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University of London Diploma and BA Degree in Philosophy
examination questions

Here are questions from University of London BA Examination papers, which students taking the University of London Diploma and BA via Pathways submitted for review for the following modules:

Introduction to Philosophy

Logic

Ethics: Historical Perspectives

Epistemology

Metaphysics

Methodology: Induction, Reason and Science

Greek Philosophy 1: Plato and the Presocratics

Modern Philosophy 1: Descartes, Locke, Berkeley and Hume

Ethics: Contemporary Perspectives

Greek Philosophy 2: Aristotle

Philosophy of Language

Many thanks to my Pathways University of London student Eric DeJardin who compiled these questions from Electronic Philosopher. If you find any errors please email klempner@fastmail.net.

Introduction to Philosophy

  1. In his First Meditation, how does Descartes attempt to show that there is reason to doubt everything one believes?
  2. In connection with the Second Meditation, Hobbes said that it was possible that something that thinks should be something corporeal. Do Descartes' arguments succeed in ruling this possibility out?
  3. Strawson states the principle: 'If we are to talk coherently about individual consciousnesses or minds...we must know the difference between one such item and two such items.' Is this principle acceptable? Does it make a problem for Descartes?
  4. Is Hume right to think that tragedy is more enjoyable to an audience the more they suffer painful feelings? How successful is he in explaining why this might be so?
  5. Do we, as Feagin alleges, take pleasure in our distress at the sufferings of tragic characters? Does this help us to understand the ethical significance of tragedy?
  6. Williams distinguishes between two elements in the idea of equality: equality of opportunity and equality of respect. What is the difference between these? Is there any reason to think that there could be a problem in practice of combining equality of opportunity with equality of respect?
  7. What does Nozick mean to show using the example of Wilt Chamberlain? Does the example succeed in showing this?
  8. What, according to Lemmon, differentiates the Platonic dilemma from the Sartrean one? Is this difference significant for our understanding of moral dilemma?
  9. Does Mill's use of the principle of utility threaten the reality of moral dilemmas? In so far as there is a tension between Mill's theory and the reality of moral dilemmas, what is the best way of resolving it?
  10. Outline and evaluate Locke's account of persons and their identity.
  11. Is it really possible for one person to change bodies with another?
  12. '[T]he will turns at once, like a weathervane on a well-oiled pivot in a changeable wind...It turns successively to all the motives that lie before it as possible, and with each the human being thinks he can will it, and thus fix the weathervane at this point; but this is a mere deception.' (Schopenhauer) What are Schopenhauer's reasons for saying 'this is a mere deception'? Are they good reasons?
  13. Strawson doubts that the question whether determinism is true is a significant question for morality. What arguments does he give for doubting this?
  14. Hume gives two definitions of 'cause' in the Treatise. Say how these definitions differ from one another. Do you think we could accept them both?
  15. What are Anscombe's reasons for denying that causal relations are instances of exceptionless universal generalisations?
  16. What distinction do Boyle and Locke make between primary and secondary qualities? Explain and assess two arguments, given by Boyle and/or Locke, for making the distinction.
  17. 'An idea can be like nothing but an idea.' (Berkeley) How does Berkeley argue for this claim? What conclusions does Berkeley draw using this claim?
  18. How, according to Hume, do audiences react to tragedy? Is his solution to the puzzle plausible?
  19. The doubt based on dreaming calls as much into question as does the doubt based on a deceiving God. So Descartes has no need to include both in the First Meditation.' Discuss.
  20. Descartes insisted that he did not argue that the mind is distinct from the body until the Sixth Meditation. What, then, does the Second Meditation contribute to his argument for the claim that mind and body are distinct substances?'
  21. What does Descartes's supposition that he is dreaming contribute to the argument of his First Meditation?'
  22. The difference between the Cartesian and his opponent is a difference of view about the relation between the concept of a person on the one hand and the concept of a person's mind on the other' (Strawson). Discuss.
  23. What is a moral dilemma and is utilitarianism an adequate solution?
  24. Explain how Nozick seeks to use his Wilt Chamberlain example to show that liberty upsets patterns. Does his argument create problems for Williams' defence of equality?
  25. Why do we feel pleasure in response to tragic works according to Hume and Feagin?
  26. 'Pleasures from tragedy are meta-responses.' What does Feagin mean by this? Do you think it's true?
  27. Is Williams's thought experiment best described as two persons swapping bodies? If not, why not?
  28. Anscombe takes singular causation seriously, whereas Hume does not.' Explain and discuss.
  29. 'I am now seeing light, hearing a noise, feeling heat. But I am asleep so all this is false. Yet I certainly seem to see, hear, be warmed. This cannot be false' (Descartes). Discuss.
  30. 'For whether I am awake or asleep, two and three added together are five, and a square cannot have more than four sides. It seems impossible that such transparent truths should incur any suspicion of being false.' How does this claim contribute to the argument of Descartes' First Meditation?
  31. According to Strawson, what can make it inappropriate to feel resentment towards someone? Is he right to think that belief in determinism would not make it inappropriate?
  32. Explain and evaluate the argument Descartes gives in the second meditation for the claim that he is a thinking thing.
  33. Explain and assess Strawson's reasons for thinking (i) a Cartesian is committed to thinking that a dualist reduction or analysis of the idea of a person is possible and (ii) that such a reduction or analysis is not possible.
  34. According to Locke, how does the identity of a person differ from the identity of a human being? What does he think the identity of a person requires?
  35. 'Although I clearly and distinctly know my nature to be something that thinks, may I not perhaps be wrong in thinking that nothing else belongs to my nature apart from the fact that I am a thinking thing? Perhaps the fact that I am an extended thing may also belong to my nature' (Arnaud). Does Descartes have a satisfactory response to Arnaud's objection?
  36. Do we, as Feagin alleges, take pleasure in our distress at the sufferings of tragic characters? Does this help us to understand the ethical significance of tragedy?
  37. In both the Treatise and first Enquiry, Hume provides two definitions of "cause". What does the second definition add to the first, and why did Hume think it necessary to introduce it?
  38. 'I shall suppose that... some malicious demon of the utmost power and cunning has employed all his energies in order to deceive me.' What leads Descartes to make this supposition?
  39. Strawson speaks of 'optimists' and 'pessimists' in the debate about freedom and determination. Explain the view of the optimists and pessimists. How does Strawson's own view contrast with the view of his optimists.
  40. Seeing people suffer is painful, and we don't ordinarily undergo pain willingly. So you would expect that we would be reluctant to attend theatrical performances in which people are portrayed as suffering. Explain why Hume thinks that this expectation is not borne out.
  41. In what way, if any, are moral dilemmas a problem for moral desires?
  42. How does Schopenhauer understand freedom?
  43. What explanation does Hume give of the idea we have of a cause?
  44. 'I am a thing that thinks.' Explain and evaluate the reasoning which leads Descartes in this conclusion.
  45. Does either Hume or Feagin provide a satisfactory account of how it is possible for the audience of a tragedy both to experience painful feelings and to feel pleasure? (You may discuss Hume or Feagin or both authors in your answer.)
  46. 'There is not one of my former beliefs about which a doubt may not properly be raised' (Descartes). Does Descartes succeed in showing this in the first Meditation?
  47. What puzzle does tragedy present? Does either Hume or Feagin provide a satisfactory solution to the puzzle?
  48. Is there a satisfactory account of how it is possible that we should take pleasure in the deliberate portrayal of what is negative and painful? Relate your answers to Hume or Feagin or both.
  49. 'Hume holds that causal claims are always general claims, whereas Anscombe denies this.' Explain and discuss.
  50. What would be a genuine moral dilemma? Assess the impact of the recognition of the existence of moral dilemmas on a philosophical account of the nature of moral judgement.
  51. 'I am finally compelled to admit that there is not one of my former beliefs about which a doubt may not properly be raised.' How does Descartes reach this conclusion? Are all his former beliefs undermined by the doubts he puts forward, or are some left untouched?
  52. 'The truth of Mill's Greatest Happiness Principle is incompatible with the fact that we sometimes face dilemmas'. Explain and discuss.
  53. What is Mill's Greatest Happiness Principle? Is it undermined by the fact that people face dilemmas?
  54. In what way, if any, do moral dilemmas pose a problem for moral principles such as Mill's Greatest Happiness Principle?

