Saturday, April 26, 2014

My Philosophy Final Exam...

In a fit of insanity, I decided to give a take-home final for philosophy. I don't know if I'll ever teach philosophy again but I doubt I'll use the same final. I thought you might find it amusing:
Ken woke up in a cold sweat. Where was he? Was he in his dorm room? Somehow it seemed like he didn’t belong there. His roommate, René, was sound asleep. Finally, he lay back down, but something still didn’t seem right.

“Alright then,” his roommate finally said, opening his eyes and sitting up. So you’re having doubts about what’s real then, eh?


“Well, let’s start off with you. Do you exist?”

“I think so,” Ken answered.

“Well then you must. You’re thinking, so you must exist.”

1. Who is Ken’s roommate (what is his last name)? What quote of his should you think about here, and what did he mean by it?

“My senses tell me I’m here,” Ken finally responded. “So I must be here, right?”

2. How would René answer him?

3. How would John Locke answer him?

4. How would Immanuel Kant answer him (keep to basic epistemology)?

5. What kind of thing might Søren Kierkegaard respond, given what you know of him?

René finally added, “I suppose we can trust a good bit of our senses, since God doesn’t lie.”

“I agree,” said Kant, who was suddenly sitting next to René on the bed. Ken didn’t seem to notice that he had just appeared out of nowhere.

“But how do I know for sure that God exists?”

“Because the Bible says so,” Ken’s pastor said, who also was suddenly sitting next to René on the bed.

“But how do I know I should trust the Bible?” Ken answered.

“I suppose this is a philosophy test instead of a Bible test,” he said. “There are some philosophical arguments for the existence of God.”

“Yes,” Ken said, sitting across from himself on the bed in the place of his pastor. “They don’t necessarily prove the existence of God, but they show it is at least reasonable to believe in God.”

6. Give at least two of the main arguments for the existence of God and whether you find them convincing. Why or why not?

Just as quickly as they came, it was just René again, sitting on the bed across from Ken.

“You realize,” René said, “I’m kind of a big deal. They call me the father of something.”

7. Of what was René the father and what do we mean when we say that?

Ken was ready to go back to sleep, but René was just getting started.

“You see,” René continued. “I lived in a time of great uncertainty. Many people no longer looked at the Roman Catholic Church as the place to find answers. Many were now looking to the Bible, but there were a lot of different interpretations of what it meant. That’s why I started my quest for certainty.

8. René, like Martin Luther who had lived 100 years before him was a theist. What is a theist?

9. What do we call the movement in which Christians like Martin Luther and John Calvin withdrew from the Roman Catholic Church?

10. At about the same time, Francis Bacon developed the scientific method. What is the scientific method? Lay out the steps as found in the textbooks.

11. What was the paradigm shift that took place with Copernicus at about this time? What is a paradigm? Did Thomas Kuhn think that this shift was inevitable as science got better and better? Why or why not?

12. With the rise of science in the 1600s, some stopped believing that God was involved with the world, even though they continued to believe in God as the initial creator. What do we call someone who believes God created the world but is no longer involved?

13. Did most of the type of person in #12 emphasize free will or determinism? What is free will? What is determinism? Why would the type of person in #12 favor that point of view?

“People in my day,” René continued, “began to see the world as a kind of machine. One that God created to run by certain rules. We began to distinguish between the “natural” world that ran by natural laws and the “super-natural” world of God, angels, and such.

14. How did René’s view of the soul mirror his view of the world above?

15. What would it mean for someone to think of a human person only as a biological machine?

16. What would it mean for someone to think of a human person as someone created in the image of God?

Ken thought for a little while about the idea that the world was a machine. He thought of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes and how both of them lived at about the same time. He couldn’t remember. Did they believe that human beings were pretty much free to do anything or did they believe we more or less couldn’t help but do what we do.

17. Did John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes believe more in free will or in determinism? Try to say more in explanation than a one or two word answer.

When he looked up from thinking he was startled to see a completely different figure in front of him, a body that looked like this:
“I know that guy,” Ken thought to himself. “Lived in the 1700s, I think. Had his body stuffed for some reason.”

