PHH 4930  Spring 2014  Sample Final Exam Questions

     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 that 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. 

     The final exam will be on Wednesday, April 23 from 10:15-11:15 (during the scheduled period for our exam).   

1. What does Wittgenstein mean in the Blue Book when he says “but if we had to name anything which is the life of the sign, we should have to say that it was its use,” how does his statement that we should “think of words as instruments characterized by their use, and then think of the use of a hammer, the use of a chisel, the use of a square, of a glue-pot, and of the glue,” elaborate upon this claim, and how does this “theory of meaning” differ from the “theory of the meaning” offered in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus?

2. At the beginning of his Blue Book, Wittgenstein quickly moves from (1) the question “what is the meaning of a word?” to (2) the question “what is an explanation of meaning?” to (3) the question “What is our criterion when we say that someone has interpreted the ostensive definition in a particular way?”  Explain how this set of questions exposes the basic “methodology” of the “middle” and “later” Wittgenstein, and contrast his later methodology with that of the “early” Wittgenstein.

3. Explain: for the “middle” Wittgenstein, the importance of philosophical investigations into learning how words are used is that they provide insight into the relation between learning the meaning of words and making use of words.

4. Discuss Wittgenstein’s use of “fetch me a red flower,” and his discussions of the use of color patches, imagined color patches, etc. (in his Blue Book and Investigations), to clarify his view of the appeal to “mental processes” in an attempt to answer the question “What is the meaning of a word?”

5. Discuss Wittgenstein’s statement that “I have been trying in all this to remove the temptation to think that there ‘must be’ what is called a mental process of thinking, hoping, wishing, believing, etc., independent of the process of expressing a thought, a hope, a wish, etc.  And I want to give you the following rule of thumb: if you are puzzled about the nature of thought, belief, knowledge, and the like, substitute for the thought the expression of the thought, etc.” [Blue Book, 41-42]. Does he contend that there either can’t or aren’t accompanying processes?  If not, what does he mean by this?

6. Why does the later Wittgenstein claim that “nothing is gained (when we are trying to explain meaning, wishing, hoping, intending, etc.) by appealing to inner, mental processes”?

7. Use Wittgenstein’s example of “A’s expecting from 4:00-4:40 that B will come” (in the Blue Book, pp. 20-24) to discuss both his notion of family resemblance and his view of the “necessity” of an accompanying inner (mental) process.

8. Use Wittgenstein’s example of “the crash of the gun was not as loud as I expected” (in the Blue Book, p. 40) to discuss both his notion of family resemblance and his view of the “necessity” of an accompanying inner (mental) process.

9. Clarify the later Wittgenstein’s criticism of the early Wittgenstein’s notion of simples (Investigations I, 47-49, and 60 [and I, 89-133, if you wish]), analysis (Investigations I, 63-64, and/or I, 89-109), and/or “the essence of language” (Investigations I, 65-68).

10. Clarify the “Augustinian” theory of language offered in Investigations I, 1, and the critique of it that Wittgenstein offers of it in Investigations I, sections 2-14.

11. Clarify the later Wittgenstein’s notion of “family resemblance” (Investigations I, 65-88) and indicate how it is to constitute a direct attack upon the Tractatus’ view of the “essence of language” (cf., also I, 114-139).

12. Explain why Wittgenstein claims it is meaningless to claim that the standard meter is a meter long.  Does this mean it is correct to claim that it is not a meter long?

13. Discuss the later Wittgenstein’s notion of “following a rule” (Investigations I, 187-209).  Does a specific “internal” (“mental”) process have to be involved?  Are all cases of rule-following the same?  Are all the steps “predetermined” and are they all “before the mind” somehow?  Clarify how this discussion is related to his view of meaning.

14. What does the later Wittgenstein mean when he says “at some point reasons give out”? (Investigations I, 211).  Does this mean that whatever we say “goes?”  What must human beings agree on according to him, if communication is to be possible?  Explain the role of agreement and convention in his theory indicating what it is which we must “agree” on.

15. What is Wittgenstein’s “private language argument?” (Investigations I, 243-315).  What is he rejecting, why does he reject it (what is the problem with the diary of Investigations I, 257-258), and does his rejection turn him into a behaviorist?

16. Explain the “two uses” of ‘see’ which Wittgenstein clarifies in his discussion of “seeing and seeing as.”  Does he mean to develop a “complete theory of psychological concepts” in his discussion?  Why does he maintain that “I know what I am thinking” is incorrect?

17. On p. 222 of the Investigations, Wittgenstein says:

“I can know what someone else is thinking, not what I am thinking.  It is correct to say “I know what you are thinking”, and wrong to say “I know what I am thinking.”
  (A whole cloud of philosophy condensed into a drop of grammar.)”
What does he mean by this statement?  Is he a skeptic about such first person claims?

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File revised on: 04/06/2014