Andi Myles

The Final Exam

Philosophy of Life 101
Summer 1985

Exams are due by 1 pm Thursday, February 17, 2067.

Part I

Answer three (3) of the following five questions. Write a 300–500 word essay on each of the three questions you have chosen. Each question is worth 10 points.

  1. When you discovered your mother was having an affair with your brother’s baseball coach when you were seventeen and decided to keep her secret—telling her only that she should end it and then willfully overlooking the next decade of signs that she had not—how did you justify lying by omission to your father? How would Kant categorize your choice? How do you see this action now based on your current belief in the importance of honesty?

  2. Now that you no longer adhere to a specific religious belief, where does sex fall in your current moral framework? Do you believe that ethical relationships must be monogamous? Why or why not? Why did you choose a long-term heterosexual monogamous relationship? What would Nietzsche have to say about your cowardice?

  3. Locke believed in the concept of tabula rasa—that all people are entirely shaped by their upbringing. Given his views, and considering your struggles with anger, impatience with inane conversation, and other negative patterns of behavior inherited from your upbringing, what do you think he would say about your choice to procreate? Especially considering the high likelihood that you will significantly fuck up your own children?

  4. Reflecting on Locke’s theory of personal identity and the continuity of consciousness, how do you reconcile your past actions with your current self? Consider the (im)moral decisions you’ve made throughout your life; how have they influenced or shifted your sense of identity? Are you still you?

  5. Hume said, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.” Given the fact that you have an extensive history of adultery and cheating, and, as Hume states, reason alone is not enough to motivate action, do you really expect to be able to live according to your current moral framework for the rest of your life? Analyze future possibilities using Utilitarian lists. Describe the consequences if you fail to live up to your own expectations.

Part II

Answer all 10 questions. Each question is worth 2 points.

6. When your psychiatrist attempted to initiate a sexual relationship with you a few years into your second marriage, did you ever seriously contemplate accepting his advances?

YES                NO

7. You are confident that you will stay faithful in your marriage.

YES                NO

8. Do you ever miss the moral simplicity of having a magic book with all the answers?

YES                NO

9. When is lying acceptable?

a. When you really want to have sex with someone you shouldn’t.

b. When someone might hit you if you tell the truth.

c. When, as the Kantian thought experiment goes, there is a murderer at the door who is looking for someone hidden in your home.

d. Never. As Kant ultimately decided, lying corrupts an individual’s duty to act according to universal moral laws.

10. Is it possible for people to change?

a. Yes, just look at me!

b. Yes. People can change significantly, for better or for worse, often due to profound life events.

c. Yes, but only a little, the main core of your personality and weakness are set and you can only move the needle a little.

d. No. People can obscure their flaws, sometimes for years, but ultimately, they will fall back into old behaviors and patterns.

11. Your most abusive and/or destructive relationship was with:

a. Your father

b. Your college affair

c. Your ex-husband

d. God

12. You have been forgiven.

T                F

13. You are confident in your decision to abandon the God of your youth.

T                F

14. You are ready to spend eternity being consciously tortured if you are wrong.

T                F

15. You are ready for this exam to end.

T                F

Andi Myles (she/her) is a Washington DC area science writer by day, poet in the in between times. Her favorite space is the fine line between essay and poetry. Her work has been listed as “Notable” in The Best American Essays and has appeared in Rattle, Tahoma Literary Review, and Brink Literary Journal, amongst others.

Read more by Andi Myles

Author’s Website
Lyric Essay in Two Hawks Quarterly
Poem in Rust & Moth
Lyric Essay in Longleaf Review