Test Questions: Epistemology I: Rationalism (Plato, Descartes)

Answers at end.

True/False (True=A; False=B)

1. Epistemology is the study of the origin, structure, and extent of reality.

2. When I say I know something, I do not always have to believe what I claim to know.

3. Even though only true propositions can be known, it is possible to believe a proposition that is false.

 4. Because rationalism does not rely on sense experience for knowledge, it is inappropriate to speak of a "rationalist epistemology."

5. Because rationalism does not rely on sense experience, it cannot account for how we know anything.

 6. Because rationalism does not rely on sense experience, it cannot provide justified true beliefs (i.e., knowledge) about a priori propositions.

 7. According to Plato, the eternal Forms or Ideas are the universal characteristics by which things are what they are and are known as what they are.

8. In Plato's account, Meno's Paradox refers to the problem of explaining how someone can remember anything about the realm of the Forms after the shock of being born into this world.

9. Plato's Forms are copies of the things we experience in this world.

10. According to Plato, our knowledge about things in the sensible world is not based on sense experience but on our a priori apprehension of the Forms.

11. Plato's theory of recollection is his way of explaining how we know perfect or ideal instances of things (e.g., what a perfect triangle is) even though we have never experienced such things with our senses.

12. In his account of the Divided Line, Plato says that objects of reason and understanding (e.g., mathematical objects and Forms) depend on objects of belief and imagination (e.g., sensible objects) to be known.

13. In Plato's Allegory of the Cave, the figures that cast shadows on the back wall of the cave are supposed to be understood as the Forms in terms of which things outside of the Cave are intelligible.

14. According to Plato, to understand a thing means being able to conceive the thing in terms of the concept or logos by which it is intelligible.

15. According to Plato, the Form of the Good is the ultimate cause or rationale for every meaningful or intelligible thing.

16. For Plato, all knowledge (as opposed to opinion) is innate insofar as it is based on reasoning that cannot have been obtained through sense experience.

17. Plato's rationalism is a foundationalist epistemology because it assumes that real knowledge is possible only if it is based on some certain, unchanging priniciples (which in Plato's case are the Forms).

18. According to Descartes, we cannot say that we know things about the world based on sense experience because we can be deceived by our senses or might simply be dreaming.

19. According to Descartes, knowledge is justified only if it is based on an undoubtable principle or belief.

20. In order to know that he exists, Descartes first has to prove that his bodily senses can be trusted when they reveal to him that he is behaving in a thinking manner.

21. The methodic doubt by which Descartes hopes to achieve certainty and a foundation for claims of knowledge is, for him, both a real and reasonable doubt about the existence of things.

22. Descartes' "methodic doubt" is intended to raise doubts about illusions, dreams, and occasionally sense experiences--but not about beliefs concerning the self, God, or one's own body.

 23. According to Descartes, since sense experience is sometimes deceiving, it cannot be the ultimate and indubitable (undoubtable) basis for knowledge.

 24.  An a priori statement is one whose truth/falsity is known without having to appeal to experience.

25. An a posteriori statement is one whose truth/falsity is known without having to appeal to experience.

 26. Even though a posteriori propositions can sometimes be universal, they are never necessary (that is, they are always contingent).

 27.  The point of Descartes' appeal to an evil genius (as opposed to his discussion of illusions and dreams) is to raise doubts about his knowledge of a posteriori propositions.

28. The point of Descartes' discussion of the evil genius (as opposed to his discussion of illusions and dreams) is to show that our faith in sense experience is unjustified.

 29.  The point of Descartes' appeal to an evil genius (as opposed to his discussion of illusions and dreams) is to raise doubts about his knowledge of a priori propositions.

 30.  Descartes uses the methodic doubt to show that there is at least one thing that can be known with absolute certainty, namely, that he exists.

 31. By means of his "methodic doubt," Descartes is able to show that there is one thing we can know with absolute certainty--namely, that we cannot know anything with certainty.

 32. Dualists (like Descartes) argue that human beings are composed of immaterial bodies and material souls or minds.

 33. In order for the self to exist, Descartes argues, there must be an infinite being (God) in terms of which the self's knowledge of itself as a finite existence is intelligible.

34. Because Descartes knows of God only through his sense experience of the world, his argument that if he exists then God must exist is based on a posteriori propositions.

 35. By means of his wax example Descartes wants to show how our ideas of substance and identity are not based on sense experience.

 36. Descartes claims that when we know a physical object (e.g., wax) clearly and distinctly, we do not rely on our intellect or reason but rather think of the object solely by means of our senses.