Logic

  1. What is it for an argument to be valid?
  2. Why might one doubt that entailment is transitive?
  3. Examine one challenge to the correctness of classical logic.
  4. Is there an adequate account of indicative conditionals in terms of truth-conditions?
  5. Does Frege's puzzle about identity show that there is more to the meaning of a proper name than its reference?
  6. 'To know the meaning of a name is to know its reference.' Say precisely what you take this claim to amount to, and discuss whether or not it is true.
  7. Explain and discuss Russell's analysis of sentences containing definite descriptions in grammatical subject place.
  8. 'The referential use of definite descriptions refutes Russell's Theory of Descriptions.' Discuss.
  9. Are there any logical reasons to affirm or deny that there are non-existent things?
  10. 'Many things don't exist.' Can this claim be refuted?
  11. What is the best way to explain the concept of analyticity?
  12. Discuss whether the following would be a good formulation of Leibniz's Law (that identicals are indiscernible): 'If a sentence a=b is true, then any sentence containing a must have the same truth-value as a corresponding sentence in which a is replaced by b.'
  13. 'Everything is necessarily itself. So all true identity statements are necessarily true.' Discuss.
  14. How should one give the logical form of English sentences containing modal idioms (e.g. 'must', 'can', 'necessarily')?
  15. How, if at all, can contingent truths be known a priori?
  16. What does the Liar Paradox tell us about truth?
  17. Can there be a satisfactory account of the notion of correspondence employed in the claim that 'a proposition or statement is true if it corresponds to the facts'?
  18. 'Asserting that P is true is equivalent to asserting simply that P exists.' Does it follow that there is no substantive account of truth?
  19. 'Truth entails coherence, not vice versa.' Does this refute coherence theories of truth?
  20. What is Falsity and Why Does it Exist?
  21. Does it Mean Anything to Say that a Statement is True?
  22. Do Possible Worlds Provide a Satisfying Account of Modality?'
  23. 'Does A knows that P entail that P is true?'
  24. What kind of justification can be given for the law of excluded middle? Is it convincing?
  25. What does it mean to say that an expression is a logical constant?
  26. In order to understand what a possible world is, we have to first understand the notion of possibility. So, we cannot use possible worlds to explain possibility.'
  27. Is the Predicate '...is true' redundant?
  28. 'A proper name is an abbreviation of one or more definite descriptions.' - Discuss.
  29. Should we treat indicative and counterfactual conditionals differently? Justify your answer.
  30. Deflationists claim that the predicate 'true' does not stand for any property. What do they claim is the role of this predicate, and can this claim be justified?
  31. Does the argument from illusion show that there are no differences between the visual experiences involved in veridical perception, illusion, and hallucination?
  32. Is there a satisfactory account of the truth of the sentence "Santa Claus does not exist"?
  33. How can we best understand the notion of necessity?
  34. Can you know that you are not a brain in a vat?
  35. One can understand the claim, "the baby has been sick all day", without supposing there is one and only one baby in the world. So Russell's theory of definite descriptions is wrong.' Discuss.
  36. If the predicate 'true' does not pick out any property, what role does it play?
  37. Can the sentence 'The man over there drinking Martini is a philosopher' be true even though nothing satisfies the definite description? Justify your answer.'
  38. Defend what you think is the best account of proper names.
  39. Can there be a satisfactory account of the notion of correspondence employed in the claim that 'a proposition or statement is true if it corresponds to the facts'?
  40. 'A statement is necessary if it is true in every possible world, and possible if it's true in some possible world.' Discuss.
  41. Can there be a convincing justification for deductive reasoning?
  42. Could the statement, 'The present Prime Minister might not have been the present Prime Minister,' be true? Explain your answer.
  43. Can we give a defensible account of the proper name 'Sherlock Holmes' which allows it to be true that Sherlock Holmes does not exist?
  44. 'When we say that some statement is true, we are attributing the property of truth to that statement.' Critically discuss this claim.
  45. How can one justifiably distinguish true counterfactual conditionals from false ones, given that all such conditionals have false antecedents?'
  46. 'We use the notion of 'possibility' to assess claims about this world, not about some other possible world.' Discuss.
  47. One can understand the claim, 'The baby has been sick all day', without supposing there is one and only one baby in the world. So Russell's theory of definite descriptions is wrong.' Discuss,
  48. Do vague statements pose a threat to the law of excluded middle?
  49. 'Any justification of deduction is bound to be circular.' Discuss.
  50. Can one meaningfully say that Zeus does not exist? Justify your answer.
  51. In what sense, if any, is it true to say that Pegasus is a winged horse?
  52. Are we justified in using the notion of possible worlds to explain the notion of possibility?
  53. What might or might not have happened does not explain what had to happen. So we cannot rely on the former to give a satisfactory analysis of causal connection.' Discuss.
  54. What role, if any, should Bayes theorem play in the explanation of confirmation?
  55. A proper name designates the same object in any possible world in which that object exists.' Discuss.
  56. 'Zeus' does not refer to anything. So the claim 'Zeus was a Greek God' is neither true nor meaningful.' Discuss.
  57. Are we right to regard the principle of excluded middle as a universal truth, a law of logic?
  58. Does inference to the best explanation constitute a distinctive way of assessing scientific theories?
  59. Does the predicate 'is true' specify a genuine property of assertions?
  60. Is there a satisfactory solution to Goodman's new riddle of induction? If there is, what is it? If there is not, what are the consequences?
  61. Scientific claims cannot be objective, because their justification relies on observation, and observation is theory-laden.' Discuss.
  62. Can there be a convincing justification for deductive reasoning?
  63. 'Someone might believe that George Eliot wrote Middlemarch without believing that Mary Anne Evans did, even though George Eliot is Mary Anne Evans.' Discuss.
  64. 'The present King of France is bald' is neither true nor false. So Russell's Theory of definite descriptions is mistaken.' Discuss.'"

