Practice Questions

for D. Palmer's Visions of Human Nature

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Chapter 4 - The Medieval Vision of Human Nature

1. Which of the following was characteristic of the medievals' attitudes toward the academic and philosophical heritage of the past?
(a) The struggle to disprove ancient Greek texts recovered by Muslim and Jewish scholars, which were viewed as dangerously false or even heretical.
(b) A keen understanding that the ancient knowledge contains many contradictions, and a desire to sort through these contradiction to discover which of the ancient schools was closest to Christian doctrine.
(c) The active creation of new knowledge based on Christian doctrine accompanied by a renunciation of the scholarly heritage of the past.
(d) A dedication to natural science over philosophy and scholarly theology, in favor of studying the natural world, God's Book of Nature.
(e) A reverent attitude expressed in the linguistic connection that has come down to us between "author" and "authoritative" and dedicated to the reconciliation of one author with another and all of the ancient authors with Scripture.

2. Which of the following is Aquinas's "cosmological argument" for the existence of God?
(a) We can conceive of a being than which none greater can exist, and any such being must have real existence or it would not truly be a being than which nothing greater can exist, lacking the attribute of being real. Thus, God's existence is logically entailed by our ability to conceive of a being than which nothing greater can exist.
(b) A careful empirical study of the Book of Nature reveals the presence of an overarching divine plan, and only God could have so ordered the perfections of the observable world.
(c) Many things in the universe may either exist or not exist, and these beings are referred to as "contingent beings." However, it is impossible for everything in the universe to be contingent, and so there must be a being whose existence is necessary, i.e. God.
(d) Every event in the observable world has an efficient cause, and since there cannot be an infinite series of causes, there must be a first cause not of the observable world, which we call God.
(e) None of the above; Aquinas did not believe that the existence of God could be rationally demonstrated, and that we could only come to know God through faith and revelation.

3. What advantage did the medieval picture of human nature, based on the narrative of salvation history and the concept of God's signs as evident in the world, offer to believers?
(a) It offered even those whose life involved a great deal of suffering a way to make sense of their lives in the wider scheme of things.
(b) It blurred the distinction between self and world and between self and other in a world of hostile natural forces and rigid class distinctions.
(c) It related present events to the complete picture of the cosmos, i.e. the meaningful whole, allowing people to approach reality as a seamless whole.
(d) All of the above; there were many advantages to the medieval conception of human nature.
(e) None of the above; the medieval conception of human nature was simply a terroristic instrument of the Church.

4. All of the followings claims, save one, represent the medieval view of human nature. Which statement is not representative of the medieval viewpoint?
(a) Human beings are creatures who are by origin both natural and supernatural.
(b) The task of a human being is to follow God's signs and guidance to salvation, as they are capable of comprehending the hidden meaning of the Book of Nature.
(c) All human lives are meaningful, no matter how mean or debased they are, when placed within the narrative of salvation history.
(d) Human beings have free will, and thus the ability to choose either good or evil.
(e) Each individual human being must construct his own narrative of God's providential action out of the events of his particular life.

5. Careful interpretive readings of Scripture were paramount in the medieval philosophy, and so the medievals cultivated which of the following ways of reading the Old Testament?
(a) Topologically, as the unveiling of a hidden moral truth.
(b) Allegorically, showing the Old Testament as prefiguring the New.
(c) Historically, as having a straightforward literal reading.
(d) Analogically, as foreshadowing the mystery of a future life and of eternal bliss.
(e) All of the above; medieval scholars had a complex understanding of their hermeneutic (interpretive) task.

6. For what reason did Anselm formulate the so-called "ontological argument" for the existence of God?
(a) To increase his own understanding of God that he might thereby increase the strength of his own belief.
(b) To counter the skeptical arguments of the atheists and agnostics of his time.
(c) To add a sixth demonstration to Saint Thomas Aquinas's "Five Ways," or five proofs of God's existence.
(d) To counter a dangerous heresy known as Arianism.
(e) As a form of meditation upon God's nature as "that than which nothing greater can be conceived".

7. The medieval period had symbolic associations for any number of beasts, forming a complex system of semiology (the study of symbols). The lion, for instance, had which of the following connotations for the medievals?
(a) It stood for Christ's resurrection, because lions were thought to sleep with their eyes open and resuscitate their stillborn young on the third day.
(b) It was a sign of Judaism, due to its association with the biblical tribe of Judah.
(c) It was a symbol of the Antichrist, trampled underfoot by Christ.
(d) All of the above; medieval semiotics was full of contradictory associations.
(e) None of the above; the lion was not a particularly important symbol for the Christian church of the middle ages.

8. According to the Palmer, the disadvantage of the medieval system of signs (semiology) is which of the following?
(a) It required an authoritative institution to make sense of whole sweep of history in terms of Scripture and Christ's salvific act.
(b) The requirement that everything be subordinated to God's working through human history slowed the development of the sciences and led to strange catalogues of supposed omens.
(c) It required deciphering an infinite variety of ambiguous signs in the world, leading to many conflicting interpretations.
(d) The medieval accompanied their understanding of history as subordinate to God's plans with terrifying imagery to keep people on the straight and narrow, feeling that they had to rely on such tactics to instruct the illiterate masses.
(e) All of the above; medieval philosophers and theologians faced many challenges in developing their philosophy, despite the importance of the Catholic Church.

9. The medieval concern with the play of signs and symbols has reemerged in the works of recent "postmodern" philosophers like Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, and Jacques Derrida. Why is this the case?
(a) Postmodern philosophers have recently come into a renewed awareness of the personal, social, and religious value of the intellectual work of interpreting divine revelation.
(b) These philosophers look back longingly on the rich texture of moral and religious meaning that pervades the medieval world-view.
(c) Postmodernists believe that the play of signs in language can only be understood through a careful study of the objective world, what the medievals referred to as the Book of Nature.
(d) These philosophers are concerned with making philosophy more of a social force again, and look to the moral authority of the medieval church as exemplar of providing authoritative interpretations of signs and symbols.
(e) The medieval period's struggle to understand the world as a chaotic and often contradictory play of signs and symbols has become pressing again for these thinkers as their awareness of the lack of an authoritative interpretation of the play of signs has grown.

10. According to the author, the medieval conception of human nature differs sharply from the Greek conceptions in so far as
(a) It was a thoroughly religious conception.
(b) It held that humans could achieve happiness on their own efforts.
(c) It was a generally optimistic doctrine.
(d) It was deeply Platonic in its understanding of the order of being.
(e) All of the above.

11. For the medievals the individual's life mirrors the whole narrative of salvation history.

12. In the Middle Ages many forms of atheism and agnosticism challenged the idea of God, eliciting responses from church theologians.

13. Aquinas borrows the term "efficient cause" from Plato.

14. There is no sense of progress in the medieval conception of salvation history.

15. In medieval thinking, human beings are spiritual entities; the physical body and its world should be despised.

Here are some short answer questions you might consider.

1. What are the internal problems responsible for the Fall of Rome in the fifth century?

2. What are human beings supposed to do in order to be judged favorably on the day of Judgement?

3. Why is Anselm's proof of God's existence called ontological argument?

4. What are main functions of the divine semiology?

When you have finished the quiz, click the "Report" button (below) to send a progess report to the instructor.