PHI 3300  Sample Midterm Exam Questions  Fall 2013

     Copyright © 2013 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.  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 midterm will be on Friday, October 25. 

1. Clarify Unger’s argument for skepticism.  In answering this question, clearly indicate what he contends we know, his distinction between absolute and relative terms, indicate what he thinks is necessary for knowledge, and explain why he believes we can not attain this precondition. 

2. .Explain why Stroud believes that efforts to understand “human knowledge in general” will fail.  Why does he contend that we might have knowledge in “certain specified domains,” but not “in general?” 

3. What does Ayer contend knowledge is, and what does he mean by “conceding to someone the right to be sure?”   

4. Explain what a “Gettier counterexample” to the traditional analysis of knowledge is by talking about one of the following and explaining what the traditional analysis is, how the example tells against it, and what it means for an analysis to be “to strong” or too weak:”

(a) Smith, Jones, getting a job, ten coins in a pocket and a boss;

(b) Smith, Nogot, Havit, office workers, and Ford owners;

(c) Smith, Jones, Brown, owning a Ford, and being in Barcelona. 

(d) Henry, barns, and barn facades. 

5. Goldman offers a causal theory of knowing.  Explain what sort of knowledge he is offering an analysis of, what the sources of knowledge are which he discusses, what he claims is necessary if one is to be said to know in such cases, and illustrate his theory by discussing his “lava” example, his “testimony” example, or his “S’s knowing that T will be going downtown” example.  In discussing the example, clarify what sorts of connections are required for knowledge according to Goldman, and what breaking one of these connections does to a claim to know according to him, and how his account is supposed to avoid the sorts of problems Gettier points to. 

6. Goldman discusses “discrimination and perceptual knowledge” to overcome a problem he sees in his earlier causal theory.  Using the barn façade case explain what he thinks it shows to be wrong in his earlier account, and what he thinks an appropriate analysis of non-inferential perceptual knowledge looks like.  The answer does not have to delve into the minute details of Goldman’s analysis here, but it should discuss the Oscar-dachshund-[German] shepherd-wolf-field example clarifying the roles of the following two components of his analysis: perceptual percepts (and “equivalence”) and belief-forming operations; and how his talk of reliabilism and these components is to overcome the problem posed by the barn façade case.  In clarifying this analysis indicate whether it is closer to internalism or to externalism. 

7. Lehrer and Paxson offer a “defeasibility analysis” of knowledge.  What sort of knowledge are they offering an account of, clarify the distinction they draw between “basic” and “nonbasic” knowledge, and indicate which sort(s) is (are) defeasible and why.  In answering this question clarify what “defeaters” are and how they work against a knowledge claim. 

8. Clarify generically the “externalistic” and “internalistic” orientations in epistemology; 

9. Explain the epistemic regress problem.  In answering this question clearly indicate why the problem arises and what the options are as one attempts to resolve it.  In discussing the various options, indicate what major problems BonJour maintains each of the options must overcome. 

10. Clarify how the externalist foundationalist responds to the regress problem, and indicate what BonJour identifies as the main problem which the externalists face. 

11. Clarify how the “givenist” foundationalist responds to the regress problem, and indicate what BonJour identifies as the main problem which the “givenists” face.

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File revised on 10/13/2013