PHILOSOPHY MIDTERM PAPER
This MIDTERM consists of FOUR essays
PHL 210 Fall 2013 Midterm
ESSAY Chapter 1
- What was the main difference between Presocratic Western philosophy and Greek mythology? Were they addressing the same basic human need? Which approach do you think would be most successful? Can you see any parallel conflict in public discourse today? If so, what is it? If not, why do you think that is?
- What is “knowledge”? Why is it useful? Is it ever possible to have knowledge? Is it ever possible to know that you have knowledge? Why, or why not?
- What is “relativism”? In what way might it be said to be self-defeating? Is there a version of relativism that could meet this criticism? If not, explain why not. If so, outline what it is and how this criticism could be met.
- Do you believe that philosophy can be taught? Explain your answer.
- What is an “archetype of wisdom”? What distinguishes them from other people? Are such people always admirable? Why, or why not?
- What is Bertrand Russell’s view of philosophy? Do you agree with him? Explain your answer.
- Can we draw any lessons from the past? If so, how?
- What are the primary areas of philosophy? What identifies them all as being “philosophy”? Are they all distinct from each other, or are there interconnections between them? Explain your answer.
ESSAY Chapter 2
- What is meant by the Buddhist claim that “to exist is to suffer”? Do you believe that this is necessarily true? Why, or why not?
- Do you believe that there are important elements of human experience that cannot be articulated in words? If so, do you think that such a failure would undermine any attempt to understand them? If not, why do you think that so many philosophers have believed that this is the case?
- Do you think that it is possible to lead a fulfilling human life while being completely selfish? Explain your view, and show how it connects to the thought of Confucius.
- Do you believe that people can only flourish in society? Why do you believe as you do? How do your views connect to the Chinese concept of li?
- Do you believe that material comfort and wisdom are necessarily opposed to each other? Explain your answer, and illustrate it by referring to the views of both Confucius and the Buddha.
- In what ways can naming something be important? Can naming something alter how we think about it? Or does the name that we give to something only communicate what we already think of it? Explain your answer, giving both concrete examples to illustrate your points and linking your answer to the thought of Lao-tzu.
- Do you think that Lao-tzu is correct when he said that the more laws that we have the more criminals we will have? What do you think he meant here? How does this connect to his views of the Way?
- Which should we prefer, Yin or Yang, and why?
ESSAY Chapter 3
- Do you believe that philosophers should charge for their services? How would they go about this? Does your answer presuppose anything about the value of philosophy? From where might value of any discipline come from?
- Do you believe that the sophists played a useful role, or not? Explain your answer. Do you think that they are any modern equivalents of sophists in contemporary society? Do they play a useful role, or not? Do your answers to these questions differ, and, if so, why?
- Do you believe that things are ever in motion? Why? Does your answer fit with the views of Zeno? Why, or why not? If it does not, whose view should take precedence, and why?
- Do you believe that analytic discourse is the only path to wisdom? Explain your answer, drawing on the first three chapters of this text.
- Should we try to understand ourselves before we understand the cosmos as a whole? Why, or why not? Explain your answer.
- Do you agree with Democritus that perceptual qualities are merely matters of convention? What did he mean by this?
- Do you believe that people should be required to pay for their educations, or should it be free to all who could benefit? Argue for your view.
- Why should you be moral? If you had a ring of invisibility, what would restrain you for using it for your own selfish ends? Should you restrain yourself from using it for your own selfish ends? Why?
ESSAY Chapter 4
- Do you think that Socrates’ approach would work really to change a society, or not? Explain your answer. Do you think that this was his aim? If so, why? If not, what was his aim?
- Do you believe that Socrates is admirable because he died for his ideals? Is it always admirable to die for one’s ideals? What if one’s ideals are foolish, or evil?
- John Milton had his poetic Satan state “Evil, be thou my good”. How would Socrates respond to this? Explain your answer.
- Do you believe that Socrates had a duty to die? Why, or why not? Do you think that you have a duty to obey the State? Explain your answer.
- Do you believe that Socrates could be blamed for neglecting his family? Why, or why not?
- Do you believe that Socrates’ insistence on his principles was a form of vanity? Explain your answer.
- What do you think the strengths and weaknesses of the Socratic method are? Would you like to have Socrates as a teacher? Why, or why not?
- Do you agree with Socrates’ account of beauty? Explain your answer.
ESSAY Chapter 5
- Do you agree with Plato that there can be excessive freedom? Why, or why not? Explain your answer.
- Outline Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. What do you think is the main lesson that he wished to communicate through this? Do you agree with Plato’s views here? Why, or why not? Explain your answer.
