Reading Quiz Questions (Spring 2013)


Jan 9: Hobbes, Leviathan chs. XIII, XIV.1-8, XV.1,16-40, XVI  (pp. 74-82, 89, 95-105)

  1. Does Hobbes believe a person could ever give up their right to life? Why or why not?
  2. Why does Hobbes think justice is impossible outside of a commonwealth?

Jan 11: Hobbes, Leviathan chs. xvii-xix (pp. 106-126)

  1. Under what conditions, if any, does Hobbes think a sovereign may justly be punished?
  2. Imagine that a sovereign in a commonwealth institutes a 99% tax rate, with all the proceeds going directly into his own pocket. Would Hobbes claim that this was just or unjust? Why?


Jan 14: Hobbes, Leviathan chs. xx-xxi (pp. 127-145)

  1. “Unlike in a commonwealth by institution, the subjects of a despotic ruler do not consent to be ruled by the sovereign.” Would Hobbes agree with this statement? (Explain.)
  2. According to Hobbes, if the sovereign orders a soldier to risk his life in battle and he refuses, does the soldier act unjustly?

Jan 16: Locke, Second Treatise, chs. I-V (pp. 7-30)

  1. List the natural rights that Locke claims all humans possess in the state of nature.
  2. Hobbes had claimed that in the state of nature there is no law to prevent one person from taking the possessions of another person by force and violence. Would Locke agree with this claim? Why or why not?
  3. What limitations, if any, does Locke place on a person’s right to accumulate property?

Jan 18: Locke, Second Treatise, chs. VII-VIII (pp. 42-65)

  1. Briefly summarize Locke’s views on absolute monarchy as a form of government.
  2. Hobbes had claimed that it is never just for a person to renounce his or her status as the subject of a commonwealth (under a sovereign) and go off and start a new commonwealth. Would Locke agree with this? Why or why not?


Jan 23: Locke, Second Treatise, chs. IX; XIX (pp. 65-68; 107-124) and U.S. Declaration of Independence

  1. According to Locke, what is the most important reason why humans would give up their natural freedoms and band together into a civil society?
  2. Based on the complaints in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, would Locke think the actions of the American colonialists were justified? Explain.

Jan 25: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Introduction (pp. 1-18)

  1. According to Rousseau, why is it so difficult for us to study human nature
  2. Does Rousseau agree with Hobbes and Locke that the “natural law” of humanity is based on human reason? Explain.


Jan 28: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Part I (pp. 18-44)

  1. Why does Rousseau think language is so necessary for human progress, and why was the development of language so difficult?
  2. Briefly summarize Rousseau’s account of pity in the “natural” human.

Jan 30: Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book I, ch 1,5-9; Book II, ch 1-4; Book III, ch 4-6 (pp. 141,147-159, 179-186) (Text available here.)

  1. What is the difference between an aggregation of people and an association of people?
  2. Hobbes thought that the sovereign could impose any limitations it wanted on the freedoms of the people, even if these limitations did not benefit the community. Would Rousseau agree with this? Why or why not?
  3. Does Rousseau think that human beings should live in democratic societies? Why or why not?

Feb 1: Lessing, “The Education of the Human Race” (Text available here.)

  1. What does Lessing mean when he says that the Old Testament was a “primer” for the human race?
  2. Lessing divides the history and future of humanity into three great epochs, or “ages”. We are currently living in the second, according to Lessing. How does he think this second age differs from the first?


Feb 4: Kant, “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose” (Text available here.)

  1. Kant thinks that nature has a plan for every species. How is nature’s plan for the human species different from that of all other species?
  2. What is the “unsociable sociability” that Kant describes, and how does it contribute to the development of human reason?
  3. Briefly describe what Kant takes to be the “greatest” and “most difficult” problem for the human race to solve.

Feb 6: Kant, “What is Enlightenment?” (Text available here.)

  1. The essay is titled “What is Enlightenment?”. So what is Kant’s basic answer to this question?
  2. Explain the difference between the “public” and the “private” uses of reason, as Kant describes them.

Feb 8: Hume, Treatise Concerning Human Nature (§2.3.3) (Text available here.)

  1. Does Hume think our will (i.e., our volition, what we strive for) should be controlled by our reason or by our passions (i.e., our emotions)? Explain.
  2. Under what conditions does Hume think a passion can be considered unreasonable?


Feb 11: Hume, Treatise Concerning Human Nature (§3.1.1-2) (Text available here.)

  1. Explain one of Hume’s reasons for claiming that the basis of morality does not lie in human reason.
  2. Would Hume agree with the claim that we should define “good” and “evil” in terms of “natural” and “unnatural”? Explain.

Feb 13: Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (section I) (Text available here.)

  1. According to Kant, what is the difference between acting in conformity with duty and acting from duty?
  2. Kant argues that there is a single “law” that determines the intentions of a good will. Explain why Kant thinks that making a false promise is not in conformity with this law.