Ethics: Historical Perspectives

  1. Assess Plato's claim that justice is to the soul what health is to the body.
  2. Does Socrates give good reason for believing that doing wrong is worse than suffering it?
  3. 'The good is the final end of all actions and for its sake everything else should be done.' Are Socrates' reasons for believing this good ones?
  4. What does Aristotle believe the characteristic function of man is? Does his account of this provide a satisfactory basis for ethics?
  5. How well does justice fit Aristotle's doctrine of the Mean?
  6. Why does Aristotle believe that excellence of character and practical wisdom are interdependent?
  7. Should Hobbes be described as an ethical egoist?
  8. Does Hume offer a convincing account of convergence in moral judgments?
  9. 'Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.' What was Hume's point in making this remark?
  10. 'No action can be virtuous or morally good unless there be in human nature some motive to produce it distinct from the sense of its morality.' Explain and evaluate Hume's claim.
  11. Discuss Hume's account of obligation.
  12. Discuss Kant's view that a free will and will under moral law are one and the same.
  13. 'Treat humanity in yourself and in others never as a means only but always as an end in itself.' What does Kant mean by this? How convincing is his argument for it?
  14. Evaluate Kant's claim that it is morally necessary to believe in the immortality of the soul and the existence of God.
  15. Could Hume account satisfactorily for the kind of obligation which Kant describes as categorical?
  16. Does Mill explain satisfactorily what moves us to act for the sake of happiness in others?
  17. What did J.S. Mill think a moral requirement is?
  18. Critically discuss the main claims in Mill's utilitarianism.
  19. Moral disagreement and the possibility of moral knowledge'.
  20. Can emotivism make sense of moral judgements?
  21. What force if any is there in Moore's 'open question' argument?
  22. How defensible is Socrates' claim that virtue is knowledge?
  23. 'It is impossible to think of anything at all... that could be considered good without limitation except a good will' (Kant). Critically assess the role that this claim plays in Kant's moral theory.
  24. What is Kant's concept of duty? Critically assess the role that it lays in his moral theory.
  25. What does Kant mean when he says people should be treated as ends and not means? Are his arguments for this position sound?
  26. Does Kant's categorical imperative succeed as a test of the acceptability of practical maxims?
  27. What does Hume mean by the claim that reason is the slave of the passions? What role does this notion play in his moral philosophy?
  28. Why does Hume describe justice as an artificial virtue? Is what he says defensible?
  29. Does Kant offer a defensible account of the relationship between freedom and morality?
  30. Are moral assertions merely expressions of emotion?
  31. Is Kant right in thinking that appeal to the categorical imperative is enough to show lying to be morally wrong?
  32. Does Mill have a coherent conception of happiness?
  33. Critically assess Moore's argument that if good were identical to pleasure, the claim that pleasure is good would be no more informative then the claim that pleasure is pleasure.
  34. 'By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain.' Does Mill retain that conception of happiness? If not, what does he replace it by?
  35. How successful is Mill in reconciling justice with the principle of utility?
  36. Human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with excellence' (Nicomachean Ethics, 17, 1098a16-17). Can Aristotle show that excellence includes moral virtue?
  37. What role does virtue play in Aristotle's conception of eudaimonia (happiness)? Is he justified in giving it this role?
  38. Is Aristotle's doctrine of the mean either an empty abstraction or a recommendation of mediocrity?
  39. 'According to Hume, reason alone does not move us to act, though our moral opinions do, and he rightly infers from this that reason cannot be the source of our moral opinions.' Discuss.
  40. 'Hume argues that reason never moves us to act, but that morality does. This leads him to claim that passion, not reason, is the source of morality.' Discuss.
  41. Does Kant have a defensible account of freedom?'
  42. Does Mill's utilitarianism take adequate account of our ordinary intuitions about justice?
  43. In Mill's view, of what kind of proof is the principle of utility susceptible? Is it really capable of any kind of proof?
  44. Is Plato's defence of justice in the Republic soundly derived from a correct account of the human soul?
  45. 'Acting freely and acting morally are one and the same thing for Kant.' Discuss.