 37. Philosophical skepticism claims that nothing exists.

 38. Epistemology does not consider skepticism as a legitimate theory because skepticism claims that we can never be completely justified in our beliefs.

 39. A solipsist is someone who doubts whether anything else exists other than his or her own mind.

 40. According to Descartes, no all-good God would permit us ever to make mistakes about what we claim to know about the world using our senses.

 41. According to Descartes, the criteria or principles for determining whether a claim is true are clarity and distinctness.

 42. By assuming that knowledge is possible by reasoning alone, rationalists like Plato and Descartes conclude that the only things we ever know to exist are our minds and their ideas.

Multiple Choice

43. Which of the following IS NOT a necessary characteristic for saying that Mary knows that today is Monday?
  (a) It must be, in fact, true that today is Monday.
  (b) Mary must be able to give a reason or justification for thinking that today is Monday.
  (c) Mary could not have been tricked into thinking that today is any day other than Monday.
  (d) Mary must believe that today is Monday.

44. To say that you know that there is life on other planets necessarily implies that you believe there is life on other planets, that you have reasons to back up your belief, and that:
  (a) life on other planets is perhaps vastly different from what we are used to.
  (b) you can trust your senses when you see extraterrestrial life forms.
  (c) you have experienced life on other planets personally.
  (d) there is, in fact, life on other planets.

45. In order for me to know that birds fly, it must be true that birds do fly, because:
  (a) if it were not the case that birds fly, then I would know that which is not true; in short, I would know no thing: I would not know.
  (b) whenever I claim to know something, I have to rely on what I have been taught.
  (c) if it is true that birds fly (as it, in fact, is), then I cannot be mislead into thinking otherwise.
  (d) unless I have seen birds fly I will not believe others when they tell me that birds do, in fact, fly.

46. For Plato, ordinary sensible objects exist and are knowable as examples or instances of Ideas or "Forms" that do not exist in our ordinary sensible world.  Forms do not exist in the sensible world because Forms:
  (a) are generalizations of our sensible experiences that depend on our imaginations when we are asked the right kinds of questions.
  (b) would not exist unless there were individual things in the sensible, experienced world by means of which the Forms could be known.
  (c) are not individual things but are rather the universal essences or natures by which individual things are what they are and are known.
  (d) are constantly changing and are thus useless in providing any knowledge about things in our ordinary sensible experience.

47. According to Plato the Forms in terms of which all sensible objects exist and are known must exist apart from the sensible world because:
  (a) the only Forms that exist in the sensible world are abstractions (e.g., triangularity, justice) but not real things (e.g., mud, hair).
  (b) sensible objects (e.g., triangles drawn on the chalkboard) exist and are known only in terms of Forms that exist in a supersensible realm.
  (c) the sensible world is the world that "makes sense" of appearances, the world in terms of which Forms get their meaning.
  (d) we truly know something only in terms of its unchanging, perfect essence, and everything that appears to us in the sensible world changes or is imperfect.

48. In Plato's idealism, the unchanging Ideas or "Forms" in terms of which sensible objects both exist and are known must transcend (that is, exist beyond) the changing realm of appearances; because if Forms changed, then:
  (a) the only things in the sensible world that we could ever experience would be concepts.
  (b) the sensible realm (in contrast to the intelligible realm) would consist only of copies of real things.
  (c) nothing in the experienced world could be or be identified as one determinate thing or another.
  (d) the sensible world would consist of unchanging Forms.

49.  In his discussion of the Divided Line, Plato says that, in contrast to mere belief or opinion, knowledge is a belief for which we give reasons or justifications by appealing:
 (a) to what our senses reveal to us about how things appear to us, not how they really are.
 (b) beyond the Forms to images of goodness, beauty, and truth obtained from particular objects.
 (c) to what we sincerely believe is true about the Forms based on our experiences in the world.
 (d) beyond sense experience to unchanging ideas (Forms) that are perceived as rationally ordered.

50. In Plato's Divided Line, an ordinary sensible thing (e.g., your desk) is an object of belief but is not an object of understanding or reason. To think of it as an object of understanding or reason, we would have to conceive of it:
  (a) based on what we can picture using our senses or based on what we know from sensation.
  (b) as a thing that exists only in our minds or that exists in the physical, sensible world apart from minds.
  (c) in purely mathematical terms or in terms of the Form that identifies it as an object in the first place.
  (d) as a concept that is more real than the Form that identifies it as an object in the first place.