Feb 25: Goethe, Faust (lines 1-1177)

  1. What is the deal that Mephistopheles makes with God (“the Lord”)? Be specific!
  2. What is Faust so conflicted about in his study during the scene titled “night”?

Feb 27: Goethe, Faust (lines 1178-2336)

  1. What advice does Mephistopheles give the student in Faust’s study?
  2. What does Mephistopheles want to show Faust in the cellar in Leipzig? (That is, why does he claim he is bringing Faust there?)

Mar 1: Goethe, Faust (lines 2337-3413)

  1. What does Faust want so badly from Mephistopheles after the scene with the witch?
  2. What happens to the jewels Margarete receives from Mephistopheles and Faust?
  3. What is the plot that Mephistopheles comes up with to get Faust and Margarete in the same place?


Mar 4: Goethe, Faust (lines 3414-4614)

  1. What happens to Margarete’s brother?
  2. What is Margarete’s final fate?

Mar 6: Shelley, Frankenstein (pp. 1-57)

  1. What does Victor Frankenstein discover that he shares in common with Robert Walton?
  2. Briefly describe Victor’s studies. What does he study before he goes to the university, and what does he study once he’s there?

Mar 8: Shelley, Frankenstein (pp. 58-112)

  1. What does Victor believe happened to William, and what does he believe about Justine’s relation to what happened to William?
  2. What does the monster demand of Victor in their first conversation?


Mar 18: Shelley, Frankenstein (pp. 113-169)

  1. How does the monster learn to read and speak?
  2. Under what circumstances does the monster learn how he was created (be specific)?
  3. What agreement do Victor and the monster make after the monster tells its story?

Mar 20: Shelley, Frankenstein (pp. 170-225)

  1. What becomes of Victor’s plan to create a bride for the monster?
  2. What is the monster’s response to learning that Victor is dead?

Mar 22: Hegel, Philosophy of History (selections; text available here)

  1. What are the “positive” and “negative” aspects of the concept of change in history, according to Hegel?
  2. What is the difference between Hegel’s philosophical claim that history is driven by Reason, and the religious claim that there is a divine plan for the history of the world (providence)?


Mar 25: Marx and Engels, The German Ideology (pp. 146-163; text available here)

  1. What do Marx and Engels mean when they say, “In direct contrast with German philosophy which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven”?
  2. According to Marx and Engels, what is the real basis of all of the “struggles” that take place within a state?

Mar 27: Marx and Engels, The German Ideology (pp. 176-193; text available here)

  1. According to Marx and Engels, why was weaving the first industry to make use of large-scale manufacture instead of the guild system?
  2. Why do Marx and Engels claim that “machinery and money” were “destructive forces”?

Mar 29: Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto (selection; text available here)

  1. In what respect do Marx and Engels believe that “class antagonisms” are “simplified” in their time?
  2. Why do Marx and Engels claim that, under capitalism, “the work of the proletarian has lost… all charm for the workman”?


Apr 1: Nietzsche, On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life (pp. 59-82; text available here)

  1. What is the “monumental” species of history, and what is one of the main problems associated with it?
  2. What is the “antiquarian” species of history, and what is one of the main problems associated with it?

Apr 3:  Nietzsche, On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life (pp. 83-100; text available here)

  1. Would Nietzsche agree with the claim that the drive to be objective in one’s appraisal of history means that one is doing justice to history?
  2. Why does Nietzsche think that history must “contain a drive to construct”?

Apr 5:  Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals (selection; text available here)

  1. Nietzsche distinguishes between a “noble morality” and a “slave morality.” What is the difference between the use of the term “good” in these two moralities? 
  2. What does Nietzsche mean when he says that the slave revolt is based in “ressentiment”?


Apr 8: Sartre, “Existentialism is a Humanism” (text available here)

  1. Besides the obvious (i.e., belief in God), what is the main difference between Christian existentialism and atheistic existentialism?
  2. What does Sartre mean when he says that humans are condemned to be free?
  3. Why does Sartre believe that only existentialism is consistent with human “dignity”

Apr 12: Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49, chs. 1-2 (pp.1-30)

  1. Describe the painting that made Oedipa cry in Mexico City.
  2. What images are used to describe Oedipa’s view of San Narciso


Nov 30: Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49, chs. 3-4 (pp. 31-79)

  1. What is the connection between Beaconsfield cigarettes and the “Jacobean revenge play”?
  2. Toward the end of ch. 4 and the near the beginning of ch. 5, the image of a projector in a planetarium comes up. What do you think the metaphor here is?
  3. What are the “irregularities” discovered in Pierce’s stamp collection?

Dec 3: Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49, ch. 5 (pp. 80-119)

  1. Briefly describe Oedipa’s interaction with “Maxwell’s Demon.”
  2. What is the “Inamorati Anonymous”?
  3. What happens to Dr. Hilarius?

Dec 5: Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49, ch. 6 (pp. 120-152)

  1. What are the two kinds of “Schurvamite predestination”?
  2. So what exactly does the title of the book mean?