Epistemology

  1. Does knowledge involve having good reasons for one's beliefs? What are 'good reasons'?
  2. 'Knowing that P is at least a matter of having a belief that P which is both true and justified.' Is this an adequate definition of knowledge? If not, how should it be improved?
  3. 'I cannot prove that I am not a brain in a vat. Therefore I do not know anything about the external world.' Discuss.
  4. 'If we know that P, then we can be certain that P. But we cannot be certain of anything. Therefore we do not know anything.' Discuss.
  5. Could I be in error about everything?
  6. 'The sceptic's challenge comes down to saying that we can have the very best grounds for asserting P but that P could nevertheless be false.' If this is right, does it matter?
  7. 'All our knowledge of the external world derives, in one way or another, from the senses.' Is this true?
  8. Do we perceive material objects directly, or only indirectly (i.e. by perceiving them via some kind of intermediate object)?
  9. Could it be that, though we use the same language to describe them, the things you see as red I see as green and vice versa?
  10. Is there anything a blind man cannot know about colours? If so, what?
  11. 'I could have an experience which is qualitatively identical to the experience I am having now, but which is nevertheless hallucinatory.' Is this true? If it is, what does it show about the nature of perception?
  12. Does accepting realism about perception entail scepticism about the external world?
  13. Does seeing always involve belief?
  14. How can I know that I remember something?
  15. Is it possible to remember something that did not happen?
  16. Is knowledge justified true belief?
  17. 'Justification must stop somewhere. So knowledge must have a foundation.' Discuss.
  18. Do veridical perception, illusion and hallucination have something in common? Justify your answer.
  19. Can you know that you are not a brain in a vat?
  20. In what sense, if any, might philosophical scepticism be considered a contribution to human knowledge?
  21. My beliefs could form a coherent set even if none of them is true, so the coherent account for knowledge must be wrong. Discuss.
  22. What is the argument from illusion? What if anything does it imply about visual experience?
  23. Do you know that you are reading an exam question?',
  24. If I were a brain in a vat, I would be unable to think of brains in vats. So I am not a brain in a vat. Discuss.
  25. 'Knowing that P is at least a matter of having a belief that P which is both true and justified.' Is this an adequate definition of knowledge? If not, how should it be improved?
  26. Does knowledge involve having good reasons for one's beliefs? What are 'good reasons'?
  27. Could it be that, though we use the same language to describe them, the things you see as red I see as green and vice versa?
  28. 'Because knowledge is tracking the truth, the skeptic can be refuted.' Discuss.
  29. The only difference between introspection and ordinary perception is that introspection reveals aspects of the subject's psychology while perception reveals features of the external environment.
  30. 'I cannot prove that I am not a brain in a vat. Therefore I do not know anything about the external world.' Discuss.
  31. Given that Cicero is Tully, is it possible for Tom to believe that Cicero was a Roman Orator but not believe that Tully was a Roman Orator? Discuss.
  32. Is knowledge closed under known implication?
  33. What is the relation between perceiving the redness of a tomato and knowing that the tomato is red?',
  34. Much of what we ordinarily call knowledge involves information that we believe only on the basis of what others have told us - i.e., on the basis of testimony. What conditions have to be met for us to gain knowledge from the testimony of others?
  35. Is a rational belief the same as a reliable belief?
  36. Is the truth of "P" necessary for S to Know that P?
  37. Can a false belief be a justified belief? What significance does your answer have for our understanding of knowledge?
  38. Can you have a justified true belief that you are sitting an exam without knowing that you are sitting an exam? What consequences does your answer have for the analysis of knowledge?
  39. Why a truth tracker does not need to reject closure.
  40. Can you know you are not a brain in a vat? If you answer Yes, explain how you can know this. If you answer No, spell out the consequences of your answer for ordinary pieces of knowledge.
  41. How should one respond to apparent counterexamples to the view that knowledge is a form of justified true belief?
  42. 'In order to amount to knowledge, a belief must be justified. So, unless some beliefs are self-justifying, there is no knowledge.' Discuss.
  43. All that you can know about your current experience is that either you are seeing an exam paper or you are undergoing a perfectly matching hallucination as of seeing an exam paper. Hence your experience must be consistent with either alternative.' Discuss.
  44. 'You cannot distinguish between a case in which you see the exam paper before you and a case in which you undergo a perfectly matching hallucination. Therefore the difference between seeing and hallucinating is not an experiential difference.' Discuss'.
  45. Critically assess the claim that any belief formed by using a reliable mechanism is justified.
  46. Is there a compelling argument to hold that a veridical perception and a perfectly matching hallucination have an experiential element in common?
  47. What if any connection is there between the rationality of a belief and the reliability of the mechanisms or processes responsible for forming the belief?
  48. Critically assess the claim that if you believe that p and p coheres with everything else that you believe, then you know that p.
  49. Is our ability to know what we believe based upon a form of inner perception?
  50. Must one have independent grounds for thinking that one has hands in order to know that one has hands? If not, explain why not. If so, explain the consequences for one's belief that one has hands.
  51. The fact that there are coherent fairy tales shows that one might have a coherent system of beliefs without those beliefs amounting to knowledge.' Discuss.
  52. Can you know that you're not dreaming?
  53. Is there a compelling argument from the possibility of hallucination to the impossibility of our experience being partly constituted by the ordinary objects that we seem to experience?

