PHIL 350A:  MIDTERM REVIEW QUESTIONS

 

The Midterm Exam will take place in class on Thursday Feb. 6.  PLEASE BRING A BLANK EXAM BOOK AND A PEN TO THE EXAM.  EXAM BOOKS WITH NOTES WRITTEN ON THEM OR WITH PAGES MISSING WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.  Please answer all questions completely, but concisely.  Answer in complete sentences.  In preparing for the exam, you are encouraged to discuss these questions with other members of the class, and to discuss what the relevant considerations would be in answering them.  However, each student is expected to develop his/her own answers to the questions.  You should not discuss the wording of an answer or attempt to come up with an agreed upon answer.  If you draft answers to the questions, you should not show your draft answers to others, nor should you read or copy someone else's draft answers.  The exam will consist of selections from the following questions. 

 

1.  Explain the following distinctions (you may use examples): 

(a) knowledge by acquaintance/competence knowledge/propositional knowledge. 

(b) occurrent/dispositional belief.

(c) direct realism/representationalism/phenomenalism

(d) primary/secondary qualities

(e) inferential/non-inferential support

(f) basic/non-basic beliefs.

(g) linear/non-linear justification

(h) metaphysics/epistemology

(i) a priori/a posteriori

(j) analytic/synthetic

(k) genuine/apparent/mock a priori insight

(l) necessary truth/contingent truth

(m) correspondence/coherence/pragmatist theory of truth

(n) strong/weak conception of knowledge

(o) fallibilism/infallibilism about justification or knowledge

 

2.  What is epistemology?  [Hint:  It has both a conceptual and a doctrinal component.]

 

3.  What does it mean to say that something is a necessary condition for knowledge?  Give an example of something that is a necessary condition for knowledge and explain why it is.  What does it mean to say that something is a sufficient condition for knowledge?  Can you give an example of something that is a sufficient condition for knowledge?  Explain.

 

4.  What is a proof?  What is a philosophical explanation?  How does a philosophical explanation resemble a proof?  How are they different?

 

5.  What is direct realism?  Why does the observation of stars present a problem for direct realism?

 

6.  What does BonJour mean by "perceptual subjectivism"?

 

7.  What is representationalism?  What is the "permanent picture gallery" objection to representationalism?  What is the Humean version of this objection?  What is BonJour's reply to the objection?  According to BonJour, how can we know about causal relations without directly experiencing causal relations?  

 

8.  What is the (epistemic) regress problem?  What are the four alternative responses to the regress problem?  Explain each.  What assumption is presupposed by the statement of the regress problem but denied by the holistic coherentist? 

 

9.  Talbott has identified two kinds of relations between beliefs, causal and logical.  Explain them.  To be foundational, a belief must be both causally and logically basic.  Explain this with an example?  Could a belief be causally but not logically basic?  Explain.  Could a belief be logically but not causally basic?  Explain. 

 

10.  What is Pojman's Anti-Foundationalist Argument?  As we use the term in this course, what is the Given [Note: Recall that we do not accept Pojman's infallibility requirement]?  How does it provide a response to the Anti-Foundationalist Argument?  Why have some philosophers (e.g., Sellars) claimed that the Given is a myth?  What is your opinion:  Is it a myth?  Explain. 

 

11.  What is the Doxastic Thesis?  Why have many philosophers accepted the Doxastic Thesis?  [Hint:  Why have they rejected the Given as a myth?]

 

12.  How does the holistic coherentist avoid the charge that s/he endorses circular reasoning?  What makes systems of beliefs holistically coherent?

 

13.  Philosophical models of reasoning are typically based on the model of a logical deduction (e.g., as in a proof in mathematics).  What are the two features of deductive reasoning that coherentists reject in their model of coherence reasoning?  Explain each with an example.  (You may use the same example for both.)

 

14.  What is the Alternative Systems Objection to coherentism?  What is the Input Problem for coherentism? 

 

15.  Ultimately, Bonjour defends a moderate foundationalism according to which experience has non-conceptual content.  What does he mean by non-conceptual content?  According to BonJour, how does an experience with non-conceptual content justify a belief about it?

