Philosophy 180 Final Exam Study Questions Spring 2015

The final exam for this class will be drawn from list of study questions below. Five questions will be selected randomly. The test will be administered in class on  Wed., May 20th, 10:15 am-12:15 pm  and will last two hours.  The exam is closed book and notes. Please write in a large Blue or Green book. Each question is worth 10 points. As indicated in the syllabus, if your exam grade is higher than any of your previous analysis grades, the lowest such grade will be raised to the score of your exam grade.


The questions below are based on the reading for this course, including the articles assigned for analysis. Strong answers will demonstrate complete understanding of the relevant concepts and familiarity and strong comprehension of the related readings.  The exam is designed to take you two hours.  If you finish in less time than this, consider it strong evidence that you have not provided adequately detailed answers.

1.  Summarize the argument by skeptical hypothesis and three distinct non skeptical ways in which one might respond to it. (e.g., Moorean, contextualist, denial of closure, etc.). Of the three you discuss, identify the one that seems to you to be the strongest response and why you think this.

2. Explain how the concept of knowledge as justified true belief is challenged by the Gettier problem, appealing to at least two distinct versions of the problem. Summarize a reliabilist alternative and explain why reflection on the Gettier problem has resulted in the popularity of a reliabilist analysis despite the fact that reliabilist theories are no better at solving the problem. (Be sure your answers shows a strong grasp of the difference between justification and reliability as a criterion). 

3. It is commonly held that if a belief is a priori justified it can not be challenged or defeated by experience. Explain how Bruce Russell's understanding of a priori justification and rational intuition bears on this claim. How does Russell deal with the synthetic a priori? Do you think it is an adequate account?  Explain why or why not.

4.  Summarize the Meno problem  (i.e., the primary value problem) and give a reason for thinking that reliabilism does not provide an adequate framework for solving it. Summarize the virtue theoretic response to the Meno problem.  Explain both the main difficulties facing the virtue theoretic approach and how reliabilism might overcome the charge of inadequacy. Explain what you take to be the best overall response to the Meno problem and why.

5.  How does John Greco employ a problem from ethics to identify a problem that arises for reliabilist epistemology?  How does he deploy virtue epistemology to produce an answer to this problem. How does this answer lead him to deal with Clairvoyant Norman and Mr. TrueTemp?  Do you think this is an adequate resolution? Explain why or why not.

6.  Evaluate the claim that knowing that P entails believing that P in light of Schwitzgebel and Schulz's article "Knowing that P without believing that P."  Be clear about the concept of knowledge that Schwitzgebel and Schulz suggest is most compatible with the denial of this entailment and what you think about it.


7.  Summarize Schwitzgebel's view about the nature of belief and what it entails about self-knowledge (in the sense of self-ascribing beliefs), in particular, how Schwitzgebel understands the mechanisms of self knowledge and the conditions under which our self-ascriptions are reliable. Explain how Schwitzgebel treats problematic cases of self-knowledge, such as the Laura and Piotr examples. Do you think he provides an adequate account of these problematic cases? Explain why or why not.

8.  Summarize what you take to be the strongest case that people sometimes do not know what they believe. (Meaning, that they have beliefs that they do not know about.) Evaluate it and state what you take it to suggest about our basic reliability in reporting our beliefs as well as the status of the view that we have privileged access to our own mental states. (Be sure that your answer is sensitive to varieties of privilege and types of mental states.) (Note: This question does not attach to a particular article, but may be best prepared for reviewing the Schwitzgebel article "Knowing your own beliefs," which is relevant to question 7 as well.

9.  You have come to believe P with degree of confidence C on the basis of evidence E.  Sarah, an epistemic peer, has come to believe ~P on the basis of E with the same degree of confidence C. Consider the following claim: Learning that Sarah disagrees with you should make you less confident that P.  Summarize what Thomas Kelly has to say about this. Provide what you take to be the strongest argument against Kelly's position and evaluate it.

10.  Evaluate the claim that knowing that P entails the truth of P in light of Hazlett's article "The myth of factive verbs." Be sure to provide a clear account of Hazlett's reasons for denying the factivity of knowledge and how he explains the fact that we treat knowledge claims very differently than belief claims.

11.  Explain how Neta's approach to naturalizing epistemology differs from that of (1) Bishop and Trout and (2) Kornblith.  Summarize and evaluate the specific reasons Neta gives for rejecting reliabilism in favor of his own teleological account.

12.  Briefly summarize the difference between reflective equilibrium and explication and compare the role of epistemic intuitions in each. Summarize what you take to be the two strongest naturalistic arguments against the use of epistemic intuitions.  Evaluate these arguments.

13.  With respect to the nature of knowledge, in what sense is Chomsky a naturalist and in what sense is he a rationalist?  Briefly summarize the theory theory and why Gopnik recommends it over Chomsky's view as well as other empiricist accounts.  Discuss two distinct criticisms of the theory theory and Gopnik's response to them.

14.  What are the problems associated with what Jaggar calls the positivist conception of scientific inquiry?  What does she take to be a more enlightened account of the relation between emotion and rationality?  Characterize and evaluate her stance on the value of outlaw emotions for scientific inquiry.

15. Wild card!  Select any question from this list (except for this one and the four others assigned) and answer it.


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