PHH 3401 16th & 17th Century Philosophy  Fall Semester 2012  Dr. Hauptli  Sample Mid-Term Questions

Copyright © 2012 Bruce W. Hauptli

The following sample questions are examples of the kinds of questions I will be asking.  The list 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.  The exam will be a closed-book, closed-notes exam, and you will not be allowed to consult dictionaries or other reference texts.  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 on Friday,  October 12. 

1. In his "First Meditation" Descartes develops a series of skeptical doubts which he partly refutes in the second and third meditations.  Explain what (and why) he doubts, and explain what (and how) he comes to know in these meditations.  In answering this question you must clarify not only his skeptical doubts and knowledge claims (in Meditations 1-3) but must also indicate how the knowledge claims he makes are to survive the doubts he develops.

2. In his "Second Meditation" Descartes not only proves that he is, but he also clarifies what he is.  In answering this question you are to clarify Descartes' proof of the self, explain what sort of thing he is, clarify the essential attributes of minds and bodies, and clarify whether the sort of thing which he is is dependent upon (or essentially connected to) physical objects according to him.

3. Clarify the argument which Descartes offers in his “Third Meditation” for the existence of an omni-benevolent deity.  Make clear what it is he proves, why he needs to prove this, and how the proof proceeds.  In answering this question clarify how the causal principle applies to ideas, why Descartes is so certain that he is not the cause of the idea at the center of the proof, and why he is so certain that this deity isn't a deceiver.

4. Explain how, according to Descartes, human errors arise.  What can we do to ensure that we don't fall prey to error?  How does Descartes explain how error is not fault of his deity?

5. Why does Descartes offer two proofs for the existence of his deity?  In answering this question briefly explain both of the proofs and contrast them indicating important differences and similarities (if any) between the proofs as you explain why he feels he must offer two proofs.

6. Clarify Descartes' proof that physical objects exist (in the Sixth Meditation).  In answering this question clarify how the proof proceeds, and indicate whether it generates the same level of "certainty" regarding the existence of physical objects as we find in the Second Meditation proof of the self.  Which physical object is best known, according to Descartes, and why?

7. Clarify how Pascal's irrationalism differs from Descartes' rationalism--that is contrast the orientation of these thinkers.  In answering this question, don't repeat what you have already said in responding to the Descartes question(s), instead indicate what the fundamental differences are between Pascal's orientation and Descartes'. 

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File revised on: 10/11/2012