Classical Modern Philosophy
[May 6, 10:00 AM: Note that question 5, which was incomplete, has now been completed. (New material is in red.)]
For each term on the exam, I will ask you to provide a short paragraph explaining what the term means. Answers should be specific and clear, but need not be long. I will include approximately 8-10 of these.
I will ask you to write on two essay questions. You should take pains to make your essay as complete, carefully organized, and clearly written as possible. Support your claims with references to specific passages in the texts. You may use the Locke, Hume, and Kant texts during the exam (but no notes except whatever you have written in the books). Grades on the exam will be based not simply on whether your claims about the text are true or false, but on the appropriateness and persuasiveness of the supporting citations, and on the detail, clarity, and completeness of your essay.
1. Explain Locke’s empiricist view of the structure and contents of the human mind. Include discussion of: (a) what sorts of simple ideas there are; (b) how we get simple ideas; (c) how complex ideas are derived from simple ones; (d) the relation between ideas in our minds and qualities in objects, including Locke’s distinction between primary and secondary qualities; (d) Locke’s account of perception, sometimes called the “representative theory of perception.”
2. Explain Locke’s doctrine that all knowledge is of the agreement and disagreement of ideas, and the consequences of this doctrine for the extent of our knowledge. Include discussion of: (a) the four kinds of agreement and disagreement of ideas (not just their names, but what they mean); (b) the three degrees of knowledge (intuitive, demonstrative, and sensitive); (c) which degrees of knowledge we can have about which kinds of agreement and disagreement of ideas, and why; (d) how much Locke thinks we can know about coexistence and real existence, and why he thinks we cannot know more; (e) whether Locke is entitled to think we know even as much as he says we do about coexistence and real existence.
3. Discuss Hume's skepticism. Include discussion of the following: (a) Hume's understanding of causation and necessary connection (the discussion of which occupies most of Book I Part 3, as summarized and concluded in section 14); (c) his discussion of skepticism with regard to the senses, and its relation to his views about causation and necessary connection (Book I, Part 4, section 2); (d) his discussion of skepticism with regard to reason (Book I, Part 4, section 1); (e) conclude with a general discussion of Hume’s views on the uses and limits of skepticism, as presented in the conclusion to Book I (Book I, Part 4, section 7).
4. Kant said that the characteristic vice of rationalism was dogmatism, and the characteristic vice of empiricism was skepticism. Explain what he means by this, and how he proposes to avoid these two vices. Include discussion of the following: (a) what is “dogmatism”? Why does rationalism tend to lead to dogmatism? (b) Why does Kant think that empiricism naturally tends to lead to skepticism? (c) does your study of Locke and Hume lead you to think Kant is correct in his assessment of empiricism? Why or why not? (d) Explain Kant’s view that intuitions and concepts are both necessary for knowledge. (e) How does Kant use this view about the sources of knowledge to avoid dogmatism? (f) How does he try to avoid skepticism? (g) To what extent do you think Kant succeeds in thwarting skepticism?
5. Compare Locke and Kant on the idea of substance. (You may want to refer to Descartes and/or Spinoza's views on substance as background for your essay.) Include discussion of the following: (a) what does Locke mean by the idea of substance in general? Why does he think we need this idea? (b) Why does Locke think that it is hard to explain where the idea of substance in general comes from? (c) What does Kant think is the source of the idea of substance? (d) How does Kant think we can know that the idea of substance applies to our experience? (e) Many of the philosophers we have studied distinguish between material substance and thinking substance. Does Kant draw a similar distinction? If so, how are his views about thinking substance similar to and different from Locke's? [Red material added May 6, 10:00 AM -- question stopped in the middle before!]
6. Compare Locke, Hume, and Kant on personal identity. (Roughly: what ties a collection of experiences together into the experiences of a single self, both at a given time and over time?) You may want to discuss Descartes's view of the nature of the self as background for your essay. Include discussion of: (a) Locke's distinction between identity of masses of matter, vegetables and animals, and persons. (b) Locke's account of personal identity. (c) Hume's account of personal identity in relation to his theory of ideas. (d) Kant's account of personal identity. (Kant does not discuss the issue under the label "personal identity," but his discussion of the unity of experience in the Transcendental Deduction, and his discussion of the self in the Paralogisms, are highly relevant.)
7. Compare and critically evaluate the views of Locke, Hume, and Kant on causation. Include discussion of: (a) what does Locke mean by the idea of power? How does he think we get this idea? How clear or unclear an idea do we have of it, and why? (b) How does Hume analyze the idea of causation? (c) Why does Hume think that the idea of causation as a necessary connection between objects cannot be acquired from experience? (d) Where does Kant think that the idea of causation comes from? (e) Why does Kant think that this ideas must be applicable to experience? (In responding to this part of the question, include some discussion of the “Transcendental Deduction of the Categories.”) (f) How does Kant attempt to defend the view that every event must have a cause (in the "Second Analogy")?
8. Discuss the problem of skepticism in Locke, Hume, and Kant. (a) What aspects of Locke’s views seem to lead to skepticism, and why? (Consider e.g. Locke’s representative theory of perception and his related view that all our knowledge concerns the relations of ideas.) (b) To what extent is Locke skeptical about our knowledge of the external world? (Think especially of his views about coexistence and real existence.) (c) Why isn’t he even more skeptical, especially about real existence? How good are his reasons? (d) Explain Hume’s skepticism about the possibility of our knowledge of causal laws. (e) Explain Kant’s response to Humean skepticism about causation. Include discussion of the importance of the distinction between appearances and things in themselves.
9. Compare Locke and Kant on freedom of action. Discuss: (a) what does Locke think freedom (“liberty”) consists in? (b) why does Locke think that the notion of “free will” is incoherent? (c) What does Kant think freedom consists in? (d) How does Kant think that the distinction between the empirical world and the world of things-in-themselves enables us to say that freedom is compatible with determinism? (g) In what ways does Kant agree and disagree with Locke on this issue? (You may want to relate the views of Locke and Kant to those of Descartes and Spinoza.)