Introduction to Philosophy, Honors (section 1)Spring 1998

First Examination: Questions

[Be sure you are familiar with the format and ground rules for this exam.]

Questions will be referred to by their "names," listed to their left.

P-PHIWhat is philosophy? Name the main branches of philosophy and explain what sorts of questions each asks. Give examples of what it is to do philosophy.
P-CAVExplain Plato's "Allegory of the Cave." What are the various elements of it supposed to symbolize? What does the allegory say about Plato's view of what reality is and what philosophy is? Critically discuss.
P-77BWhat account of virtue does Meno offer at 77b and how does Socrates critique that account?
P-BADExplain Socrates' argument that "no one wants what is bad." Critically discuss the argument.
P-SEKMeno asks "How will you look for it, Socrates, when you do not know at all what it is?" What is the problem Meno is pointing out here? How does Socrates propose to solve it? Does he succeed? Critically discuss.
P-RECExplain Socrates' theory of recollection. What problem was it supposed to solve? Does it do so? Why or why not? Critically discuss.
P-GEOWhat points (other than points about geometry) does Socrates try to bring out in his extended example of working a geometry problem with a slave boy? Does the example serve well to illustrate those points? Critically discuss.
P-CANHow does Socrates argue that virtue can be taught? Explicate and critically discuss the argument.
P-CNTHow does Socrates argue that virtue cannot be taught? Explicate and critically discuss the argument.
P-K&OCompare and contrast knowledge and right opinion, as seen by Socrates. Which, if either, is more valuable, and why? Critically discuss.
D-METExplain Descartes' method of trying to achieve certainty in his beliefs. Does Descartes through this method find that there is some claim that he can know for certain? If so, explain how he comes to know this claim for certain, and how he uses his method to arrive at this knowledge. If he does not come to know something for certain through use of his method, does he think that he does? If so, why is he wrong about this? Critically discuss.
D-DREWhat ground of doubt does Descartes find for beliefs apparently derived from sense experience? Explain how this is ground of doubt for those beliefs. Is this a ground of doubt for other beliefs which are not based in the senses? Why or why not? Is there some other ground of doubt which calls into question more beliefs than this ground of doubt? What is it? Critically discuss.
D-GDCAt one point in Meditation one Descartes considers the possibility that he is being deceived every time he thinks about mathematics. As an objection to this possibility he wonders "perhaps God has not willed that I be thus deceived, for it is said that he is good in the highest degree." Explain how this is an objection to the possibility that Descartes is constantly deceived and explain Descartes's answer to this objection.
D-EVGExplain the point(s) Descartes is trying to make in talking of an evil genius or a malicious demon. Critically discuss.
D-VATIs there any way that you can be certain that you are not a brain in a vat connected by wires to a supercomputer? Critically explore.
D-CESHow does Descartes convince himself that he can be certain that he exists? Explicate and critically discuss his argument. Is our own existence something we can know for certain? Is there anything else that we can know with certainty? Why or why not?
D-IAMWhat, according to Descartes (by the end of Meditation II), is he? Explain what this means, what Descartes doesn't think he is, and how he thinks he knows what he is.
D-KNODescartes claims that the mind is more easily known than the body. Explain and critically discuss the argument he gives for this claim in Meditation II.
D-WAXExplain the "wax" example in the second Meditation. What is the point (or what are the points) Descartes is trying to make in using this example? How does the example serve to illustrate this point (or these points)? Explain.
D-CERBy the end of the second Meditation what beliefs does Descartes claim he can be certain of? What does he think he cannot (yet) be certain of? Explain and critically discuss.
D-FALCan ideas, according to Descartes, be false? Why or why not? What can be false? Explain.
D-WGDWhy does Descartes think it is important to his project that he prove the existence of God? Explain and critically discuss.
D-T&IInto what categories does Descartes divide thoughts? What are the differences among these types of thoughts? Into what three categories does Descartes divide ideas? Explain the three categories and for each give an example of idea which seems to be of that type. Does this seem an adequate taxonomy of ideas? Why or why not?
D-ADVWhat reasons does Descartes initially suggest in Meditation III for supposing that some of his ideas resemble objects existing outside of him? On what grounds does he reject these reasons? Critically discuss.
D-OBRWhat does Descartes mean by "objective reality?" Explain. What causal principles does Descartes proposed concerining reality and objective reality in particular? Explain these, giving examples of their application. Critically discuss.
D-GODExplain the argument Descartes furnishes in Meditation III for the existence of God (being sure to explain the meaning of key terms in it). Consider some of the objections Descartes raises to his argument and explain his reply to them.
D-M&BDescartes argues in Meditation VI that there is a real distinction between the body and the mind. Explain his arguments for this position. Explicate various ways of interpreting his principal argument for this thesis. Critically discuss, exploring possible objections to the argument.

Richard Lee,, last modified: 10 February 1998