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Phil. 110 About the Test

The in-class test of Oct. 16 (henceforth, the “midterm”) will be a closed book, closed note, exam consisting of essay questions.  You will write your answer in bluebooks provided.
Different students excel at test of different formats.  To accommodate that, the midterm and the Final Exam on Dec. 18 will be quite different.  For the final exam, students will be given well in advance of the final a list of questions from which the questions on the final will be chosen.  For the midterm, by contrast, the questions will not be distributed in advance.  Depending on the size of the questions (or, more precisely, on the size of the answers the questions call for), you will have to answer two or three essay questions on the midterm.  There will be some choice on your part as to which questions you answer.  So, for example, four questions may appear on the question sheet, and you will be instructed to choose three of them to answer.  Or maybe three questions will appear, and you will be instructed to choose two.  Those are just examples.  What I am committing to is that you will either have to answer two questions or will have to answer three, and that you will have *some* choice (though, as the above examples show, maybe not much).
What will the questions be like?  They will focus on the same issues we have focused on in lecture.  My goal in formulating the questions is not for them to cause you to think, “Wow!  I never expected him to ask *that*!”, but to think, “Well, of course, he would ask that.”  They will ask you to explain the issues we have discussed in lecture.  Some may also ask you to evaluate certain issues, and to defend the position you take.  It will be important to read the question carefully, and provide just what it asks for.
Here is an example of the type of question you might be asked.  (This particular question may, or may not, appear on the midterm.)

Sample Question.  Explain Descartes’s “dream argument” of Meditation I.  What skeptical conclusion is he trying to support, and how does he argue for it?  Does this argument depend on claims about various facts about Descartes’s dreaming life – like that Descartes does often dream, that in dreaming he often has very vivid experiences, etc. – or could it proceed just as well on a “bare” possibility that Descartes might be dreaming: a possibility that would have been present even if Descartes had never dreamt?  Explain and defend your answer.

Note that this question asks you not only to explain the argument in question, but to take a position on a controversial issue.  Give a sensible reason or two to support the position you take.  Given time constraints, remember that you will have to be brief.  Time constraints will force you to choose among the many points you wish to make.  Excellent tests will be those that choose the points that are most important toward answering the questions well.

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