Life, the Universe, and Everything

A Course Blog for GET1029/GEK1067

Month: August 2017

A Word About the Quiz Questions (in lieu of a sermon)

From experience, students sometimes have trouble ‘getting’ the quizzes. The below is about the design of the quiz questions and what we are looking for. Maybe it will help you in preparing and answering the questions, I’m not sure. But hopefully, it will help you avoid some false trails and appreciate where your instructors are coming from.

The quizzes are not meant to be about pure recall. This is partly because the quizzes are take home and thus Open Book (and keep in mind that the Final Exam is open book as well), so in principle, you can always look up the answer for purely content recall questions. But more importantly, it’s because we are more interested in testing for something else.

So what are we testing for? We are ultimately testing for your understanding of concepts and your making careful, precise applications or inferences from them. And these are usually difficult, interesting (hopefully as interesting to you as they have been for us), and intellectual-historically significant concepts in philosophy.

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On Right and Wrong Answers

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer in philosophy.” Unfortunately, this is actually far from the truth, especially given usual interpretations of what the claim means. For most questions of interest to philosophers, we tend to think that there really is a right or wrong answer. And needless to say, those of us who came to some determinate conclusions about these questions tend to think that we know what the right answers are, or at the very least, have a well grounded opinion about them. And not just because it’s “me” who happened to be holding this or that answer, but because, well, we have thought long hard about the questions and weighted the pros and cons of the differing positions.

If this is so, whence the oft made remark that there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer in philosophy? This is because there are some things that are often true about philosophy and philosophy classes that have been confused with that less cautious statement.

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