PHIL 3120: American Philosophy

University of West Georgia

Spring 2013


Date: Tuesday February 26


·         This test will be worth 35% of your total course grade. This is a timed test; you will have 75 minutes to complete the test.

·         The test will begin promptly at the official start time of class. It is important that you be in your seat and prepared to begin at the official start time. If you arrive late for the test, you will not be given extra time to finish.

·         See my online test archive for examples of past tests in other courses:


You are required to provide your own blue book for the test. Blue books are mini notebooks designed especially for writing tests. They are available from the UWG Bookstore. They come in two sizes: small and large. Small should be large enough, unless you have really large handwriting, in which case you may want to use a large bluebook.





Section I will consist of definition questions [20% of total test grade]. I will give you a short list of terms and phrases to define. The terms and phrases will come from the following list:


·         JTB theory

·         representationalism about belief

·         correspondence theory of truth

·         realism

·         relativism

·         skepticism

·         epistemic certainty

·         psychological certainty

·         fallibilism

·         idealism (standard definition and Peirce’s broad definition)

·         dualism

·         tautology

·         a priori

·         a posteriori

·         rationalism

·         empiricism

·         contrary [as in “contrary propositions”]


Your definitions should as be as detailed, clear and precise as possible. For example, the following is not an adequate definition of the term “a priori”: “independent of experience.” This would get you partial credit, but not full credit. A much better definition is this: “An a priori statement is one that can be known to be true or false independent of sense experience, for example, ‘All bachelors are unmarried’ and ‘Triangles have three sides.’”




Section II will consist of one discussion question [80% of total test grade]. You will be given three questions and allowed to choose one to answer. Your answer should be as detailed, clear and precise as time allows. In other words, tell me everything you know about the question asked. If you omit something that is relevant to the question, I will assume that you do not know the material you are omitting.


1.      Explain and critically discuss Peirce's criticism of Cartesianism in “Some Consequences of Four Incapacities.” Your answer should address the Cartesian doctrines that Peirce rejects, as well as the doctrines with which he wants to replace them.


2.      Explain and critically discuss Peirce’s explanation of belief, doubt and inquiry, and of the four methods of fixing belief, as he discusses those issues in “The Fixation of Belief.”


3.      Explain and critically discuss Peirce’s pragmatism as put forward in “How to Make Our Ideas Clear,” including his pragmatic maxim, and how he applies it to the concepts of reality and truth.


4.      Drawing on “The Present Dilemma in Philosophy” and “What Pragmatism Means,” explain and critically discuss James’s view that pragmatism can bridge the gap between two traditional philosophical “temperaments.”


5.      Drawing on “What Pragmatism Means” and “Pragmatism’s Conception of Truth,” explain and critically discuss James’s pragmatic theory of truth.


In these questions, the phrase “critically discuss” indicates that, in your discussion, you should not simply describe the views you are discussing; you should also consider reasons for and/or against believing those views. In other words, you need to show me, not simply that you understand the views in question, but that you have been thinking about whether there is good reason to accept them.


I expect that you will spend between 40 and 50 minutes on this essay during the 75 minutes you will have to take the test. I realize that, for some essay questions on this study guide, we may have covered more material than you can address in that length of time. So in preparing for the test, you should select which claims and concepts you plan to discuss while writing your answers.


It is very unwise to study by simply reading through the lecture notes and textbook again and again and then to attempt to compose an essay “on the fly” while taking the test. In preparing to take the test, you should, at the very least, construct an outline of each of the essays you may be asked to write. I strongly recommend that you go beyond simply constructing outlines and actually practice writing your essays as much as possible while preparing for the test. The efficacy of this study method, which requires that you put away your books and notes and engage in active recall of the course material, has been demonstrated by recent psychological research; see David Glenn, “Close the Book. Recall. Write It Down,” Chronicle of Higher Education 55 (34): May 1, 2009 (available online through GALILEO, accessible via the UWG Library website).