51. In Plato's allegory of the cave, the Forms and mathematical objects (e.g., triangles) are represented by things outside the cave and shadows or reflections of things outside the cave.  Inside the cave the objects carried by the figures in front of the fire and the shadows cast on the wall by those objects represent:
  (a) the things we normally experience using our senses, the realm of appearances.
  (b) things such as mud and hair that do not seem to have a Form by which they are intelligible.
  (c) the Forms we remember after we have sensible experiences and recover from the shock of being born.
  (d) things that are understood when we try to use reason alone without the benefit of relying on our senses as well.

52.  Plato indicates that the knowledge of pure reason is preferable to conceptual understanding, because knowing that something is a certain kind of thing is not as good as knowing:
  (a) how we come to learn what to call a thing in virtue of our own experiences.
  (b) the logos or rationale of the thing, that is, why it is the way it is.
  (c) why we differ among ourselves about what we claim to know.
  (d) the difference between knowledge and opinion as outlined in Plato's divided line image.

53. Like most rationalists, Plato defines knowledge as justified true belief.  In terms of this definition, we might be able to claim to know something as true which might actually be false, but it is impossible for us really to know something that is false.  Why?
 (a) Because to know something that is false is to know no real thing, nothing (i.e., not to know at all).
 (b) Because what we know as true is ultimately based on what we claim to know as true.
 (c) Because we cannot give a justification or reason for believing in something that is false.
 (d) Because in contrast to our knowledge of the unchanging Forms, beliefs about particular objects can change.

54. According to Plato, we can attain knowledge only by seeing beyond this world of particular, changing objects to the true essences or Forms in terms of which things in this world are intelligible.  For example, we know what triangularity is not from comparing sensible triangles but by thinking of the ideal of triangularity in terms of which these sensible figures are recognized as triangles.  From this Plato concludes that all knowledge (as opposed to opinion) is innate, because:
  (a) from the moment we are born we know what things are in the world in terms of ideas that we get through our senses.
  (b) since we are born with senses (that is, our senses are innate), we can know things about the sensible world with certainty as long as we rely on the senses alone.
  (c) our knowledge of the world is not really of the sensible world itself but of the world grasped mathematically and ideally.
  (d) since our absolutely certain knowledge of things cannot be based on the changing things in sensible experience, it must merely be triggered by sensible experience.

55. "When a person starts on the discovery of the absolute by the light of reason only, and without any assistance of sense, and perseveres until by pure intelligence he arrives at the perception of the absolute good, he at last finds himself at the end of the intellectual world. . . . Dialectic, and dialectic alone, goes directly to the first principle and is the only science which does away with hypotheses in order to make her ground secure."  Here Plato indicates how hypothetical knowledge cannot provide the foundation of dialectical knowledge, because hypotheses simply:
 (a) explain sense experiences in terms of general concepts which themselves are not explained.
 (b) show how particular objects of experience cause us to recall innate ideas.
 (c) describe sense experience without providing an explanation for dialectical methods.
 (d) reject the use of reason, preferring instead dialectic, to achieve knowledge.

56. Plato's suggestion that knowledge is innate or remembered as a result of being triggered by experience is in response to a paradox he sets up for himself.  The paradox, now referred to as Meno's Paradox, has to do with the question of:
  (a) how knowledge of the Forms can ever be anything other than a generalization of experience.
  (b) how a person can remember anything about the realm of the Forms after the shock of being born into this world.
  (c) how anyone can recognize the correct answer to a question without already knowing the answer.
  (d) how concepts bound to the realm of becoming have meaning only when associated with the realm of Being.

57. According to Descartes, illusions and dreams often appear as real as ordinary sense experience, but they obviously cannot provide us with any certainty about the world.  Because sense experience is also often mistaken, it too cannot provide a dependable ground for knowledge.  Given such a situation, he concludes, the most responsible thing that a true searcher for truth can do is to engage in methodic doubt--that is, a doubt about:
 (a) those things for which we have good reason to doubt.
 (b) only those things for which we have no good reason to doubt.
 (c) contingent but not necessary truths.
 (d) everything, even if such a doubt seems unreasonable.

58. After noting that we sometimes have been deceived by our senses, Descartes argues that we cannot rely on any sense experience as the basis for knowledge because:
  (a) even in our dreams we experience the same kinds of objects that we experience while awake.
  (b) without our sense experiences we would not know what words like "doubt" mean.
  (c) a posteriori propositions always depend for their truthfulness on sense experience.
  (d) we never know which sense experiences are accurate, so we should play it safe and doubt them all.

