PHIL 3120: American Philosophy

University of West Georgia

Spring 2013


Final Exam


Date: Thursday April 25, 8am – 10:30am


·         This test will be worth 35% of your total course grade. This is a timed test; you will have two and a half hours 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 this course:


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 and, when appropriate, to illustrate with examples. 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”]

·         naturalism

·         coherence theory of truth

·         essential properties

·         accidental properties

·         essentialism

·         utilitarianism


Your answers should as be as detailed, clear and precise as possible. For example, the following is not an adequate explanation of the term "a priori": "independent of experience." This would get you partial credit, but not full credit. A much better answer 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 the following essay/discussion question [80% of total test grade]:


Critically discuss the pragmatism of THREE of these FOUR philosophers:

In addition to explaining the views of the philosophers under discussion, your essay should also examine how each figure either augmented or deviated from “the Traditional View” of concepts such as belief, truth, knowledge, and reality.


In the above question, 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.


Your discussion 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. The more comparisons you make and contrasts you draw among the philosophers you are discussing, the better your discussion will be.


I realize that we have covered more material relevant to this question than you can address in the time you have to take this exam. So in preparing for the test, you should select which claims and concepts you plan to discuss while writing this essay.





It is very unwise to study simply by reading through the lecture notes and textbook again and again and then to attempt to compose your answers “on the fly” while taking the test. In preparing to take the test, you should actually practice taking the test by writing your answers—including your essays—as much as possible. 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).


Dr. Stephen Chew, a psychology professor at Samford University, has described the following four research-based study tips, all of which I strongly recommend:


First, as they study, students should elaborate on the material for connected learning. For example, they should ask themselves, “How does this concept relate to other concepts?”


Second, they should think about the distinctiveness of the concepts; that is, what distinguishes one concept from another. Students should ask themselves, “What are the key differences between this concept and other concepts?”


Third, if possible, they should try to make the information personal by relating it to themselves. Students should ask themselves, “How does this concept relate to my own experience, or what personal example can I think of that illustrates this concept?”


Fourth, they should study with retrieval and application in mind. Instead of reading over material repeatedly, students should close their books and practice recalling and applying the information in the ways the teacher expects them to on exams.


For example, say a student is learning about the Piagetian concept of assimilation. The student can elaborate on the concept by linking it to accommodation as one of the two key processes for cognitive growth. The student should also understand the distinction between assimilation and accommodation, and personal examples of assimilation and accommodation are helpful to do so. Finally, the student should be able to recall and use the concept of assimilation in a way that is expected by the teacher. Obviously, trying to do all these steps while studying is difficult. The allure of shallow, ineffective study strategies is that they are easier to do than more effective study strategies. The more students employ these deeper study strategies, however, the easier they will become; and these study habits will serve them well even beyond college.


[Chew, “Improving Classroom Performance by Challenging Student Misconceptions About Learning,” APS Observer, URL = < >, accessed January 25, 2012.]




Finally, please don’t hesitate to talk to me if you have any questions about the test.