PHIL 450A:  Midterm Review Questions

 

The Midterm Exam will take place in class on Tuesday, Oct. 29.  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.  In answering the following questions, whenever you are asked to discuss the views of any of the authors we have read, be careful to distinguish the views they express in the readings from any modifications or extensions suggested in lecture, or advocated by you.

 

1.  Explain or distinguish the following terms.  You may use examples to do so:

(a) Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Reasoning in Epistemology

(b) Coherence Theory of Truth/Coherence Theory of Justification

(c) Foundational Belief/Foundational State

(d) Basic Empirical Beliefs/Non-Basic Empirical Beliefs (in foundationalism)

(e) Monotonic/Nonmonotonic Reasoning (Give an example)

(f) Experiential S-evidence/experiential C-evidence (in Haack's account)

(g) Analytic/synthetic proposition

(h) Necessary/contingent proposition

(i) A Priori/A Posteriori justification

(j) Putative/Apparent/Genuine A Priori Insight (in BonJour)

 

2.  (a) What is the complete analysis of knowledge that Theaetetus proposes to Socrates?  State it in the form of a mutual implication ('ó').  (b) Your answer to (a) is itself equivalent to two claims of implication.  What are they?  (c) Socrates proposes a counterexample to one of the two claims of implication.  Which one?  (d) What is Socrates' counterexample?  Explain why it is a counterexample.  (e) Which claim of implication does Socrates not propose a counterexample to?  (f) Logically, what would be required for there to be a counterexample to the answer to part (e)?  Is there a counterexample to the answer to part (e)?  (Use as your test for a counterexample the considered judgment of a majority of the class.  If you think there is a counterexample, give one that a majority of the class would accept.  If you think there is no counterexample, give the best potential counterexample you can and explain why a majority of the class would not accept it.)

 

3.  (a) What is the justificatory regress problem?  (b) What are the four alternative ways out of the regress problem?  (c) Which way out does the foundationalist endorse?  (d) What is the coherence theorist’s way out of the regress problem?  (e) How can the coherentist take this way out without endorsing circular reasoning? 

 

4.  (a) On Chisholm's account, what kind of beliefs are the foundational beliefs for empirical justification?  Explain.  (b) What sorts of states are foundational states for Chisholm?  Just list them. 

 

5. For each of the following statements, say whether, on Chisholm’s account, it is a description of a self-presenting state and explain your answer:

(a) I am thinking.

(b) I exist. 

(c) 2+2 = 4.

(d) I seem to see a wall.

 

6.  (a) What is the Givenist's Dilemma?  In your answer explain what kind of view it is a dilemma for.  (b) In the selection we read, BonJour used the Givenist's Dilemma as an argument against foundationalism.  He later became a foundationalist.  What is BonJour’s solution to the Givenist's Dilemma?

 

 

7.  What is the boundary problem?  (In your answer explain what kind of view it is a problem for.)  (b) What is Chisholm's response to the boundary problem? (c) What is Haack's response to the boundary problem? 

 

8. (a) Explain Dancy’s coherence theory of truth.  (b) What is the plurality problem as applied to Dancy’s coherence theory of truth?

 

9.  (a) What is the input problem for coherentism?  (b) Explain how the example of the paranoid schizophrenic illustrates the input problem.  (c) How could Dancy best respond to the example of the paranoid schizophrenic?

 

10.  (a) What is the analogy that Haack uses to explain her Foundherentism?  (b) In the analogy, what corresponds to  an individual belief?  (c) In the analogy, what corresponds to experiential input?  Explain.  (d) In the analogy, what corresponds to relations of explanatory integration among beliefs?  Explain.  [In your answer, use the analogy to explain how explanatory integration can involve two (or multiple) directions of rational support among beliefs.] (e) In the analogy, what corresponds to a ratification of Haack's Foundherentism?  Explain.

 

11.  (a) According to Haack there are two kinds of evidence for a belief?  What are they?  (b) According to Haack, each of the two kinds of evidence has two aspects?  What are they?  Explain them with examples.  (c) Suppose I have a premonition that the Red Sox will win the World Series next year.  According to Haack, can that premonition be evidence for my belief that the Red Sox will win the World Series?  Explain.  (d) According to Haack, can that premonition be good evidence for my belief that the Red Sox will win the World Series?  Explain.

 

12.  (a) Why is Haack not a foundationalist?  (b) Why is Haack not a coherentist?  (c) What is her solution to the input problem?  In your answer, give an example of how Haack would specify the content (or part of the content) of one of your experiences.  You must give the precise content of your experience with a proposition.

 

13. (a) Suppose you are hallucinating pink elephants dancing on their hind legs in Savery Hall.  On Haack’s account, what is the content of your experiential C-evidence? (b) Use the answer to part (a) to explain why, on Haack’s account, in such a situation you would not be justified in believing that you were actually seeing pink elephants dance on their hind legs in Savery Hall.

