PHH 3402  British Empiricism  Spring 2015  Sample Midterm Exam Questions


     Copyright 2015 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 that does not address these points is inadequate.  The exam will be a closed-book, closed-notes exam, and you will not be allowed to consult dictionaries or other reference texts.  Please review the following link on the Course Web-Site for additional guidelines regarding my expectations for exam answers: Writing Essay Exams for Professor Hauptli


     The exam will be on Friday, February 27.  There will be a review session in class on Wednesday, February 25. 


1. Clarify Locke’s reasons for rejecting the doctrine of innate principles and ideas.  In your answer, clarify what innate principles and ideas are supposed to be, provide at least one example of a principle or idea which was taken by Locke’s opponents as “innate,” and discuss at least three of Locke’s objections to them


2. Where does Locke contend our ideas come from?  In answering this question clarify what he takes ideas to be, whether he maintains that it is a priori true that ideas come only from these sources (or does he appeal to something else besides “pure reason” to establish what the sources of our ideas are), clarify what the simplest of our ideas are (and what sort of “control” we have over these ideas), and indicate how he believes the more complex ideas arise


3. In Book II Locke discusses the following mental “faculties:” perception, contemplation, memory, discerning and distinguishing, comparing, composing, naming, and abstracting.  Clarify how his appeal to these faculties allows him to provide an account of the “origin and history (or development)” of our ideas. 


4. Clarify what Lock says about our “idea” of substance.  What sort of idea of substance does he think we do have, and what sort of “notion” does he contend doesn’t correspond to an actual idea in our mind here?  In answering this question, clarify what he means by a “notion.” 


5. What sort of idea of the self does Locke contend we have (what sort of criterion of personal identity does he champion?  In answering this question clarify what is most essential to being a person according to him, and indicate what is different when we speak of “same atoms,” “same body,” and “same person.” 


6. Clarify Locke’s view of language.  In answering this question indicate what the simplest form of language is according to him, and explain how the more complex words and sentences arise


7. According to Locke, what is knowledge?  In answering this question, make clear how knowledge is arrived at, what degrees of knowledge he allows for (clearly characterize each different “degree of knowledge” and provide examples of each sort), and how “secure” each sort of knowledge is


8. Clarify what Locke says about our knowledge of our selves, of a deity, and of things in the world


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File last revised on 02/16/15.