PHIL 437A:  MIDTERM REVIEW QUESTIONS

 

The Midterm Exam will take place in class on Thursday, Nov. 5.  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 wou`ld 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 in Hume's philosophy:

(a) impression/idea

(b) memory/imagination

(c) simple/complex ideas

(d) abstract/particular ideas

(a) intuitive/demonstrative knowledge

(b) knowledge/belief

 

2.  According to Hume, what are the two kinds of perceptions?  What is the main difference between them? 

 

3.  What is the Copy Principle?  Choose an idea that you think is an exception to the Copy Principle and make the best case for this position that you can.  (If you do not believe there are any exceptions, choose an idea that seems to present the greatest challenge to the Copy Principle and explain why it is not an exception to that principle.)

 

4.  The Explanatory Circle.  Hume claims that all ideas are copies of impressions.  Then in the discussion of substance he argues that we have no idea of substance (other than as a collection of simple ideas) and in the discussion of abstract ideas he argues that because any existing triangle must have a precise proportion of sides and angles, our idea of triangle must also.  But in both cases isn't he just assuming that his theory that all ideas are derived from impressions is true?  Why don't the examples of our idea of substance and of a triangle that is not a definite size show that his theory is false—that some ideas are not copies of impressions? 

 

5.  Hume's investigation of the idea of cause.  Why does he conclude that being a cause is not a quality of an object?  What are the impressions of sense from which the idea of cause is derived?  What part of the idea of cause does not correspond to an impression of sense?  What is it derived from?

 

6.  Hume on temporal priority.  What do we mean by the asymmetry between cause and effect?  According to Hume what is the explanation of the asymmetry between cause and effect.  Give an example of a relation that is generally understood as a causal one, even though we cannot distinguish in our perception between the time of the occurrence of the cause and the time of the occurrence of the effect.  How would Hume explain our belief in the asymmetry between cause and effect in your example?

 

7.  According to Hume, what is a belief?  What does he mean when he says that it is related to a present impression? What is the most persuasive counterexample to this account? 

 

8.  Hume on necessary connection.  What does Hume mean that "the necessary connection depends on the inference, instead of the inference's depending on the necessary connection"?  On Hume's account, is there really any idea of necessary connection in objects?  If not, how was I able to refer to that idea in the previous question?  [This is a deep question for Hume.]

 

9.  Hume on induction.  What principle would be required in order for the faculty of Reason to be able to infer an effect from a cause?  Why does Hume believe that Reason could never establish that principle? 

 

 

10.  What is the transmission principle?  Explain why remembering thinking of a unicorn raises a problem for the transmission principle.  What is Hume’s solution to the problem?

 

11.  Hume on the unconscious role of memory in inference.  What does Hume mean by saying that past experience (via memory) may produce a belief concerning causes and effects by a "secret operation" (T 1.3.8.13)?  Explain the example he provides?  On his own account of causal inference, could we ever acquire a belief in a "secret cause" of the kind he describes?  Explain.

 

12.  How does Hume explain our ability to learn a causal relation from a single case?   The answer to that question involves the premise that “like objects, plac’d in like circumstances, will always produce like effects.”   On Hume’s account of causal inference, how could we ever infer this premise?   [Hint:  Don’t we have evidence that conflicts with it?]

 

13.  Does Hume contradict himself?  In T1.3.14.31, Hume says "I perceive that such a relation [his version of causal relation] can never be an object of reasoning . . . ."  But in the next section, he gives rules for causal reasoning.  And earlier he had said that causal reasoning is a "true species of reasoning" (T 1.3.7.5 n. 20).  How are we to understand this apparent contradiction?

 

14.  Why does Hume think it is a mistake to take our experience of own willing of actions as a basis for an idea of causal efficacy?  Does Hume's account of how we mistakenly come to believe in causes work for our belief in the efficacy of our choices?

 

15.  A circularity problem?  In T 1.3.14.20 Hume's account of the source of the idea of cause is that our experience produces a new impression in us.  Hume describes this feeling as a feeling of determination of the mind to pass from one object to its usual attendant (and later as a propensity to pass from the one object to the other.  But note that Hume is using causal terms (e.g., produces, determination, propensity) to explain the origin of the idea of cause.  This seems objectionably circular.  Is it objectionably circular? Explain.