Metaphysics

  1. Times can be thought of as past, present and future or as earlier and later. Is one of these ways of thinking about time more fundamental than the other?
  2. What, if anything, is wrong with thinking of time on the model of a river?
  3. What do all red things have in common?
  4. 'Triangularity is a shape.' 'Red is more similar to orange than to blue.' Can the truth of such statements be explained only if there are universals?
  5. Is there any good reason for thinking that there are events?
  6. Are some individuals more basic than others?
  7. Is an army truly a substance?
  8. What makes a thing the kind of thing it is?
  9. Are there essential properties?
  10. Can arguments be given to establish that your pen is not a bundle of ideas?
  11. Can a fully objective view of human beings account for the subjective qualities of mental states?
  12. 'The physical world is entirely objective. But consciousness is essentially subjective. So consciousness cannot be physical.' Discuss.
  13. Are causes sufficient for their effects? Are they necessary for those effects?
  14. 'A cause has its effects in virtue of its properties. So causation cannot be a relation simply between particulars.' Discuss.
  15. What makes a thing the same thing at one time and place as at another time and place? How is it possible for an object to change over time and still, in some sense, be the same object?
  16. 'If I were to divide into two people tomorrow, neither of the resulting people would be me. But this would not be as bad as death.' Is this true? If so, why? If not, why not?
  17. If 'free choice' is to be better than something random, must determinism be true?
  18. Can we intelligibly claim that Sherlock Holmes does not exist?
  19. Does McTaggart have a convincing argument for the unreality of time?
  20. Can two objects be in the same place at the same time? Justify your answer.
  21. Is an object identical with the parts that compose it?
  22. 'A stone is a particular, but a stone's falling is not.' Discuss.
  23. Can effects ever precede or be simultaneous with their causes?
  24. All statements about the past are true or false in virtue of our present evidence of how things were in the past.' Discuss.
  25. 'Resemblance between particulars requires the existence of a universal, so there is no way to eliminate universals from our ontology.' How convincing is this argument?
  26. 'Time should be understood as a series of events ordered by notions such as before or after, we do not need tense invoking concepts like past, present and future.' Discuss.
  27. 'A statue and the lump fo clay of which it is made are two different objects existing at the same place and time.' Discuss'"
  28. Are events particulars?
  29. Only particulars genuinely exist.' Discuss.
  30. Are events universals, particulars, or neither?
  31. Are the criteria of identity for persons distinct from the criteria of identity of human beings?
  32. 'This rock is not clearly part of Mount Everest. But it is not clearly NOT part of Mount Everest. So Mount Everest is a vague object.' Discuss.
  33. Is a person's survival different from, and more important than, a person's continuing identity?
  34. Are universals necessary elements of any adequate ontology?

Methodology: Induction, Reason and Science

  1. 'Inductive methods will lead to truth, if any method will.' Does this provide a basis for the justification of induction?
  2. 'Hume did not merely pose the problem of induction, he solved it.' Discuss.
  3. Is it more rational to believe that all emeralds are green than that all emeralds are grue? Give reasons for your answer.
  4. Do we have evidence for the hypothesis that all emeralds are grue?
  5. What is Hempel's 'Paradox of the Ravens'? How, if at all, can it be solved?
  6. What is it to explain why something happened?
  7. What is the 'deductive nomological' model of explanation? Does it apply to all good scientific explanations, to some, or to none?
  8. Everything that happens, happens. Everything that does not happen, does not happen. Does this show that no sense can be made of the notion of the objective probability of something happening?
  9. 'Probability theory determines the rational way to change one's degree of confidence in a hypothesis in the light of new data.' Discuss.
  10. How can we best explain the meaning of counterfactual conditionals?
  11. Do Laws of Nature have exceptions?
  12. Is 'nomic necessity' a species of necessity?
  13. What distinguishes natural laws from accidental generalisations?
  14. 'The existence of experimental error shows that no hypothesis is observationally refutable.' Discuss.
  15. What is the relation of observation to theory?
  16. What does it mean for a theory (or theory shift) to be ad hoc? What, if anything, justifies the view that ad hoc theories are scientifically unacceptable?
  17. Is there any reason to suppose that the conclusion of an inference to the best explanation is likely to be true?
  18. Must good science be falsifiable? If so, why?
  19. What is the paradox of the Ravens? What is the most effective way of dealing with it?
  20. Outline Hempel's theory of explanation. Is it an acceptable theory?
  21. 'Some sciences differ from some non-sciences. But there is no way of making a general distinction between science and non-science.' - Discuss.
  22. Scientific explanation is the explanation of effects by causes.' Discuss.
  23. What distinguishes a law from an accidentally true generalization?
  24. What role, if any, do laws play in scientific explanations?
  25. 'Whatever suffices for explanation suffices for prediction and vice versa.' Discuss.
  26. What is a law of nature?
  27. 'There is not a single distinction between science and non-science, but rather a variety of distinctions between various ways we have of finding things out.' Discuss.
  28. What, if anything, can explain the rationality of reasoning according to inductive principles?
  29. Is inference to the best explanation just a special case of more general forms of confirmation?
  30. Does Kuhn's 'Structure of Scientific Revolutions' identify characteristics of science which provide a solution to the demarcation problem?
  31. Is it possible to justify the claim that inductive reasoning is a reliable method of acquiring true beliefs? If it is explain how. If it is not, explain the consequences for our inductive practices.

