear of football tournaments, league games, friendlies, the Jubilee celebrations, school holidays, the Olympics, the Para-Olympics, the Edinburgh Fringe, Wimbledon, my birthday ...... oh... I see their problem.........

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Revision in chaos

Walking the West Highland Way is a really bad revision tactic. While I have had loads of time to think, i've had very little time to read. Still there is this weekend and all of next week to go .......