 

16.  The Normative Puzzle.  In T 1.3.14, Hume is explaining our concept of necessary connection and its role in our reasoning.  This is part of Hume's descriptive project.  In the next section, Hume provides some rules by which we may know when objects are causally related.  This is a normative project.  (a) Explain why it is normative.  (b) Explain why it was a mistake for Hume to use the word "know" in describing the project.  What should he have said?  (c) Does it make sense for Hume to make normative claims about causal reasoning?  If causal reasoning is not really reasoning at all, but a kind of psychological determination of the mind, how could it make sense to recommend better ways of doing it? 

 

17. For each of the following, explain why it is a potential problem for Hume’s account of causal belief.  Then explain how you think Hume might best deal with it:

            (a) Common causes.  When we hear a gunshot and then see someone bleeding, why don’t we infer that the gunshot caused the bleeding?

            (b) Simultaneity.  Imagine someone who always feels pain when they are pricked by a pin.  Why don’t they infer that the pain causes their skin to be punctured?

            (c) Countervailing causes.  Imagine two teams in tug of war equally balanced as each side pulls as hard as they can.  What is the difference between that case and the case in which each side is straining and otherwise pretending to pull as hard as they can, but only pulling hard enough to keep the rope taut.

            (d) Hidden causes.  On Hume’s account, is there any way that any human being could have been the first one to believe in earthquakes as events that take place miles below the surface of the earth?  Explain.

 

18.  According to Hume, can we have any idea of objects that of which we are not conscious—that is, objects that exist external to our perceptions?  Why or why not?

 

19. Why does Hume say:  "We may well ask, What causes induce us to believe in the existence of body? but 'tis vain to ask, Whether there be body or not?"(T 1.4.2.1)  According to Hume:  What is a body?  What are the causes that induce us to believe in body?  This question raises a deep puzzle about Hume's philosophy:  How could we ever come to have the idea of body?

 

20.  What does Hume mean by continued existence?  On Hume's, could anyone ever acquire the idea of existing when not perceived?  If so, how? What does he mean by distinct existence?  On Hume's view, could anyone ever acquire the idea of existence external to my perceptions?  If so, how?  According to Hume, what is the feature of experience that he uses to explain our belief in continued existence?  What is the feature of experience that he uses to explain our belief in distinct existence?  Why doesn't Hume regard them as good reasons to believe in continued and distinct existence?  Pay particular attention to his examples in T 1.4.2.20.

 

21.  Why does Hume think we cannot get the idea of continued or distinct existence from the senses?  Why does he think we cannot get it from reason?  Where does it come from?  How?

 

22.  What are the vulgar opinions that Hume rejects about external objects?  What are the experiments that Hume uses to cast doubt on the vulgar opinion?  Explain why he thinks they do cast doubt on it.

 

23.  What is the opinion of double existence?  Why does Hume reject it?

 

24.  Why does Hume expect us to agree with the following claim:  "[W]e may observe a conjunction or a relation of cause and effect betwixt different perceptions, but can never observe it betwixt perceptions and objects" (T 1.4.2.47)?  Do you agree?  Explain.

 

25.  According to Hume, what is the ultimate judge of all systems of philosophy?  How do we distinguish between the part of the imagination that is the foundation for all thoughts and actions from the part that Hume thinks misleads us?  How can Hume's account of this difference ground normativity for him?

 

26.  What does Hume mean by "a sceptical solution" to his sceptical doubts?

 

27.  What does Hume mean by a true skeptic?  How does a true skeptic differ from a despairing skeptic?

 

28.  Why does Hume think that the question of the materiality or immateriality of the soul is unanswerable?  According to Hume, could we have the idea of ghosts that were imperceptible but that could move physical objects?  Could we have the idea of an immaterial God who created the universe?

 

29.  According to Hume, what kind of impression is the idea of the self derived from?  What is the role of memory and mental causation in the development of the idea of personal identity?

 

30.  Hume on substance.  Why does Hume think we mistakenly believe that objects and the self remain the same through change?  Explain the role of resemblance, common end, and sympathy of parts.