- Do you believe that “ignorance is bliss”? Why, or why not? Would Plato agree? Do you think that knowledge is always valuable? Argue for your answer, and illustrate it through examples.
- Outline two differing ways of understanding Plato’s theory of the Forms. Which do you think is most persuasive (a) as an account of what Plato wrote, and (b) as an approach to epistemology. Explain your answer.
- Outline Plato’s view of reality. Do you agree with his reasoning for this, or not? Explain your answer.
- Do you agree with Plato’s assessment of the epistemological value of imagination. or not? What implications, if any, does your response have for the contemporary debate over whether or not the arts should be (at least in part) publicly funded?
- What are the differences between knowledge and opinion, for Plato? How might Plato’s views here influence his view of the value of democracy?
- In what way is Plato’s Republic a meritocracy? Does this make it a more or less appealing way or organizing society, in your view?
ESSAY Chapter 6
- Do you agree with Aristotle’s view of happiness? Why, or why not? Explain your answer, and take care to address Aristotle’s own account as you do so.
- Do you believe that Aristotle has developed an account of ethics that is entirely free from cultural relativism, or not? Explain your answer, taking case both to provide an account of Aristotle’s views and a definition of cultural relativism.
- Aristotle held, with Solon, that events that occur after a person’s death might be said to affect his happiness in life. Do you believe that this view is correct? Why, or why not? Given Aristotle’s account of happiness, why might this be a strange view for him to adopt? How might he reconcile it with his position?
- Do you believe that a person could be made good through habituation? If not, why not? If so, what implications might this have for public education? Explain your answer.
- How does Aristotle’s epistemology differ from that of Plato? Which do you believe is the most accurate, and why? Why do you believe that Aristotle rejected Plato’s account?
- Do you believe that Aristotle provides room for the possibility that persons’ characters might change over the course of their lives? Explain your answer by reference to Aristotle’s writings, as quoted in this text. What implications might this issue have for the criminal justice system?
- What are Aristotle’s Four Causes, and how are they related to each other? Do you believe that this is a correct view of causation, or not? Justify your answer in each case.
- Do you believe that a naturalistic approach to understanding human nature is a fully satisfactory one, or do you believe that it will omit important aspects of the human experience? Explain your answer.
ESSAY Chapter 7
- Given his hedonism, do you believe that Epicurus would have held that death could be a harm to the person who died? Explain your answer. Would Aristotle have agreed with him, or disagreed with him? Explain your answer. Who do you agree with?
- Do you believe that Epicurus’ approach to hedonism is an attractive one, or not? Why? Explain your answer. Do you think that Epicurus’ approach would be practical today?
- Do you believe that Stoics are simply resigned to their fates, and are too passive? How might a Stoic respond to this charge? Do you think that Stoicism is an attractive way of life?
- Do you think that Epicurean hedonism would be a naturalist philosophy, or one that could accommodate supernatural elements? Explain your answer.
- Do you believe that Stoicism is a purely naturalistic approach to philosophy, or not? Explain your answer. Would Stoics be hostile to religion? Why, or why not?
- What is Cyrenaic hedonism? How does it differ from Epicurean hedonism? Which do you think is the more persuasive approach to hedonism, and why?
- Do you believe that hedonism is an attractive way of life? Why, or why not? In answering this question you should specify just what you mean by “hedonism”.
- Do you believe that Alexander the Great was right to admire Diogenes? Why, or why not? Is a strict adherence to principle always admirable? Explain and illustrate your answer.
ESSAY Chapter 8
- Outline the Problem of Evil. For what type of religion is this a real problem? What are some possible solutions to it? Do you think that they are effective, or not?
- What are the connections between Aristotle’s views of the universe and those of Aquinas? How do they differ? Which do you think is the more persuasive?
- What is the difference between a designed order and a spontaneous (or emerging) order? How might this difference be drawn upon by someone who wished critically to respond to Aquinas’ arguments for the existence of God?
- How are Aquinas’ first three arguments for the existence of God related? In answering this question you should outline all three of the arguments.
- Of Aquinas’ arguments for the existence of God, which do you think is the most persuasive, and why? In answering this question it would be useful to outline (in brief) all of the arguments that Aquinas offered here.
- What was Augustine’s view of Epicureanism? Do you think that this was a fair view to have of this doctrine? How might an Epicurean respond?
- In what ways do the Christian view of the world and the role of philosophy and the Ancient Greek view of the world and the role of philosophy clash? Which do you believe is the better approach to take, and why? How might someone who disagrees with you respond?
- Are Augustine and Epicurus engaged in the same philosophical project, or were they trying to answer different questions? How does your answer to this question bear on the view that there is a clash between pagan and Christian views? How does it bear on the criticisms that Augustine leveled against the Epicureans?
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