18. Why did Schenck suggest he had his body stuffed?

19. What was Jeremy Bentham’s “Greatest Happiness Principle”?

20. What approach to ethics is Bentham best known for? What did it basically believe?

21. Adam Smith lived at the same time as Bentham. What was he the “father of”?

22. How does capitalism basically work? How does it differ from socialism and communism?

23. Karl Marx would later critique capitalism. What were his basic critiques?

24. At about the same time that Bentham and Smith were working out their economic philosophies, the United States became a nation. The Preamble to the Constitution is a kind of social contract. What is a social contract?

25. Who was another person who believed in social contracts and what was his perspective on them?

“You almost forgot I was here, didn’t you?” René said to Ken. “Been thinking a lot about social and political philosophy, haven’t you?”

“I guess so,” Ken said.

“Well, let me ask you just a couple more questions about it, then.”

26. What is a theocracy?

27. What form of government did Aristotle think would be the best?

“That’s probably enough of that topic,” René said. “How about ethics? You’ve already hit on the major theories with Bentham. Let me ask you about a couple more.”

28. What is egoism?

29. How about duty based ethics, what is that?

30. Is absolutism a version of duty based ethics? What is moral absolutism?

31. Who’s an example of someone who was/is a moral absolutist?

32. What is ethical relativism? Do relativists believe in any rights and wrongs?

33. What is virtue based ethics, and how does it differ from act based ethics?

“So where were we? At the end of the 1700s?” René finally asked.

“Yes,” Ken answered. “I was thinking about Bentham and Smith.”

“So Kant is around 1800. You’ve already asked them about his epistemology.”

34. What does the word “epistemology” mean again?

“Yes,” Ken said.

“So who were some of the most important philosophers of the 1800s?” René asked.

“Well, they’ve already said something about Marx,” Ken said. “He was around 1850.”

“Didn’t Marx draw on the thinking of a philosopher named Hegel?”

“Yes,” Ken answered, “thesis-antithesis-synthesis.”

35. What is the basic idea of the thesis-antithesis-synthesis process?

“So what else happens in the 1800s?” René continued.

“For one thing,” Ken said, “Deism gave way to naturalism.”

36. How does deism flow naturally into naturalism?

37. What is the difference between naturalism and nihilism?

38. Who said, “God is dead?” What was he basically saying?

39. What did Darwin mean by natural selection?

40. What were some of Freud’s basic ideas?

“That’s probably good enough for the 1800s, wouldn’t you say,” René asked.

“I’m sure they think so,” Ken said. “So what should we have them answer about the twentieth century before we call this course quits?”

“There is existentialism,” René answered.

41. What is existentialism?

“Wait, wait,” Ken said. “We probably need to stop a minute and go back to the 1800s if we want to really understand existentialism.

42. What did Kierkegaard mean by taking a leap of faith?

43. What did Camus believe the most significant philosophical question was?

“Do you think it’s enough if we just ask them a few questions about postmodernism and call it a wrap?” René finally said.

“Pretty much.”

44. What is premodernism, as Schenck defines it?

45. What, then, is modernism?

46. So what then is postmodernism?

“So what have we missed?” René finally said.

“Well,” Ken answered, “we’ve missed a little philosophy of history and the philosophy of art.”

“Won’t they take a quiz over the philosophy of art?”

“Sure, so we don’t have to feel too guilty about not asking them about that. Philosophy of history was the night of the mid-term.”

“Yeah,” René interjected. “Their brains were fried that night.”

“OK, I can slip in one more question on the philosophy of history.”

47. What does it mean to say that history is told by the winners?

48. Last question: What is your biggest take away from this philosophy class?

With that, Ken woke up. “Oh shoot,” he said. “I’ve got to make the philosophy final!”


John Mark said...

All I have to do is find the answers to these questions and I too will be a philosopher!! And wait, I think I know one or two already!

vanilla said...

Fun exercise; and as an exam it would indeed test the students, and teach them, too. But what of the instructor? Oh, I know. He'd throw the responses into the wastebasket and give the students the grades that have been "predetermined."

Ken Schenck said...

Only if he runs out of time. JK :-)

They take some time to read, that's for sure!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Fun and creative....a simple way to test the students about philosophy!

Rob Henderson said...

I think I am going to make my lifetime goal of becoming a student of yours someday. Very creative and engaging. I actually think I might have gotten several of these correct.