 

14. (a) What is a metajustification of a theory of epistemic justification?  (b) How does Haack's ratification of Foundherentism differ from a Meta-Justification?  (c) Why might someone object that her ratification of Foundherentism is circular?  (Explain the sense in which it would be claimed to be circular.)  (d) How might Haack respond to the claim that her ratification of Foundherentism is circular?

 

15.  (a) What does Annis mean by "contextually basic belief"?  Give an example of one and explain why it is contextually basic in its context.  (b) According to Annis, what other features of justification are context-dependent?  Explain them.  (c) Is Annis's theory an adequate theory of epistemic justification?  Explain your answer. 

 

16. (a) Why does the example of the Soothsayers’ Community pose a problem for Annis’s account of epistemic justification?

 

17.  What is the most powerful objection that a philosophical skeptic would raise to the account of:  (a) Chisholm; (b) Dancy; (c) Haack; (d) Annis.

 

18.  For each of the authors on the following list, answer the following questions:  (i) Does the author believe that there are any analytic propositions?  Explain.  If the answer is yes, give an example of a proposition that the author would regard as analytic.  (ii) Does the author believe that there are any synthetic propositions justifiable a priori?  Explain.  If the answer is yes, give an example of a proposition that the author would regard as a synthetic proposition justifiable a priori? 

(a) Kant

(b) Quine

(c) BonJour

(d) What is your opinion?  Explain.

 

19.  (a) What is Kant's formula for the analytic a priori?  (b) Why does Quine think that no propositions satisfy that formula?  (c) What is Kant’s formula for the synthetic a priori?  (d) Why does Quine think that no propositions  satisfy that formula? 

 

20.  (a) According to Quine, what are the two dogmas of empiricism?  (b) Why does Quine believe they are at root one?  [Explain why Quine thinks that the second supports the first.]  (c) What is the mistake about confirmation/infirmation that Quine thinks empiricists make?  (d) How does he propose to correct that mistake?

 

21.  In class we identified one important issue concerning a priori justification on which Quine and BonJour agree and one important one on which they disagree.  (a) What is the issue on which they agree?  Explain.  (b) What is the issue on which they disagree?  Explain. 

 

22. (a) According to BonJour, a priori justification plays two roles in rational belief.  What are they?  (b) What is BonJour's "companions in guilt" strategy for defending the possibility of a priori justification of synthetic propositions? 

 

23.  Call the following claim by BonJour the Intellectual Suicide Thesis:  Human beings must have a source of a priori insight into necessary truths for reasoning to be possible at all.  (The idea is that denying such rational insight into necessary truths would be intellectual suicide.)  (a) Why does BonJour believe that the Intellectual Suicide Thesis is true?  (b) In a typical example of reasoning, what would be the content of the relevant belief (or beliefs) that BonJour holds is (are) necessary for the reasoning to take place?  (c) Could someone rationally argue against the Intellectual Suicide Thesis?  (Is there a way to rationally defend an alternative explanation of reasoning that does not require any a priori justified beliefs of the kind BonJour believes to be required?) Explain. 

 

24.  (a) Why does BonJour classify his account of a priori justification as moderate rationalism?  (b) On BonJour's account, how do we determine whether an a priori insight is genuine or not?  (c) What does it mean for a mistaken a priori insight to be internally correctable?  (c) What does it mean for such a mistake to be only externally correctable?  (d) Does BonJour believe that some such mistakes are only externally correctable?  Explain.  (e) According to BonJour, can experience play a role in the correction of such a mistake?  Explain.  

 

25.  (a) According to BonJour, is it possible for people to believe that they have a priori justification for a belief and to be mistaken in the belief that they have a priori justification for the relevant proposition?  Explain with an example.  (b) Why does BonJour think that there is a condition of cognitive sanity on being a priori justified?  (c) On BonJour’s account, can one be justified in believing a proposition to be justified a priori without being justified in believing oneself to be cognitively sane?  Explain.  (d) On BonJour’s account, could one be justified in believing oneself to be cognitively sane?  Explain.

 

26. In your opinion, what bearing does the experimental evidence of widespread defects in deductive and probabilistic reasoning have on BonJour's claim that reasoning involves a priori insight into necessary truths?  In your answer, you must discuss at least one type of experimental evidence and you must consider whether the evidence is evidence against BonJour's claim. 

 

27.  For each of the authors on the list, say whether their epistemology is top-down or bottom-up and explain your answer:

(a) Socrates in the Theaetetus                                           (e) BonJour

(b) Chisholm                                                                         (f) Haack

(c) Kant                                                                                                 (g) Annis

(d) Quine