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PHIL 2003 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Noam Chomsky, Geocentric Model, Foundationalism

6 pages297 viewsFall 2013

Course Code
PHIL 2003
Ken Ferguson
Study Guide

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Philosophy 1301: Mind, World, and Knowledge
Study Guide for Midterm Exam
Professor Ferguson
The midterm exam for Philosophy 1301B will take place in our classroom on
Wednesday, Feb. 12, from 8:30-9:55. On the exam you will be asked to explain or
describe a number of different concepts, theories, doctrines, arguments or issues
that we have discussed in the course so far. Each of your answers should be about
3/4 to 1 page in length (about 200 words). There will be some choice (perhaps 6 out
of 8) but not much. The topics will all be selected from the list below.
List of Topics
1) Describe four important features of philosophy as an intellectual discipline.
Philosophy involves meta-level inquiry. Scientists usually stand back from nature,
observe it, try to understand it, and then make up accurate theories about it. In
philosophy, we stand back from our thoughts about the world and try to
understand it and its relationship to the world. This is hard to accomplish because
our thoughts are the only system we have so it is hard to step completely outside
of it. It’s very hard to give accurate definitions of basic concepts.
Philosophy generates puzzlement. There are certain philosophical questions that
just cannot generate a real answer. There must be answers somewhere but it is
hard to know what they are. Our system of knowledge does not give us a way of
knowing how to answer these questions. Most of the time, we can’t even imagine
what an answer could be.
Philosophy isn’t as empirical as science but is still similar. Both science and
philosophy are concerned with truth, but it is clear that philosophy is not just one
more science. It helps to pave the way for empirical investigation, or contributing
to conceptual clarification of science. Philosophers are unable to do empirical
investigations to answer their questions. They cannot make hypotheses and
derive predictions.
Philosophy is a rigorous subject. It relies upon reason, logic and argument.
2) What are the three main stages of the Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century?
(Describe each stage briefly, but clearly.)
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Copernicus proposes the heliocentric model to replace the geocentric model,
1543: The sun is the centre of the universe and everything revolves around it.
Thought it would simplify observation.
Galileo and Kepler discover direct evidence for the heliocentric theory, 1609 –
1612: the planets do not move in circles but in elliptical orbits. The planets speed
up and slow down as they orbit the sun. Kepler’s “laws of planetary motion” were
the basis for Newton’s theories. Galileo improved the telescope. Was put in jail
for defending the Copernican system.
A new physics is developed – nature is not purposive, the same physics applies
up there and down here – Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, and culminating with Isaac
Newton: three laws of motion and universal gravitation.
3) Describe Descartes’ main epistemological project in the Meditations, including
the role played in it by the method of doubt.
His project was to undertake a complete rational reconstruction. He wanted to
question all of his beliefs and see which ones were really true or not. The method
of doubt was a way of looking at all of your beliefs and rejecting any that were
open to doubt. By doing this, you will be left with beliefs that have no doubts at
all. These will then serve as the base for reconstructing your belief system. It isn’t
necessary to look at each belief individually, so they can be examined in groups.
4) Do you think it is actually possible to carry out Descartes’ main epistemological
project in the Meditations. Why or why not?
I do not. I think it would take too long to go through my entire belief system. Even
when grouping beliefs together, there too many small and simple beliefs such as
the sky being blue that it would take forever to sort through them. Also some
might have a bit of doubt because others have chosen not to believe it, yet there
is evidence that the belief is really true.
5) What is Descartes’ famous Cogito argument, and how convincing is it as a
response to the scepticism of Meditation 1?
One belief that can absolutely not be doubted is that he exists. By the very fact
that he doubts himself, it follows that he must exist. “I am, I exist, is necessarily
true each time that I pronounce it, or mentally conceive it.” One interpretation of
the argument is that it is an intuition. He is giving expression to a mental intuition
by which he grasps his own existence. He thinks/doubts his existence; therefore
he intuits his existence because he is thinking. People don’t like this one because
it doesn’t make sense. The second interpretation is the pragmatic interpretation.
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