Greek Philosophy 1

  1. 'The ordering, the same for all, no god or man has made, but it was, is and will be: fire everliving, being kindled in measures and going out in measures.' (Heraclitus fr. 30.) Discuss.
  2. What is the Heraclitean logos that people do not comprehend?
  3. 'What is for saying and for thinking must be.' (Parmenides fr. ) How does this claim figure in Parmenides' argument?
  4. Is the unreliability of the senses a premise or a conclusion for Parmenides?
  5. Can Achilles overtake the tortoise?
  6. Do Anaxagoras' views provide him with effective replies to Zeno's arguments against motion and plurality?
  7. Were the ancient atomists sceptics?
  8. If Socrates' disavowal of knowledge is sincere, is he entitled to conduct the elenchus?
  9. What is the connection between Socrates' search for definitions of virtue and Plato's Theory of Forms?
  10. 'One excellent argument [for the recollection theory] is that when people are questioned, they state the truth about everything for themselves - and yet unless knowledge and a correct account were present within them, they would be unable to do this.' (Plato Phaedo 73a.) Discuss.
  11. Is the tripartite soul of the Republic an advance over the immortal soul of the Phaedo?
  12. Does Plato have a satisfactory account of the difference between knowledge and belief?
  13. Why might Plato be less certain that there are Forms of Man or Mud than that there are Forms of Beauty and Largeness?
  14. 'We are in the habit of positing one Form for each multiplicity to which we give the same name.' (Republic X.) Is this are a reasonable basis for the theory of Forms?
  15. Does Plato offer a satisfactory refutation of relativism in the Theaetetus?
  16. How far does the Sophist explain what it is to be what is not?
  17. Does Plato offer a satisfactory account of naming in the Cratylus?
  18. How does Plato go about refuting the definition of knowledge as perception? Is he successful?
  19. Why does Plato struggle with the impossibility of false belief? How does he resolve this?', 'What things does Plato say we can know? How can we know them?'.
  20. For Plato, can people be loved for their own sake?
  21. What, if anything do Zeno's paradoxes tell us about motion?
  22. Listening not to me, but to the LOGOS, it is wise to agree that all things are one' (Heraclitus). Discuss. 2003 Question 1 (a).
  23. In what sense or senses does Heraclitus believe in the unity of opposites?
  24. One story, one road now is left: that it is.' Give a critical interpretation of the argument that leads Parmenides to this conclusion.
  25. Does Plato have a good solution to Meno's Paradox?
  26. Is it possible to follow the path of 'it is not'?
  27. Does Plato offer good logical ground for dividing the soul into three parts?
  28. In what manner may the form F explain what it is for things to be F?
  29. Assess whether Empedocles has a good response to Parmenides'.
  30. 'The ordering, the same for all, no god or man has made, but it was, is and will be: fire ever-living, being kindled in measures and going out in measures.' (Heraclitus fr. 30.) Discuss.
  31. What is the Heraclitean logos that people do not comprehend?'
  32. In what sense, if any, does Heraclitus hold that everything is always changing?
  33. Assess Plato's claim that justice is to the soul what health is to the body.
  34. Can the difficulties raised for the Theory of Forms in Plato's Parmenides be overcome?
  35. Plato's ideal of love not only downgrades bodies but persons also.' Discuss.
  36. In what sense was Parmenides a monist?
  37. How do we understand Heraclitus's claim that opposites are one? Does this claim commit him to inconsistency?
  38. Does Plato, in the Republic, offer a good logical ground for thinking that the soul has three parts?
  39. Critically assess Parmenides' denial of plurality.
  40. What exactly is Socrates examination of the slave boy in the Meno meant to show? Does it succeed?
  41. Is love, as Plato conceives of it, always essentially self-centered?
  42. Discuss whichever you take to be the best of many arguments that Plato offers for the immortality of the soul.
  43. Explain the content and importance of Heraclitus' principle of the unity of opposites.
  44. What is Plato's Concept of Knowledge?
  45. 'Parmenides, 'what is not' cannot be thought.'
  46. Explain the content and importance of Heraclitus' theory of flux.
  47. Assess whether Anaxagoras had a good response to Parmenides.
  48. How best is 'self-predication' to be understood in Plato?
  49. The Third man Argument does not undermine Plato's theory of Forms because it relies on assumptions that are themselves contradictory.' Discuss.
  50. Assess the principles that Plato uses to divide the soul in the Republic.
  51. What is the role of the Form of Good as characterized in the analogies of Sun, Line, and Cave?
  52. Is Plato justified in thinking that the just person is happier than the unjust person?
  53. How successful is the theory of knowledge as recollection in solving the paradox of inquiry?'
  54. What is he role of the Form of Good as characterized in the analogies of Sun, Line and Cave?
  55. Does Heraclitus deny the principle of non-contradiction?
  56. Does either the affinity argument or the final argument in the Phaedo succeed in proving the immortality of the soul? If not, how does it fail?
  57. Does Plato have an intelligible and consistent account of what it is for something to participate in a Form?
  58. How important to Parmenides is his claim that "What is not" cannot be thought?
  59. Is there any type of knowledge of which Platonic recollection might be an appropriate account?

