Practice Questions

for D. Palmer's Visions of Human Nature

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Chapter 5 - The Cartesian Vision of Human Nature

1. According to the author, all of the following is true about the Thirty Years War except
(a) It was essentially a religious war between the forces of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counterreformation.
(b) It was the result of the conflict between militant sects of Protestantism and Catholicism.
(c) It reflected the conflict between various ambitious royal houses of Austria, Bohemia, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands.
(d) It reduced the German population by half by disrupting the agriculture and economy of Europe.
(e) It brought the optimism of the Renaissance and Baroque periods to an end.

2. Descartes devised his method of radical doubt, rejecting anything as absolutely false if he could find the least grounds of doubt, in order to
(a) Pursue the epistemological project of tearing down the rickety old house of knowledge in order to build anew from the foundations.
(b) Battle religious dogma by showing that it is based on contradictions and superstitions, leaving only scientific, mathematical knowledge as truly indubitable.
(c) Demonstrate the unavoidability of radical skepticism and the necessity for knowledge based on rational deduction from faith and revelation.
(d) Show that approaching philosophy as a methodological "game" of sorts is sophistical, attempting a reductio ad absurdum of the Scholastics' methods of disputation.
(e) Fight against radical skepticism by showing that even the most radical doubt left current religious and scientific beliefs untouched.

3. Descartes applied his method of radical doubt to
(a) His sense impressions.
(b) The existence of his own body.
(c) The truths of mathematics.
(d) The existence of minds external to his own.
(e) All of the above; Descartes' method of radical doubt was incredibly thorough.

4. Which of the following does Descartes not attempt to demonstrate in his theory of mind?
(a) The mind capable of doubting must necessarily exist (the Cogito).
(b) The mind is immortal.
(c) The mind contains innate ideas.
(d) The mind is contingently connected to the body.
(e) The mind is a thinking substance.

5. In his attempt to catalogue the contents of the mind, Descartes discovers a number of innate ideas, such as the idea of perfect supreme Being. What does Descartes mean by "innate ideas"?
(a) Ideas that are present in the mind before all sense experience.
(b) Ideas placed in our head by a deceptive genius that must be rooted out by empirical science.
(c) Ideas that are demonstrable a posteriori, not a priori.
(d) Ideas that help us regulate our sense experience but do not provide any knowledge themselves.
(e) Ideas that are necessarily true by virtue of their inescapable innateness.

6. According to Descartes, physical substance exhibits which of the following characteristics?
(a) Size, shape, location, divisibility, movement, and tactile sensation.
(b) Colors, sounds, tastes, odors, and tactile sensation.
(c) Sounds, tactile sensations, size, shape, extension, divisibility, and movement.
(d) Size, shape, location, extension, divisibility, and movement.
(e) Thinking, extension, size, shape, location, and movement.

7. Which of the following does not belong amongst Descartes' enumeration of the innate ideas?
(a) The idea of a supremely perfect being.
(b) the concept of identity, by which we know that A = A or 2 + 1 = 3.
(c) The idea of substance.
(d) The possibility that all our ideas are the result of an all-powerful evil genius.
(e) The idea that God is a perfect being and so must exist as well as possessing all other perfections.

8. Which of the followings of Descartes' hypotheses bears out his radical dualism with respect to the relation of mind and body?
(a) The mind meets the body only at the pineal gland.
(b) None of the properties of minds can be mathematically qualified, while all of the properties of physical substance can be.
(c) The mind and the body have no common quality or characteristic.
(d) Bodies obey deterministic physical laws, but the mind is totally free.
(e) All of the above. The Cartesian mind-body problem (arising from Descartes' radical dualism) is generally seen as the single most insoluble problem of his entire philosophy.

9. Having proved the existence of God as a supreme perfect being, Descartes was able to
(a) Recover the use of mathematics as a valid analytical tool.
(b) Eliminate the threat of any inherently malevolent power capable of corrupting his innate ideas.
(c) Free himself from an extreme form of solipsism, the belief that one's own perceptions are the only things that can be known to exist.
(d) Set about to establish the existence of the physical world.
(e) All of the above. Descartes puts tremendous weight on his proof that God must exist and be supremely good, basing almost all of his recovery from radical doubt on this principle.

10. According to the author, the Cartesian self (and to some extent the modern self) is which of the following?
(a) Solitary. Descartes can never demonstrate that other selves exist because only his own existence is indubitable.
(b) Alienated from its own body. The Cartesian self is locked into a radical dualism that seems to make body and mind irreconcilable.
(c) Autonomous. The modern Cartesian self is free to make decisions based on reason without compulsion from the traditional beliefs of others.
(d) Alienated from nature. Descartes' picture of nature contains only extended bodies with no characteristics that cannot be quantified mathematically.
(e) All of the above. The modern Cartesian self is both free to exercise its rationality and precariously close to eternal uncertainty, solitude, and madness.

11. Descartes' most significant scientific achievement was the development of analytic geometry, the demonstration that the totality of Euclidean geometry can be translated into pure arithmetic.

12. The overall aim of Descartes's philosophical project is to show that God must exist and be perfectly good.

13. The argument Descartes used to open up the realm of mathematics to radical doubt was his argument from dreams.

14. According to Descartes, although the human will cannot overturn the deterministic laws of physics, it can intervene in existing causal chains and create new ones.

15. On Descartes' theory, we can infer the existence of other human minds only from their observable behaviors.

Here are some short answer questions you might consider.

1. What is the function of Descartes's demon hypothesis in his "game" of radical doubt?

2. How did Descartes argue for the indubitability of the self?

3. What are some of the problems with the modern self Descartes created, and how would you address them?

4. What's the function of Descartes proof of the existence of God in the overall scope of his philosophical system?

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