Sample Final Examination Questions for American Philosophy Fall 2014


     Copyright © 2014 Bruce W. Hauptli


The examination will be an in-class objective essay exam.  It will be designed to assess the students’ understanding of the philosophical theories, positions, topics, and methodologies studied.  The following sample questions are examples of the kinds of questions I will be asking and they are distributed in advance of the exam so that you have an opportunity to organize your thoughts and integrate the readings and lectures around sample questions designed to indicate what your are expected to have mastered.  The list of questions is far longer than a reasonable examination could be, and I will ask between two and three such questions on the examination itself.  You will be asked to be as complete as you can in writing essays in answer such questions.  While there is no “length requirement” for the examination, the questions and exam will be designed so that the average student in this class should need to spend most of the allowed time actively writing.  Short answers are unlikely to be sufficiently detailed to earn high grades, and mere outlines or lists (of terms, principles, theories, etc.) do not provide sufficient explanation—they will not convince me that you understand the relevant material.  As the questions clearly indicate, I expect you to explain specific points in answering the questions, and an essay which does not address these points is inadequate.  Please review the link “Writing Essay Exams for Professor Hauptli” on the Course Web-Site for additional guidelines regarding my expectations for exam answers. 


The exam will be a closed-book, closed-notes exam, and you will not be allowed to consult dictionaries or other reference texts.  It will be on Wednesday, December 10 from 12:30-1:30. 


1. What are the seminal features of “nature” and “experience” according to Dewey?  In answering this question discuss his claim that “every existence is an event” [p. 71], and the relationship between the instrumental and the consummatory.  


2. Clarify what Dewey means when he says that “ every event there is something obdurate, self-sufficient, wholly immediate, neither a relation nor an element in a relational whole, but terminal and exclusive” [p. 85].  In answering this question also discuss the notion of the instrumental, and the consummatory.  


3. Throughout Experience and Nature, Dewey talks about the fallacy of selective emphasis.  What (according to him) is this fallacy, what can we do to avoid it, and what is the (“philosophical”) cost of committing it?  


4. What does he mean when he says that “nothing in nature is exclusively final” [p. 120]?  What does this mean in terms of his metaphysics, his epistemology, and his theory of value?  


5. Clarify what Dewey means when he says “when things are defined as instruments, their value and validity reside in what proceeds from them; consequences not antecedents supply meaning and verity [p. 154].  


6. Clarify how language gets its start according to Dewey, what its purpose is, and how meaning is infused into nature.  In answering this question, clarify the mistake made by modern thinkers who view language and meaning on the "soliloquy" model, and the mistake made by classical thinkers who view language and meaning on the "dialectical" model. 


7. Clarify Dewey’s view of the differences, similarities, and relationships between the physical, psycho-physical, and mental.  As you answer this question, explain why he lays so much emphasis upon seeing human beings in nature and upon treating language and thought as “emergent.”  


8. Clarify the distinction Dewey makes between “endings” and “ends-in-view.”  In answering this question, clarify the relationship of ends-in-view to the instrumental and consummatory, and indicate how reflection or critical understanding, is related to the discussion of “ends-in-view.”  


9. What does Dewey mean by a “theory of criticism?”  Does it discover values, does it arrange them hierarchically, does it impose values?  The discussion on pp. 398-399 should help you get started here.  

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File revised on 11/23/2014