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Edexcel GCE AS Level Philosophy & Ethics help - how do I improve my essay technique? watch

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    I'm currently doing AS Level Philosophy and Ethics (Edexcel GCE) and will be taking the exam in a few weeks' time. I am a borderline A/B student and really want to get an A (preferably a good A) in the exam.

    My knowledge itself is fairly good (I usually find myself able to get in some names and quotes) but I struggle with scoring higher than about a B on the Unit 1 Foundations paper. I've been constantly working on past questions (as well as revising like crazy) but I never seem to earn much higher than a B or C on any essay in that paper!

    I'm planning to talk to my teacher about this but I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions as to how I could improve my grade. Plus, if anyone can explain to me how I should tackle a question that asks for the "key points" or "fundamental ideas" that would be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks!
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    What modules are you doing?
    I could help you with Utilitarianism, The problem of Suffering and the Cosmological argument.
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    (Original post by zzinah)
    What modules are you doing?
    I could help you with Utilitarianism, The problem of Suffering and the Cosmological argument.
    We've been taught about the Design and Cosmological arguments, Utilitarianism and Situation Ethics, Just War theory and the problem of evil and suffering, if that's what you mean. We also went through religion and morality at the beginning of the school year but our teacher didn't really cover that properly so I've been trying to work it out on my own... I feel like I understand the content of the course, but my essays need some work.

    In the exam I'm going to aim for the questions on the topics you mentioned (although obviously I'll be revising all the topics we've been taught as backups) as they appear to be my stronger topics.

    Thank you for replying. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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    (Original post by cogitoergo)
    You need to demonstrate a secure understanding of the arguments for the existence of God using a range of technical language, showing an awareness of variations and bringing in a range of philosophers. For example, if the question asked...

    'Examine the key ideas of the Cosmological argument of the existence of God'

    Here you need to demonstrate you know the key ideas and variations. For your intro you could start it like this....

    The Cosmological argument is an a posteriori, analytic and synthetic argument based on cause and effect in the world. The argument originally dates back to Plato and Aristotle and the Prime Mover, moved by no other. This argument was later christianised by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae in three of his five ways known as unmoved mover, uncaused causer and possibility and necessity. There are also variations and these are known as Leibniz and his principle of sufficent reason and the Kalam argument further developed by William lane craig.

    The first paragraph would be to outline the first way, learn the premises and use technical language where relevant. Explain what the argument is saying and link this to philosophers e.g. Mackie and his train analogy and how this stresses the idea of dependency, just like the world is dependent on God.

    The next paragraph would be the second way etc.

    It would be helpful to mention the variations as this shows a wider reading and understanding of how the argument has been developed. This will certainly help you achieve higher marks.

    Hope this helps.

    Best wishes
    Thank you so much! I will try and put this into practice in the next essays I write and hopefully get some better results.
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    you start off with an introduction which makes it clear that it is an a posteriori argument
    It depends what essay you're going to do. For example, let's say you're outlining the key features/points of the cosmological argument.
    You'd start with the introduction, which would explain the idea of it being an a posteriori argument that aims to prove the existence of God and go into more detail on the other points.
    Secondly, you talk about Aquinas' Cosmological, which is usually perceived to be the most important way of the cosmological argument, where you then would explain the first 3 out of the 5 ways that aim to prove the existence of God.

    the 3d paragraph would be about the first way
    the 4th would be about Aquinas' second way.
    the 5th paragraph would be the Kalam Argument which was made by the muslim philosophers Al Ghazali and Al Kindi.
    The 6th paragraph includes Aquinas' third way.
    The 7th paragraph would be the Priniciple of Sufficient Reason (Leibni 1646-1716) where you would speak about Swinburne and the Ockham Razor.

