PHIL 2923 – Study Questions for Final Exam
The exam will be on Tuesday, April 12, from 10 to 12 in YH A100. Please arrive ten minutes
early so we can start on time.
The questions in the exam will be based on (but not identical to) the following. Keep in mind as
you review that your answers will have to hold on one page; concision is key. I encourage you to
work in small groups as you’re preparing, both to share the work and to compare answers.
Why would the state of nature necessarily be a state of war of all against all according to Hobbes?
What are the presuppositions of his argument?
What is a law of nature according to Hobbes? Why would the laws of nature not be valid in the
state of nature? (Compare what Locke has to say on this point.)
What kind of sovereign does Hobbes’s argument call for? Why would a limited sovereign—a
queen whose powers are limited by parliament, say—not suffice on this theory?
What is Locke’s theory of property rights? You should notably be able to explain the following
ideas: the exclusive right a person has to her own body and labor; how external objects are
acquired through labor; and the two provisos that have to be met for such an acquisition to be
Why should human beings leave the state of nature according to Locke? What are the three
problems that arise in the state of nature, and how does the state help solve them?
What kind of sovereign does Locke’s argument call for? Why would an absolute sovereign not
be acceptable on this theory?
Explain Rousseau’s main objection to Hobbes’s claim that the state of nature would be a war of
all against all. Based on our reconstruction of Hobbes’s argument, present a reply that he could
make to Rousseau.
Explain the distinction, and also the link, between independence and liberty on Rousseau’s view.
Under what conditions is the loss of liberty possible according to him?
What are the main stages of the development of human societies according to Rousseau? Make
sure you can explain the main changes that take place at each stage, and the role that these
changes play in Rousseau’s general argument.
What is “amour propre” (egocentrism in the Cress translation) according to Rousseau? What
role does this passion play in undermining freedom?
What conditions must be fulfilled for the assembled people to express the general will according
to Rousseau? How do these conditions make it the case that the general will comes from all and
applies to all? Do they address the worries one might have about a potential tyranny of the