PHH 3401  Sample Final Exam Questions  Fall Semester 2012

    Copyright © 2012 Bruce W. Hauptli

The examination will be an in-class objective essay exam.  It will be designed to assess the students’ understanding of the philosophical theories, positions, topics, and methodologies studied.  The following sample questions are examples of the kinds of questions I will be asking and they are distributed in advance of the exam so that you have an opportunity to organize your thoughts and integrate the readings and lectures around sample questions designed to indicate what your are expected to have mastered.  The list of questions is far longer than a reasonable examination could be, and I will ask between two and three such questions on the examination itself.  You will be asked to be as complete as you can in writing essays in answer such questions.  While there is no "length requirement" for the examination, the questions and exam will be designed so that the average student in this class should need to spend most of the allowed time actively writing.  Short answers are unlikely to be sufficiently detailed to earn high grades, and mere outlines or lists (of terms, principles, theories, etc.) do not provide sufficient explanation—they will not convince me that you understand the relevant material.  As the questions clearly indicate, I expect you to explain specific points in answering the questions, and an essay which does not address these points is inadequate.  Please review the following link on the Course Web-Site for additional guidelines regarding my expectations for exam answers: Writing Essay Exams for Professor Hauptli

The exam will be a closed-book, closed-notes exam, and you will not be allowed to consult dictionaries or other reference texts.  It will be on Friday, December 3 from 12:30-1:30. 

1. How many substances does Spinoza claim there are?  Clarify what he defined substance to be and explain his argument to the effect that there are exactly this many substances and indicate whether the truths that are true of substance are contingent or necessary (and why). 

2. Clarify Spinoza's view of substance.  In answering this question, clarify his definition of substance, indicate how many of them there are and why there can not be more or less than this number, indicate whether substance is free (and what Spinoza means by `freedom’ here), whether it is transcendent, and whether it is contingent or necessary (in its nature and in its effects) and why Spinoza attributes this characteristic to substance.  In answering this question also discuss the relationship of substance to its modes indicating how they (both substance and modes, and the modes to one another) are related and whether the modes are free or determined, and contingent or necessary. 

3. Clarify what it means when one says that for Spinoza we are modes of substance.  In answering this question indicate whether his theory holds we are, truly speaking, individuals; whether we are free; whether any of our actions are contingent; whether we differ significantly from other sorts of modes; and what our primary "good" consists in. 

4. Descartes' theory flounders upon a number of serious problems which include: (a) his definition of substance which conflicts with his conception of the number of substances, (b) the problem of the interaction of minds and bodies, (c) the problem of representationalism, and (d) a set of problems which arise from his allowing for two different "causal" chains (one mental and one physical) in an effort to allow for both mechanism and freedom.  Spinoza's theory is developed in an effort to avoid these problems.  Clarify how Spinoza’s theory is supposed to overcome these "Cartesian difficulties." 

5. Why does Spinoza reject the doctrine of final causes?  Explain what he thinks the problem is with the notion of teleology or final causes, how this problem is related to his determinism, and what view he offers in place of a view final causation (or teleological) view. 

6. Leibniz maintains that the notion of a material substance does not make any sense.  What does he think is wrong with such a notion, and what sort of conception of substance does he offer in place of that of a material substance?  In answering this question you must indicate what the major characteristics of true substances are according to Leibniz (how many are there, how are they related to one another, are they self-caused, are they deterministically governed, etc.). 

7. Explain what Leibnizian monads are.  In answering this question indicate what the fundamental characteristics of these things are, how many of them there are, whether they interact, how they are related to each other, how they are related to God, and why they (rather than some others) exist.  In your answer clearly indicate how Leibniz attempts to avoid determinism, how Leibniz accounts for the existence of evil in this world, and clearly indicate what allows for freedom (both divine and human) according to him. 

8. Explain Leibniz' way of accounting for the existence of evil in this world.  In discussing his explanation, make certain you clarify the role played by the "principle of the best" and indicate whether this principle allows him to avoid the sort of determinism which Spinoza is forced to embrace. 

9. Explain Leibniz' view of composites.  Include a discussion of the notion of a “dominant monad.” 

10. Why does each of the Rationalists offer a version of the “ontological proof" for the existence of a deity?  Is there a philosophical reason why they each does so?  Explain the role such proof plays in their systems in general, and clarify the sort of knowledge that this proof is supposed to yield. 

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