59. Which of the following is an a priori proposition?
  (a) All material objects are extended (that is, they take up space).
  (b) Some material objects are heavier than others.
  (c) All physical objects are seen sometime or other by some human being.
  (d) Some material objects are living creatures.

60. As the product of his methodic doubt, the proposition "I think, therefore I am" provides Descartes with exactly what he as a rationalist needs to develop an epistemology, namely:
 (a) a criterion or rule by which to distinguish a priori from a posteriori propositions.
 (b) an indubitable, certain principle on which to ground all other claims of knowledge.
 (c) a way of distinguishing empiricist principles from rationalist principles of knowledge.
 (d) the basis for an a posteriori proof for the existence of God.

61. Descartes argues that the cogito (I think, I exist) is the foundation for all subsequent knowledge because it:
  (a) provides an indubitable principle on which all other claims of knowledge can be based.
  (b) is the first step in Descartes' method of doubt.
  (c) is not really known to be true but is rather something that everyone believes.
  (d) can be doubted just as much as anything else we might claim to know.

62. Descartes appeals to the device of the evil genius to make sure that we do not uncritically accept a priori propositions without first allowing for the possibility that we might be wrong about them.  Why?
  (a) Unlike a posteriori propositions that depend for their truth or falsity on experience, a priori propositions are known as true or false prior to experience.
  (b) A priori propositions are both necessary and universal, whereas a posteriori propositions are not.
  (c) If there is the slightest possibility that we could be wrong about the foundation of our knowledge, then everything based on that foundation is questionable.
  (d) The evil genius is Descartes' way of ensuring that he does not forget how his whole project of methodic doubt is itself prior to any experiences (and thus a priori).

63. Descartes' evil genie hypothesis is not intended to raise doubt about whether our senses can be trusted or whether our bodies and the physical world exist: the possibility of sense deception and dreaming has already done that.  The point of the evil genie hypothesis is to:
  (a) make sure that we don't forget just how deceived we can be about our senses, our body, and world.
  (b) show how dreaming lacks the coherence of being awake and thus cannot be confused with it.
  (c) provide a means whereby we can escape from the skepticism created by universal doubt.
  (d) raise doubts about a priori beliefs and reasoning abilities that do not depend on sense or being awake.

64. To know anything with certainty about the world, Descartes first has to prove that God exists because:
  (a) without God there is no reasonable hope for an afterlife and thus no reason to act morally.
  (b) a perfect (all-good) God would not allow us to be wrong when we know things clearly and distinctly.
  (c) if God's existence is doubtful, so is Descartes' existence; so he has to prove that God exists.
  (d) as the most important thing in the world, God is the first thing that must be shown to exist.

65. Which of the following IS NOT a typical objection raised against a rationalist view such as Descartes'?
  (a) A priori propositions may be true, but they tell us nothing about the way the world is.
  (b) Sense experience may not be certain, but we are often justified in claiming to know things based on it.
  (c) We never really know physical objects other than as intelligible (mathematical, quantifiable) objects.
  (d) There is no agreement on which ideas or beliefs are self-evident or innate.

66. According to the "epistemological turn" epitomized by Descartes' philosophy, epistemology takes precedence over metaphysics.  In other words, in Descartes' philosophy:
 (a) that which is real is more important than that which is imaginary.
 (b) before we can know what exists, we must know what we can know and what knowing means.
 (c) knowing something to be true comes after believing something to be true.
 (d) nothing exists without first being known by human beings to exist.

67. Descartes' wax example indicates how we can know what a thing (e.g., wax) is:
 (a) in purely mathematical terms, without having to rely on what our senses tell us about it.
 (b) only after it has changed into something which it originally is not.
 (c) in terms about which even the evil genius could not have tricked us.
 (d) without having to relate scientific truth to religious belief.

68. Descartes' wax example is intended to show that the wax is the same substance before and after it is melted, and this observation indicates how:
 (a) our senses portray the physical characteristics of wax in purely non-sensible ways.
 (b) our knowledge of sensible objects (e.g., wax) is based on what reason, not sense, identifies.
 (c) without sense experiences, we would not know whether the wax before and after melting is the same.
 (d) knowing that something is wax is the same thing as sensibly experiencing something as wax.

69.  Both Plato and Descartes are often identified as rationalists because they agree generally on a series of beliefs that distinguish them from empiricists.  Which of the following IS NOT a typical rationalist claim?
 (a) Though sense experience is sometimes deceptive, it is necessary for true knowledge.
 (b) Sense experience cannot be trusted to provide knowledge.
 (c) