Part I: Terms and basic concepts (may be from any part of the course).
Listed below are possible questions related to the final third of the course. Note that questions may also be taken from the concepts listed on the reviews for the first two exams.
Questions in Part II will ask you to explain and evaluate an argument or theoretical
position 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 and positions we have discussed in class. Here are a few sample essay questions:
1. What is philosophical or logical behaviorism? Evaluate the plausibility of this theory in view of the arguments we have discussed. Discuss at least one argument in favor of the view and one argument against it.
2. Explain what the identity theory is. Evaluate the plausibility of this theory in view of the arguments we have discussed. Discuss at least one argument in favor of the view and one argument against it.
3. Explain what functionalism is, and how it is similar to and different from behaviorism and the identity theory. Evaluate the plausibility of the view.
4. Suppose for the sake of argument that determinism is correct. Could we nevertheless be free? Include a discussion of what it means to act freely; relate your position to others we have discussed.
5. Explain the relation between ethical subjectivism, ethical conventionalism, and ethical realism. Then explain which view you think is closest to the truth and why. Relate your reasons to arguments discussed in class or in the text.
6. Explain Kant’s moral theory. Explain the "universal law" formulation of the categorical imperative, and illustrate how it works by applying it to an example. Then either criticize the view or defend it against criticism.
7. Explain carefully how utilitarianism determines what we are morally obligated to do. Illustrate by applying utilitarianism to a particular example. Then explain and discuss at least two of the objections to utilitarianism considered in class and/or in the text.
Part III: Longer Essay (entire course)
I will give you one essay question that asks you to reflect on the entire semester. The idea will be to discuss a theme in relation to several of the more specific issues we have discussed. Below are examples of possible questions for this part of the exam.
1. Naturalism. One approach to many of the views we have discussed is a naturalistic one, that is, an approach that suggests that the natural world of things that exist in space and time is the only world there is. By the same token, other approaches to many of these topics involve rejecting naturalism by supposing that something outside the natural order is needed to explain or account for various aspects of human experience. Write an essay in which you consider the prospects for naturalism in any three of the following four areas: the existence of God; the relation between mind and body; the possibility of free will; the existence and nature of moral values.
2. Knowledge. What are the scope and limits of human knowledge? Give a general account of what knowledge is and how we acquire it, and then use this account to consider to what extent knowledge is possible in any three of the following areas: the existence and nature of God; the existence and nature of material objects; the existence and nature of other minds; the existence of free will; the nature of morality. (Some suggestions of topics to cover: if you discuss the existence of God, you should consider verificationism; if you discuss knowledge of material objects, you should include discussion of Descartes' arguments; if you discuss the problem of other minds, you will want to consider how various views of the mind-body problem affect the prospects for this sort of knowledge; if you discuss the nature of morality, you should include discussion of Harman's arguments about the relation between ethics and observation.)
3. Objective and Subjective. Many of the problems we have discussed seem to have to do in one way or another with the relation between our subjective experiences as agents in the world, on the one hand, and an objective, perspective-independent account of the world, on the other. Descartes' project involves beginning from certainty about the nature of our own subjective experience, and trying to leverage this into knowledge of the objective world; the mind-body problem has to do with how our subjective experiences fit into the objective physical universe; the problem of free will concerns the relation between our subjective experience of freedom and the mystery of how this is possible in a world of objective causal relations; one of the fundamental issues of ethics has to do with the extent to which moral obligations are relative to the subject (does each person have special obligations to family and friends, for instance?) and the extent to which they are completely impartial. Discuss the relation between objectivity and subjectivity in three of these four areas.
Last update: November 13, 2007.
Curtis Brown | Introduction to Philosophy | Philosophy Department | Trinity University