2022 Fall, PHIL1100
Midterm Takehome Exam (Week 7, Oct.17-21, due Oct. 21, Friday, 12 noon)
Note: Word limits for your answers are strict.
Read very slowly and carefully, perhaps twice or more, the quotes in this exam. Be faithful to the text in your interpretation and engagement, do not read into things (ideas) that are not in the original text, make reasonable inferences or draw reasonable implications from the text. If you have a guess on the text or if you want to change the context or scenario depicted in the text, make sure you indicate that (“my guess is…”, or “if I change the scenario like this…then….”).
1. In the following two passages, one philosophy discourse and the other religious (and philosophical) discourse, the authors stand or imagine to stand on a special position (unlike one specific position one takes in everyday life or one taken by a specific scientist in a particular discipline). Explain how these ambitious discourses are different from those in natural sciences (physics, chemistry, or biology). Explain whether these ambitious discourses contradict with discourses in natural sciences. (It is raining and it is not raining in Richmond today. This is a contradiction). [ 300 words limit; every sentence count]
“I am a physical object sitting in a physical world. Some of the forces of this physical world impinge on my surface. Light rays strike my retinas; molecules bombard my eardrums and fingertips. I strike back emanating concentric airwaves. These waves take the form of a torrent of discourse about tables, people, molecules, retinas, air waves, prime numbers, infinite classes, joy and sorrow, good and evil.”
(W. V. Quine, 1908-2000)
Genesis [in the Bible]: 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
2. To demonstrate your carefulness and skills in reading and understanding a philosophy text, read the following passage by German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804):
[What is the most important thing in ethics?]
Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good, without qualification, except a good will. Intelligence, wit, judgement, and the other talents of the mind, however they may be named, or courage, resolution, perseverance, as qualities of temperament, are undoubtedly good and desirable in many respects; but these gifts of nature may also become extremely bad and mischievous if the will which is to make use of them, and which, therefore, constitutes what is called character, is not good. It is the same with the gifts of fortune. Power, riches, honour, even health, and the general well-being and contentment with one’s condition which is called happiness, inspire pride, and often presumption, if there is not a good will to correct the influence of these on the mind, and with this also to rectify the whole principle of acting and adapt it to its end. The sight of a being who is not adorned with a single feature of a pure and good will, enjoying unbroken prosperity, can never give pleasure to an impartial rational spectator. Thus a good will appears to constitute the indispensable condition even of being worthy of happiness.
There are even some qualities which are of service to this good will itself and may facilitate its action, yet which have no intrinsic unconditional value, but always presuppose a good will, and this qualifies the esteem that we justly have for them and does not permit us to regard them as absolutely good. Moderation in the affections and passions, self-control, and calm deliberation are not only good in many respects, but even seem to constitute part of the intrinsic worth of the person; but they are far from deserving to be called good without qualification, although they have been so unconditionally praised by the ancients. For without the principles of a good will, they may become extremely bad, and the coolness of a villain not only makes him far more dangerous, but also directly makes him more abominable in our eyes than he would have been without it. (Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, trans. Thomas Kingsmill Abbott)
(1) Use your own words to summary the gist of the above passage [50 words limit]. You need to really digest the passage above before trying to compressed it into 50 words.
(2) Use an example (you experienced, can think of, or you have read somewhere else) to show why Kant’s view is important. [100 words limit]