Philosophy 1301: Introduction to Philosophy

Review for Second Examination
Fall, 2007
Curtis Brown

The second exam is scheduled for Monday, November 5. The examination will have two parts. The first part will have relatively short questions that you should be able to answer in about a paragraph. The second part will have longer essay questions that may require several paragraphs to answer. Answers should show familiarity with the text as well as class lectures. Answers will be evaluated on the basis of their clarity, accuracy, completeness, and cogency. The first and second parts will each count for approximately half of the total grade. Bring a blue book! (I will trade the one you bring for one that I have marked prior to the exam. Only the blue books I hand out will be acceptable.) I expect students to remain in the classroom until they have completed the exam. (If you finish early, you are welcome to turn it in and leave.) No mp3 players, cell phones, etc. -- all you should have out is a blue book and something to write with.

Terms and concepts you should be familiar with: Essay questions:

Essay questions will ask you to explain and evaluate an argument we have discussed in class. To explain an argument, you should say what the premises are, what the conclusion is, what sort of argument it is, and how the premises are supposed to support the conclusion. To evaluate the argument, you need to consider objections to the argument and explain why you think they are or are not justified. An objection to an argument may be either a reason to think one or more of the premises is false, or a reason to think that the premises do not support the conclusion.

You should be familiar with the main arguments we have discussed in class. Here are a few sample essay questions:

1. Explain Descartes' argument (in Meditation II) that he can be certain of his own existence despite the arguments of Meditation I (including the evil genius argument). Explain which of his characteristics he thinks are essential to his existence and which characteristics are not, and why. Offer your own assessment of these arguments.

2. Explain Descartes' first argument for God's existence in Meditation III. You will need to include an explanation of what he means by formal and objective reality. Evaluate the argument.

3. A common objection to Descartes' overall argument in the Meditations, ever since the Objections and Replies that were published along with the Meditations, has been that it is circular. This is the famous "Cartesian Circle." Give a careful explanation of what the supposed circle in Descartes' reasoning is. Then evaluate the claim that the argument is circular, taking into account Descartes' response to this charge.

4. Compare the JTB account of knowledge with the RTK (Reliability Theory of Knowledge). Begin by explaining the JTB account, and one of Sober's three counterexamples to the account. Then explain the RTK account, and explain how the RTK would deal with the same example. Conclude with an overall assessment of the two analyses: which (if either) do you think is closer to the truth, and why?

5. Explain why Hume thinks that it is impossible to provide a rational justification of induction. Is he correct? If so, does this show that we should be skeptical about whether we are ever justified in believing anything? How might an antifoundationalist reply to Hume, and do you regard this reply as adequate?

6. Give a careful explanation of the main Cartesian argument that the mind and body must be distinct, as interpreted by Sober. (This is the argument involving the supposed property of indubitable existence.) Explain the objection to this argument raised by Sober and also discussed in class. Evaluate the argument in light of this objection.

Last update: October 30, 2007.
Curtis Brown  |  Introduction to Philosophy  |  Philosophy Department  |   Trinity University