Phil 32 Quizzes

Quiz FAQ

“SBMP” = The Scientific Background to Modern Philosophy

“RMP1” = Readings in Modern Philosophy, Vol. I

“RMP2” = Readings in Modern Philosophy, Vol. II


Wednesday, January 11th (SBMP 5-15, 26-32)

  1. Why does Aristotle think the “student of nature” must study the “form” of things in addition to the “matter”?
  2. Give an example of a “for the sake of which”-type cause.
  3. What is the difference between “knowledge of the fact” and “knowledge of the reason why”?

Friday, January 13th (SBMP 33-44)

  1. Why does the editor suggest that Copernicus should be considered the last great medieval astronomer?
  2. Copernicus admits that his assumptions are just that, viz., assumptions. Why does he think we should believe them anyway?


Wednesday, January 18th (SBMP 53-55, 61-81)

  1. Describe one of Salviati’s or Salgredo’s complaints about the methods practiced by Aristotle’s followers.
  2. Describe the “east and west cannons” objection to the Copernican model. Why was this thought to be problematic for the model? (see page 73)
  3. Why does Salviati claim that the “tower objection” is a “petitio principii,” i.e., that it “takes as known that which is intended to be proved”?

Friday, January 20th (RMP1 4-7; SBMP 51-52)

  1. Why does Bacon think that “the logic now in use serves to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions”?
  2. Why does Bacon think that the “interpretation of nature” is better than the “anticipation of nature”?
  3. What is the difference between the “idols of the tribe” and the “idols of the cave”?


Monday, January 23rd (RMP1 22-30)

  1. What conclusion does Descartes reach once he realizes that, “I see so plainly that there are no definitive signs by which to distinguish being awake from being asleep”?
  2. Halfway through his first “meditation” Descartes makes a distinction between the certainty of arithmetic and geometry on the one hand, and physics and astronomy on the other. On what difference does this distinction rest?
  3. By the end of the first meditation, does Descartes think it is possible that he is wrong that 2+2=4? Why or why not?

Wednesday, January 25th (RMP1 30-34)

  1. Explain, in a nutshell, why Descartes can be certain that he exists.
  2. Would Descartes agree with the claim that his essence is composed equally of body and soul? Why or why not?
  3. By the end of the second meditation, does Descartes think we have better insight into the nature or soul or of body? Why?

Friday, January 27th (RMP1 34-41)

  1. What does Descartes mean when he says that “if we assume that something is found in the idea that was not in its cause, then the idea gets that something from nothing”?
  2. Why does Descartes think that I can be the cause of my idea of corporeal substance, but not of my idea of God?
  3. Why does Descartes conclude that God “cannot be a deceiver”?


Wednesday, February 1st (RMP1 41-45)

  1. If, as Descartes thinks, we were created by a God who would not deceive us, then how is it possible that we so often fall into error?
  2. Descartes thinks that the boundaries of the “will” are greater than the boundaries of the “understanding” (or “intellect”). How does this help explain the answer to question 1?


Monday, February 6th (RMP1 48-55)

  1. Descartes considers three options to explain where my ideas of corporeal substances come from: myself, God, or corporeal substances themselves (see p. 50-51). What reasons does he give to rule out the first two options?
  2. Descartes says, “although a star affects my eye no more than does the flame from a small torch, still there is no real or positive tendency in my eye toward believing that the star is no larger than the flame” (p. 52). What does he want to conclude about the nature of perceptual error from this?
  3. How does Descartes finally get rid of the “dream doubt” from way back in the First Meditation?

Wednesday, February 8th (RMP1 97-103)

  1. How does Descartes explain “rarefaction” (what we call “density”) in matter? How does this relate to his argument about the possibility of empty space (“the void”)?
  2. Briefly summarize Descartes’ argument against atomism.

Friday, February 10th (SBMP 111-123)

  1. Boyle thinks that his opponents (the various Aristotelians and Platonists) can appeal to many more types of explanations of natural phenomena than can proponents of corpuscularianism. Why does he still think that corpuscularian explanations are to be preferred?
  2. How does Boyle conceive the relationship between chemistry and corpuscularianism?