Modern Philosophy 1

  1. Examine Descartes' reasons for declaring that he is an essentially non-material thinking substance.
  2. What weaknesses, if any, do you find in Descartes' proof of the existence of God in the Third Meditation?
  3. Has Descartes, by the end of the Meditations, escaped from the sceptical dilemma recorded at the beginning of the Second Meditation?
  4. Should Locke be described as holding a 'representational' theory of perception?
  5. What gives a Lockean idea its content?
  6. Assess Locke's claim about substance that 'we have no idea of what it is, but only a confused, obscure one of what it does.'
  7. Does Locke make a good case for saying that the sense of natural kind words should be applied to 'nominal essences' rather than to 'real essences'?
  8. Does the primary-secondary quality distinction give us a way of explaining how we perceive things as they really are? Discuss with reference to either or both of Locke and Berkeley.
  9. Why does Berkeley reject the concept of material substance? Are his arguments persuasive?
  10. What is meant by Berkeley's claim that esse est percipi? Is it refutable?
  11. Give a critical account of Berkeley's argument for the claim that there is an infinite spirit Which perceives everything always.
  12. Critically discuss Hume's account of belief.
  13. Why does Hume offer two 'definitions' of cause?
  14. Can Hume account for the difference between memory and imagination?
  15. Why does Hume think it is 'vain to enquire whether there be body or not'?
  16. Does Hume deny that there is such a thing as the self? Is his view of the matter coherent?
  17. How does Descartes argue in the sixth meditation that mind and body are distinct substances? Does he succeed in establishing this conclusion?
  18. 'It is impossible that the idea of God which is in us should not have God himself as it's cause' (Descartes). Why did Descartes think it was impossible? Was he right?'
  19. Is Descartes right to assert that there is a real distinction between mind and body? Does the distinction leave Descartes with insoluble problems about their interaction?
  20. Does Locke's Argument Destroy any Possibility of Innate Speculative Principles?
  21. How does Hume distinguish between impressions and ideas? Does he make a convincing case for his claim that every simple idea is a copy of a preceding impression?'
  22. Does Locke's Distinction of Primary and Secondary Qualities Survive Scrutiny?'.
  23. Descartes attempt to prove the existence of God in Meditation III is not merely a failure, it is a philosophically uninteresting failure.' Discuss,
  24. Why does Hume think he is only a "bundle or collection of different perceptions"? Is his view sustainable?
  25. Why was it important for Descartes to prove the existence of God and how well does he succeed?
  26. Descartes argues that the mind and body are distinct substances. How well does he succeed?
  27. 'There is no defensible distinction between primary and secondary qualities'. Explain and discuss,
  28. Does Berkeley succeed in proving the existence of God?'
  29. Does Descartes prove the existence of God?
  30. 'What is a Leibnizian monad? What reasons does Leibniz provide for his claim that such monads exist?'
  31. 'What account did Leibniz give of the union of soul and body? How satisfactory is it?'
  32. What grounds did Locke give for drawing a distinction between primary and secondary qualities? Do they provide an adequate basis for doing so?
  33. Locke's attack on innate ideas and innate knowledge does not seriously damage any theory that a competent philosopher would wish to maintain.' Do you agree?
  34. Does the notion of resemblance enable Locke to successfully distinguish between "mere powers" (secondary qualities) and "real qualities" (primary qualities)?
  35. What, according to Berkeley, is wrong with the theory of abstract ideas?'
  36. 'What more easy to conceive a tree or house existing by itself, independent of and unperceived by any mind soever?' How does Berkeley reply to this challenge?
  37. Why, according to Hume, does our belief in the continued and distinct existence of objects need to be explained? How satisfactory is his explanation of it?
  38. What exactly did Descartes suppose that the Cogito established? Does it succeed?
  39. Does Descartes reason in a circle when he argues that everything we clearly and distinctly perceive is true because God exists and is not a deceiver?
  40. 'I must... admit that the nature of this piece of wax is in now way revealed by my imagination, but is perceived by the mind alone' (Descartes Second Meditation). What led Descartes to this view? What is its significance?
  41. 'There is not one of my former beliefs about which a doubt may not properly be raised' (Descartes). Does Descartes succeed in showing this in the First Meditation?
  42. In both the Treatise and the first Enquiry, Hume provides two definitions of 'cause'. What does the second definition add to the first, and why did Hume think it necessary to introduce it?
  43. Discuss the strength and weaknesses of Descartes' arguments for the existence of God.
  44. Why did the problem of personal identity cause Hume such severe difficulties that in the end he admitted that he could see no way of providing a coherent account?
  45. Describe and evaluate the arguments that Berkeley used to show that there are no primary qualities in Locke's sense of that term and that all sensible qualities are mind dependant',
  46. Expound and assess Berkeley's arguments for the existence of God.
  47. Why did Locke think it important to distinguish between primary and secondary qualities?
  48. What is Locke's strongest argument against innate ideas and principles? Is it strong enough?
  49. What was Hume trying to do in his account of causation? How successful was he in attaining his objectives?
  50. Is Descartes Guilty of Circular Reasoning?
  51. What was Hume trying to do in his account of causation? How successful was he in attaining his objectives?
  52. Did Descartes succeed in proving the existence of God?
  53. Berkeley's belief in immaterial substance faces the very objections he levels against the materialist's belief in material substance.' Discuss
  54. In what sense, if any, was Hume a sceptic about causation?
  55. Why was it important to Berkeley to attack the theory of abstract ideas? How successful is his attack?
  56. What account did Hume give of the nature of belief? Can he provide a coherent account of why some beliefs are more rational than others?
  57. Why did Hume provide more than one definition of 'cause'? How do his definitions differ, and what is the significance of those differences?
  58. 'The identity which we ascribe to the mind of man is only a fictitious one' (Treatise, I. iv. 6). Did Hume deny the unity of mind, or simply advocate a new view of what it is?
  59. What kind of idea is a simple idea, according to Locke?"
  60. Give a critical account of Descartes's argument for the existence of material things.
  61. What role does the notion of resemblance play in Locke's account of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities? Is his account of the distinction a defensible one?
  62. 'To act consistently one must either admit matter or reject spirit.' Why was Berkeley vulnerable to this objection? How well did he respond to it?
  63. How successfully did Berkeley argue against abstract general ideas? Why was it important for his project to do so?
  64. 'It is in vain to ask whether there be body or not? That is a point which we must take for granted in all our reasonings.' Did Hume succeed in providing a satisfactory explanation for the belief in body?

Ethics: Contemporary Perspectives

  1. If a principle is a moral principle, must it be universalisable?
  2. 'In order to act I must have some end which I desire to achieve by so acting.' Discuss.
  3. Must cognitive theories about conflicts of obligation 'eliminate from the scene the ought that is not acted upon'?
  4. Does consequentialism give a plausible account of the importance of consequences to the moral evaluation of actions?
  5. Can consequentialism adequately account for the way in which we condemn ingratitude or disloyalty and the way in which we praise people who return good for evil?
  6. Is the concept of character important to an adequate account of morality?
  7. 'Impartiality is not the essence of morality; it is one particular virtue.' Discuss.
  8. Is there an important distinction between saying that an act is intrinsically wrong and that it should under no circumstances be done?
  9. Are emotions integral to morality? If so, how?
  10. What is the best way of defining an altruistic act?
  11. Are moral judgments true or false?
  12. Discuss the idea that something is intrinsically valuable if and only if a moral person would choose it for itself.
  13. What kind of objective moral considerations can there be?
  14. Is there a problem about how moral considerations can motivate?
  15. What is it for an action to be self-determined or autonomous? How is this related to moral responsibility?
  16. Is there any form of moral relativism that can escape the charges of incoherence or self-contradiction?
  17. If killing a baby is morally wrong, why isn't contraception also morally wrong?
  18. How coherent is pacifism?
  19. If a doctor has the resources to treat only one of two patients, what sort of grounds should he use to choose which one?
  20. Can one best understand the notion of right action in terms of a conception of an ideally virtuous agent?
  21. Can there sometimes be good reasons for not trying to perform the act whose consequences are better than those of any alternative open to one at the time?
  22. Is moral relativism a coherent view?
  23. In what sense, if any, is ethics objective?