    ^^^^ this is what they taught us at my sixth form, and usually gets me at least 19/21
    Also, could I ask you about how to outline an "expain the strengths of the cosmolical argument? because all i know how to do is key features for all 3 things i've learned. the exam is in a couple of weeks LOOOL
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    (Original post by zzinah)
    you start off with an introduction which makes it clear that it is an a posteriori argument
    It depends what essay you're going to do. For example, let's say you're outlining the key features/points of the cosmological argument.
    You'd start with the introduction, which would explain the idea of it being an a posteriori argument that aims to prove the existence of God and go into more detail on the other points.
    Secondly, you talk about Aquinas' Cosmological, which is usually perceived to be the most important way of the cosmological argument, where you then would explain the first 3 out of the 5 ways that aim to prove the existence of God.

    the 3d paragraph would be about the first way
    the 4th would be about Aquinas' second way.
    the 5th paragraph would be the Kalam Argument which was made by the muslim philosophers Al Ghazali and Al Kindi.
    The 6th paragraph includes Aquinas' third way.
    The 7th paragraph would be the Priniciple of Sufficient Reason (Leibni 1646-1716) where you would speak about Swinburne and the Ockham Razor.

    ^^^^ this is what they taught us at my sixth form, and usually gets me at least 19/21
    Also, could I ask you about how to outline an "expain the strengths of the cosmolical argument? because all i know how to do is key features for all 3 things i've learned. the exam is in a couple of weeks LOOOL
    This is where I've been getting confused, because I thought this was exactly how one answered a question of this sort (and this is what I've been doing) However, my teacher seems to have different ideas about what a "key feature" is; for example for the design argument the key features were things like "teleological", "a posteriori", "inductive", "order", "regularity" etc. I tried something like this for a Utilitarianism essay (Bentham, Mill, Singer) and only got 10/21. My teachers always write "this is not a concept" on my work too, so I don't know what the right thing to do is anymore. Perhaps the trick is in the wording?

    As for explaining the strengths, I'm hoping this will come up because it's easier to do well on (although I'd prefer to do the design argument, if it comes up) I believe it's things like:

    simple
    logical
    fits with scientific thinking
    fits with our observations of the universe

    ... and put some quotes in there if possible. If you can get hold of the textbook, that will help you.

    Obviously if it just asks for the strengths, don't write the weaknesses (even if it tells you to "examine" - a trap I fell into)

    Have you only learnt 3 of the questions? We've been taught 5 (the other 2 being backups because sometimes questions don't crop up on the paper) Which ones have you learnt?
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    (Original post by AnnieGakusei)
    This is where I've been getting confused, because I thought this was exactly how one answered a question of this sort (and this is what I've been doing) However, my teacher seems to have different ideas about what a "key feature" is; for example for the design argument the key features were things like "teleological", "a posteriori", "inductive", "order", "regularity" etc. I tried something like this for a Utilitarianism essay (Bentham, Mill, Singer) and only got 10/21. My teachers always write "this is not a concept" on my work too, so I don't know what the right thing to do is anymore. Perhaps the trick is in the wording?

    As for explaining the strengths, I'm hoping this will come up because it's easier to do well on (although I'd prefer to do the design argument, if it comes up) I believe it's things like:

    simple
    logical
    fits with scientific thinking
    fits with our observations of the universe

    ... and put some quotes in there if possible. If you can get hold of the textbook, that will help you.

    Obviously if it just asks for the strengths, don't write the weaknesses (even if it tells you to "examine" - a trap I fell into)

    Have you only learnt 3 of the questions? We've been taught 5 (the other 2 being backups because sometimes questions don't crop up on the paper) Which ones have you learnt?
    It's different for each question, for utilitarianism it's a different concept. I'll write up a plan for you if you want?

    Do you have any example essays you've done for the strengths or weaknesses questions? that would be so great if you do, because I'm still confused

    and yeah, they taught us five, but im not doing any backups
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    What philosopher proposed altruism in the design argument?
    Are people going to revise design AND cosmological...i've just been taught design so i dont know what to do
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    Just to clarify, when asked to 'examine' the key ideas of one subject eg. cosmological argument, so 'examine the key ideas of the cosmological argument' you dont add any exponents like hume or kant to criticise the argument? it is purely just a description of the argument??
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    (Original post by Tom712)
    Just to clarify, when asked to 'examine' the key ideas of one subject eg. cosmological argument, so 'examine the key ideas of the cosmological argument' you dont add any exponents like hume or kant to criticise the argument? it is purely just a description of the argument??
    I add names as well because that gets me extra marks. I spoke to my teacher the other day and apparently I was going wrong because Aquinas's Fifth Way is not a significant feature but the concept of "telos" is...
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    Does anyone know how to structure a 21 mark essay about the weaknesses of the augustinian theodicy and the cosmological argument?..
 
 
 

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