Monday, February 13th (RMP1 294-303)

  1. According to Newton, is it possible to determine whether an observed circular motion is absolute as opposed to merely relative? If yes, explain how; if no, explain why not.
  2. Explain what Newton means when he says that God is “omnipresent” (be specific).

Wednesday, February 15th (RMP1 304-313)

  1. Explain, briefly, the “one demonstration” that Leibniz uses in his third letter to refute Newton’s claim that there is absolute space.
  2. Why does Leibniz think that we should not understand space as God’s “sensorium”?
  3. Leibniz gives the same argument against the existence of a void (empty space) as he does against the existence of atoms (indivisible particles). Explain, briefly, this argument.


Wednesday, February 22nd (RMP2 13-22)

  1. Based on what he says in Book I of the Essay, what is the main problem that Locke would have with Descartes’ “causal argument” for the existence of God (from the Third Meditation)?
  2.  Explain the difference between “sensation” and “reflection,” and give some examples of instances of both.
  3. Why does Locke think that “if a sleeping man thinks without knowing it, the sleeping and waking man are two persons”?

Friday, February 24th (RMP2 26-33)

  1. What is the difference between “primary” and “secondary qualities”? Give examples of both.
  2. What is it in the objects we perceive that causes us to have ideas of secondary qualities?
  3. How does the thought experiment from “the learned and worthy Mr. Molineaux” show that “ideas of sensation [are] often changed by judgment”?


Monday, February 26th (RMP2 79-85, 96-98, 104-106)

  1. Explain the three “degrees of knowledge” that Locke describes.
  2. What does Locke think is necessary in order for our “knowledge” to be “real”?
  3. How does Locke think we can be certain that things (specifically, physical objects in the world) exist outside our minds?

Wednesday, February 28th (RMP2 237-242, 245-247, 250-251)

  1. Briefly explain the relation between impressions and ideas.
  2. What is the “dilemma” that Hume describes in II.6, and how does he resolve it?

Friday, March 2nd (RMP2 251-263)

  1. What is the relation between the ideas of contiguity and succession and the idea of causation (be specific)?
  2. Would Hume agree with the claim that every event must have a cause? Why or why not?
  3. What sort of “impression” does Hume think lies at the basis of our idea of causation?


Monday, March 5th (RMP2 263-265, 279-288)

  1. What does Hume think the difference between merely entertaining a thought and actually believing it boils down to?
  2. Does Hume think we should appeal to ideas of “force” or “energy” to explain causal necessary connections? Why or why not?
  3. Does Hume think we should appeal to the feeling of our own volition to explain our idea of causal necessary connection? Why or why not?

Wednesday, March 7th (RMP1 123-125; RMP2 98-104)

  1. Does Pascal think that he can prove that God exists? (Explain your answer.)
  2. What role does one’s own existence play in Locke’s proof for the existence of God?

Friday, March 9th (RMP2 371-380)

  1. Why does Hume think that the “Indian prince” who didn’t believe in frozen water “reasoned justly”?
  2. What does Hume think it would take for one person’s “testimony” to be strong enough to be sufficient evidence that a miracle has occurred?
  3. What is Hume’s ultimate conclusion regarding the rationality of the Christian belief in miracles?


Monday, March 12th (RMP2 401-407, 412-414)

  1. Briefly explain Philo’s complaint in Part II about what is necessary in order to make analogical reasonings about causes and effects. Why is this a problem for the argument from design that they are discussing?
  2. Why does Philo think that recent advances in science lead us to “infer the universal cause of all to be vastly different from mankind or from any object of human experience”?
  3. Why does Philo not think we can use the argument from design to prove that the universe was created by only one God?

Wednesday, March 14th (RMP2 414-416, 426-433)

  1. Why does Cleanthes think that the notion of “necessary existence” is without meaning?
  2. Briefly explain what Philo’s ultimate conclusion on the relation between atheism and theism amounts to.
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