Philosophy Study Guide

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Philosophy and Persons – Phil 130
Partial Study Guide for Exam #1
Possible Topics for Extended Response

Be prepared to write a solid paragraph on the following topics:

1. Montaigne and Locke’s theory of perception and how its distinction between appearance and reality provides a basis for skepticism about knowledge of the external world. They both believe that the senses provide information to people, but that all of the information obtained cannot be fully trusted. The reason is because our senses are faulty. We live in a world that is constantly changing or in a world of things “becoming.” Nothing is constant and the physical aspects of objects can easily and readily be altered. He makes truth of this by using the candle example. At first, the candle appeared to have a distinct shape, size, and form, but when melted, it’s appearance changed as well. Like the candle, our views on what we call reality can be changed effortlessly and in an instant. Also, all of our perceptions are conditioned and unique to each person. For example, an apple may appear red to the majority of people, but it appears green to color-blind people. Because both are observable qualities extracted from the external world via the senses, who is to judge which person is seeing the object accurately. We only know what it appears to us so our perspective on what is actually reality is not reliable.

2. Explain the steps by which Descartes (in Meditation 1) seeks to bring all his beliefs into doubt, what can be doubted at each step and why, and the purpose for doing so. The aim of Descartes’ first meditation is to first rid the mind of opinion and to only believe what is true. The second goal of his is to begin to put sciences on a firm foundation. He plans on achieving these goals by using a methodological doubt process in which he will see if he can discover a basis or corrosive agent that can bring all his beliefs into doubt. He believes that once a belief can be doubted, all information stemmed from that will be doubtful and that it is not something that can constitutes knowledge. In order to find the corrosive agent, he uses the methodological process which draws attention to the progression of doubt. a. Fallability of sense experience: although many things are deceiving, there are certain things that cannot be doubted such as geometry and math. Doubt sensible perceptions. b. Possibility of dreaming: because we cannot distinguish between dreams and reality, we can now doubt every physical object or that an external world even exists. c. God: Because an omnipotent god might have been deceiving him the whole time, he doubts the truth of everything. But he wouldn’t do that, so it’s most likely a demon deceiving me.

3. From Meditations 1 and 2 explain how Descartes reaches the one unshakeable truth – “I am, I exist.” The second meditation starts out by reviewing the first meditation. So far, he has suspended all of his judgments and now has extensive criteria on things to doubt because his senses are distrusted. So even though he cannot trust anything, he has the ability to think that he is being deceived. And because he has the ability to bring light to this issue, he developed his theory of cogito, ergo sum meaning I think, therefore I am. He can hypothetically suggest he doesn’t exist, but to entertain that doubt, he must think therefore he exists. This truth can be trusted because it does not derive from sensory information nor depends on the external world. To be aware is to exist.

4. From Meditation 2 explain what Descartes seeks to illustrate about reason, imagination, and the senses with the wax example and how this illustration supports this conclusion. The wax scene is one that is very foundational to Descartes’ stance on how the sensible perceptions of the external world cannot be trusted. When he is initially holding the candle, it has a certain form, shape, size, color, smell, and sound made when struck. However, all...
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