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ocr a2 ethics exam

Discussion in 'Religious Education' started by san38, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. san38

    san38 New commenter

    Anyone else have kids doing exam this week? I thought it was awful. The conscience question was so unfair - the spec doesn't juxtaposition this with sex at all & even I would not have wanted to answer the virtue question. Any thoughts?
  2. YES! I'm about to complain to OCR about this! I know that the mixture of conscience/free-will and applied ethics was part of the previous spec but nowhere on the current spec does it say that students will be required to answer a question on the two. We need to complain.
  3. san38

    san38 New commenter

    Thanks so much. I'm quite new to OCR and was feeling a bit incompetent! I will add my complain to yours. Thanks for the link
  4. Hi,

    Could you post the questions, please? I didn't have any students do the A2 papers in January (luckily, by the sound of it) and I'd quite like to know what OCR asked so I can at least have time to prep my students if I can.

    I'm sure others would like to know too.

    Thanks in advance,

  5. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    If you have a moment, could you type out the offending question(s)? I'd really appreciate it.

    I didn't have any candidates sitting this paper but they will in the Summer.
  6. san38

    san38 New commenter

    Thanks all. Did used to be with Edexcel - found the anthology very dry and not suitable for not so able students. Think A level specs are due to change again soon and I will certainly be investigating them all! Nosey matron - these were the questions. I think 3&4 are awful - let me know what you think please
    1. all ethical lang is prescriptive. discuss
    2.critically assess the claim that freewill and determinism are compatible
    3. to what extent do modern versions of virtue ethics address the weaknesses of Aristotle's teaching on virtue?
    4. 'for moral issues surrounding sex the demands of conscience overide other ethical considerations' discuss.
  7. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    thanks for posting the questions. Although I have taught AS OCR Religious Ethics for 3 years, this is my first time through with A2 and I only picked up the class in January. So it's difficult for me to make a judgement call about a largely unfamiliar syllabus.
    Having said that, the last question would not be the sort I would have anticipated.
    Q3 presumably involves briefly outlining Aristotle's version of Virtue Ethics with an emphasis on its weaknesses followed by a discussion and evaluation of (I would imagine) MacIntyre.
    Even though my knowledge of Virtue Ethics is vague and in need of refreshment, I do recall that there is a quite devastating critique of this perspective in John Doris's book Lack Of Character. I'd need to check but I suspect that this critique would apply to both ancient and modern versions of Virtue Ethics. Roughly, Doris invokes famous experiments in social psychology (The Milgram Obedience to Authority studies and Zimbardo's Stanford Prison experiment) to argue that what we bring to the table in terms of virtues that we might claim to have cultivated fly out of the window if we find ourselves in the wrong kind of environment. So environment not character is the ultimate determinant of moral behaviour.
    If you type 'Five Steps to Tyranny' into youtube you will discover an excellent documentary that showcases the Milgram and Zimbardo studies.
    Doris's book is dense but well-written and readable.
    Hope this helps!

  8. delahay

    delahay New commenter

    Gilbert Harman also criticises Virtue Ethics by claimimg there are no sustained character traits (see Harman, The Nonexistence of Character Traits, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 100 (2) (2000)), like Doris he bases this on the evidence of social psychology experiments such as the Good Samaritan one.

    I think this is a criticism of Virtue Ethics rather than a way that modern virtue theory has attempted to address problems with Aristotle. Perhaps some ideas worth considering would be as follows: Rosalind Husthouse addresses the issue of whether virtues can be action guiding (she has written some great stuff on the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy on this. She also addresses the charge of cultural relativity and indeterminacy here.

    Linda Zagzebski in 'Virtue of the Mind' develops the idea of cognitive virtues and also rejects the teleological baggage of both Aristotle and Hursthouse.

    There is also a lot of recent work on applying virtues to practical issues. Raja Halwani has a book about sexual virtues.
  9. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    Wow delahay, you have included some very useful pointers there. Thanks for taking the time to detail them.
    To return to that question on conscience and sexual ethics, this is a topic the previous teacher covered and so I will only be looking at it for the very first time when we revise it. However, in the new edition of Practical Ethics, Peter Singer briefly discusses conscience (on pages 259-262).
    In this section , he outlines some different (and conflicting) notions of conscience and considers the following example:
    '...an unmarried woman brought up as a strict Roman Catholic to believe that sex outside marriage is always wrong may abandon her religion and come to hold that there is no sound basis for restricting sex to marriage - yet continue to feel guilty when she has sex. She may refer to those guilt feelings as her 'conscience', but if that is her conscience should she follow it?'
    I will almost certainly be using this example (and the section as a whole) when I embark on revision with my Year 13's.

  10. delahay

    delahay New commenter

    I agree!

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