Calling on the entire internet to study for a Philosophy exam…

I’ll probably do two posts today, but only because this one is a preview and an attempt to gather opinions…

I find writing helps me think, and we’ve got a Philosophy exam day after tomorrow. We’ve got a “study sheet” with eight concepts and fourteen potential essay questions that might come up on the exam. Is anyone reading this particularly interested in any of these (some of these have been addressed in earlier posts, but here’s the whole list)?

Concepts: “valid argument”, “sound argument”, “a priori knowledge”, “a posteriori knowledge”, “epistemology”, “metaphysics”, “doctrine of recollection”, “Objective reality/formal reality”

Essay topics (in short):

  • Describing the “Socratic Method” and contrasting it with the sophist method.
  • Discuss some of the Socratic philosophical positions that might call into question the view that what is right for a person is whatever that person believes is right.
  • Discuss Socrates’ claims that evil harms the evildoer and that “the unexamined life is not worth living”, and whether or not he’s justified in these claims
  • Critically discuss Socrates’ claim (at his trial) that he could not have been knowingly and willingly corrupting the youth
  • Discuss Socrates’ arguments in the “Apology” that death is not something to be feared
  • Discuss the “Learner’s Paradox” in the “Meno” (roughly – is it possible to “learn” something without being “taught”, and if so, how can this be?)
  • What was the point of the “slave boy” portion of the “Meno” (Socrates’ attempts to demonstrate that someone who doesn’t understand Geometry can come to have knowledge of geometry without being taught.)
  • Discuss Meno’s definition of “virtue” and Socrates’ objection to it
  • Discuss the distinction (in the “Meno”) between “true knowledge” and “opinion”, and how it relates to the question of whether virtue can be taught
  • From “Euthyphro”, discuss the issues around whether or not whether something is “pious” because The Gods love it, or if The Gods love it because it is “pious”.
  • State clearly and describe Descartes’ three levels of doubt
  • Discuss Descartes’ contention in the first Meditation that he cannot know if he is not dreaming
  • Discuss The Cogito (“I think, therefore I am” and why Descrates couldn’t instead say (for example) “I walk, therefore I am”
  • Discuss: “I hear a noise, I feel heat. These things are false since I am asleep. Yet I certainly do seem to see, hear, and feel warmth. This cannot be false.” (A quote from our translation of Descartes’…)

That’s what we’ve been given to work with. What are the odds that any of that is interesting to any of you? If so, please comment (no login required, and go ahead and put a fake email address in the comment form if it bothers you – as long as it doesn’t appear to be spam I’ll post it.). Come on, you’ll be doing me a favor, and you’ll automatically sound like a genius because we’re discussing philosophy.

Followup post later today…

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The Author is (currently) an autodidactic student of Industrial and Environmental microbiology, who is sick of people assuming all microbiology should be medical in nature, and who would really like to be allowed to go to graduate school one of these days now that he's finished his BS in Microbiology (with a bonus AS in Chemistry). He also enjoys exploring the Big Room (the one with the really high blue ceiling and big light that tracks from one side to the other every day) and looking at its contents from unusual mental angles.

5 thoughts on “Calling on the entire internet to study for a Philosophy exam…”

  1. A few of these questions appear to be basically the same thing, just reworded a bit.

    “What was the point of the “slave boy” portion of the “Meno” (Socrates’ attempts to demonstrate that someone who doesn’t understand Geometry can come to have knowledge of geometry without being taught.)”

    I’ve always found this dialogue interesting, and the prefect example of the Socratic Method, which I’m a big fan of. This real-life example has fascinated me as well.

    I teach quite a bit in my current job, so I’ve tried using this method. I’ve discovered that most people hate it, and actually get offended by it, though I suspect it’s because the method requires more thinking that just being told the information you need. On the other hand, I know personally that something learned through the method is retained much easier than the ‘normal’ mode of teaching.

  2. Euthyphro, how I love thee! I’ve always felt that this dilemma creates serious problems for continued belief in god, but this seems to be a minority position.

    Another way to phrase the problem that better illustrates what is really happening is this:

    Either god is bound by moral rules, and therefore not omnipotent, or not, in which case objective morality is false.

    Most believers I’ve talked to tend to fall in the latter category, saying something along the lines of, ‘Sure, god could make murder ‘good,’ be he wouldn’t ever do that, so the issue is moot.’

    That’s all I got. Back to coding now.

  3. At least part of the questions sounding similar but reworded is because they are themselves re-worded by me here from the original wording on the study guide…

    The other part is because some of them really are similar – just questions intended to focus on slightly different aspects of the same situation.

    My problem with the “doctrine of recollection” (illustrated by the “slave-boy passage” in the Meno) is that it seems to intentionally avoid the concept of autodidaction.
    If I trip and smack my face on the floor, I obviously learn that the floor hurts my face when that happens, yet the floor is obviously not something that Socrates would consider a “teacher”. One of the things that I may play with, intellectually speaking, is the apparent implication that Socrates (according to Plato) believed in some sort of odd “Conservation of Knowledge” – no new knowledge is ever created, only “remembered”. Might be worth a few chuckles on the exam, if nothing else.

    Of course, in Euthyphro, omnipotence (nor omniscience) doesn’t really apply, since they were discussing the not-actually-perfect-though-far-greater-than-mortal gods of Athens. I still say their problem here is arguing about a term that they have defined as only necessarily understood by supernatural entities, which therefore means that understanding of what “piety” is (as they’ve defined it) is NOT necessarily even available to them…

  4. I agree with you that it avoids the concept of autodidaction, though I hadn’t necessarily thought of it that way before. I always did think the idea of ‘recollection’ was crap, although I can see how Socrates would think it to be recollection.

    As a side-bar, my summer Diff Eq professor pronounced Socrates “So-crates” (crates, like shipping crates). We were all wondering what he was talking about for quite some time…

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