 

16.  Explain what synthetic a priori knowledge would be?  Which philosopher first introduced the idea of synthetic a priori knowledge?  Give an example of something he claimed was synthetic a priori.  Do you believe any knowledge is synthetic a priori?  Explain. 

 

17.  Pojman limits his account of a priori justification to propositions.  BonJour extends it to reasoning.  What is the role of a priori justification in BonJour's account of reasoning? 

 

18.  What is the Fregean conception of analyticity?  What are two examples of propositions that BonJour regards as justified a priori, but do not fit the Fregean conception of analyticity? 

 

19.  Some philosophers have argued that there is no a priori justification.  What is the coherentist (e.g. Quine) argument against a priori justification?  What is the naturalist (e.g., Nozick) argument against a priori justification?  Why does BonJour believe that those who argue against a priori justification are committed to having it?  How might a naturalist reply to BonJour's argument?

 

20.  Does BonJour believe that apparent a priori insights are infallible?  If a priori insights are not infallible, but they give us justification for believing necessary truths, then it would seem that someone who claims to have an a priori insight that p would be claiming:  I may be mistaken but p could not be false.  Could it make sense to make such a claim?  Explain. 

 

21.  What is induction?  Give an example and explain the different elements.  What is the problem of induction?  What is Hume's dilemma?  What is the pragmatist response to the problem?  What is the ordinary language response to the problem?  What is BonJour’s response to the problem?  What is the naturalist’s response to the problem?

 

22.  What is the "God's eye" objection to claims to knowledge (BonJour 34)?  How is it related to the Permanent Picture Gallery objection to Lockean Representationalism?  [Hint:  What is the assumption that both objections implicitly make?]

 

23.  What is the traditional, tripartite analysis of knowledge?  What is the most persuasive counterexample to it?  A complete logical analysis is a claim of mutual implication (with arrows going in both directions).  Which of the two implication claims is the counterexample a counterexample to?  Explain.

 

24.  What is the Cartesian conception of knowledge?  How does it avoid Gettier counterexamples?

 

25.  (a) What is the lottery paradox?  (b) How do you think it should be resolved?  (c) What is the Preface Paradox?  (d) How do you think it should be resolved?

 

26.  For each of the following examples:  (a) Explain the example.  (b) Explain its significance for epistemology.

(i) the impressionable juror

(ii) the paranoid schizophrenic

(iii) Descartes’ evil genius

(iv) the Permanent Picture Gallery

(v) The Job Applicant with 10 Coins in His Pocket

(vi) Mr. Nogot and Mr. Havit and the Ford car

(vii) Henry and the barn facades

(viii) The candle at the end of the hall example.

 

27.  As we have seen, there is no generally accepted definition for propositional knowledge.  How is epistemology possible if we don’t even know what we mean by ‘propositional knowledge’? 

 

28.  In this course, we consider many different epistemological theories.  What kind of reasoning is involved in evaluating the various theories and determining which, if any, to accept.  Use at least one example in your answer.  Which theory do you find most persuasive?  Why?

 

29.  Are the following statements true or false?  Explain your answer.  If part of the statement is true and part false, explain the part that is true as well as the part that is false.  When a statement is false, it typically is a misstatement of something that is true about the relevant author’s view.  In your answer, identify that truth.

(a) Berkeley was a phenomenalist.

(b) BonJour is a coherentist about empirical justification.

(c) Quine argued that all of the currently accepted beliefs will eventually be given up (perhaps by future generations).

(d) If the doxastic thesis is true, there are no empirically basic beliefs.

(e) Kant believed that analytic propositions can be justified a priori but that no synthetic propositions can be justified a priori. 

(f) BonJour believes that we can never be justified in believing any non-observational proposition.

(g) Gettier provided a counterexample to the claim that justified, true belief is necessary for knowledge.