Greek Philosophy 2

  1. What, for Aristotle, is a 'category'?
  2. Has Aristotle's doctrine of categories any relevance to the Third Man Argument?
  3. Does Aristotle believe that Socrates and Callias have the same form?
  4. Explain and assess Aristotle's account of being.
  5. In the Categories Coriscus is a primary substance; man, a secondary substance. Explain this view and its development in Aristotle's later works.
  6. Is Aristotle committed to the existence of featureless prime matter?
  7. What would Aristotle say about the claim that either everything is determined, or some things happen without a cause?
  8. Discuss Aristotle's treatment of infinite quantities and magnitudes, especially with respect to the size and duration of the universe. Are there any inconsistencies here?
  9. Does Aristotle give a good case for a teleological account of nature?
  10. Is Aristotle's account of the soul consistent?
  11. 'All teaching and all intellectual learning come from pre-existing knowledge.' (Posterior Analytics I.) Does Aristotle succeed in defending this claim?
  12. Is Aristotle's doctrine of the mean an empty abstraction or a recommendation for mediocrity?'
  13. In pursuing his own happiness, is Aristotle's man an egoist?
  14. How in Aristotle's view can thought cause action? How on occasion may it fail to cause (correct or expected) action?
  15. 'What is the role of Aristotle's God? Is he explanatory of anything?'
  16. In what sense of 'cause' do Aristotle's four causes deserve the name?
  17. Does Aristotle have any good reason for saying that substances are prior to items in other categories?
  18. 'What motivated the Stoic doctrine of eternal recurrence? Were the Stoics able to solve the philosophical problems it implied?'
  19. 'Evaluate Epicurus' claim that all sensations are true.' I am responding quickly, as your exam is very soon.
  20. 'How successful was Porphyry in arguing that a Platonist philosopher should not sacrifice and eat animals?'
  21. What according to the Categories is the relation between primary and secondary substances?
  22. How do Aristotle's four causes relate to each other? Does he need all four of them?
  23. Discuss Aristotle's proof of an unmoved mover. How does it cause motion?
  24. Does Aristotle achieve a coherent account of substance in Metaphysics Z?

Philosophy of Language

  1. 'Human communication has some extraordinary properties, not shared by most other kinds of human behaviour. One of the most extraordinary is this: If I am trying to tell someone something, then (assuming certain conditions are satisfied) as soon as he recognizes that I am trying to tell him something and exactly what it is that I am trying to tell him, I have succeeded in telling it to him' (SEARLE). Which speech acts have this extraordinary property? Was Searle right to think that the property plays an important part in an account of speech acts?
  2. Does the presence of non-indicative sentences in a language show that truth cannot be used as a central semantic notion in a theory for that language?
  3. How should differences between 'and' and 'but' and differences between 'money' and 'dosh' be accounted for?
  4. What is Carnap's concept of intensional isomorphism? Does it solve the problem it is designed to solve?
  5. What difficulty, according to Quine, arises when we try to specify the semantic representation of a sentence like 'John believes that someone is a spy', on at least one of its readings? Assess Quine's solution of this difficulty.
  6. Is knowing a statement's truth conditions (a) necessary and (b) sufficient for knowing what it means?
  7. Wittgenstein describes one picture of language as follows: 'Every word has a meaning. This meaning is correlated with the word. It is the object for which the word stands.' (Philosophical Investigations 1) Davidson suggests that this picture, correct or not, is no help when it comes to constructing a semantic theory of a language. Is Davidson right?
  8. 'Many sentences of English have never been uttered, and no one has ever meant anything by uttering them. Therefore their meaning cannot be determined by speaker's intentions.' Discuss.
  9. 'The Gricean line of explanation [of meaning] is hence essentially no more than a sophisticated version of the code conception of language.' (DUMMETT) Discuss.
  10. How does Grice distinguish between what is said by an utterance and what is implicated by it? Is this distinction defensible?
  11. 'Quine's thesis of indeterminacy of translation is a reductio ad absurdum of his behaviourism.' Discuss.
  12. What is Quine's proxy-function argument? Is it convincing?
  13. In what ways is the semantics of a language compositional? What reasons are there for expecting it to be?
  14. Explain Kaplan's notions of character and content. What role do they leave for truth in the semantics of a language?
  15. 'For it is a fashionable mistake to take as primary "(The sentence) 'S' is true (in the English language)". Here the addition of the words "in the English language" serves to emphasize that "sentence" is not being used as equivalent to "statement", so that it precisely is not what can be true or false.' (AUSTIN) Why is this a mistake? Can the mistake be rectified by relativising truth to parameters?
  16. 'B is true :=: ($p). B is a belief that p & p. Def' (RAMSEY). Is this an adequate definition of 'true' as it applies to individual states of belief?
  17. 'As a philosophical account of truth, Tarski's theory fails as badly as it is possible to fail.' (PUTNAM) Discuss.

Philosophy of Mind

  1. What does the possibility of hallucination reveal about the nature of perceptual experience?
  2. Can one be in error about one's own mind?
  3. 'If mental causes were not physical, they would be epiphenomenal.' Discuss.
  4. Is there something it is like to hold a belief?
  5. 'Mental representations represent things in virtue of a causal relation which holds between representation and world.' Discuss.
  6. How should we understand the relationship between a belief ascription and the belief itself?
  7. To what extent are our beliefs about other people's mental states justified by an inference to the best explanation?
  8. 'If one has to imagine someone else's pain on the model of one's own, this is none too easy a thing to do...' (WITTGENSTEIN). Is this true?
  9. What, if anything, would Frank Jackson's Mary learn on seeing something red for the first time? If she learns something, does that show that physicalism is false?
  10. What is the 'explanatory gap' and does it cast doubt on the truth of materialism?
  11. 'If physicalism were true, zombies would not be conceivable.' Discuss.
  12. Can we understand the mind in terms of dispositions to behaviour?
  13. 'Functionalism can provide a good account of our beliefs and desires but not our tickles and pains.' Discuss.
  14. 'To explain why a subject acted as she did is to situate her action in a wider rational context; it is not to provide a causal account of her movements.' Discuss.
  15. Are emotions feelings of changes in the body?
  16. Explain the different facets of our ordinary, pre-philosophical idea of the soul, giving examples that relate to your own experience. What impact does philosophical enquiry have on those ideas?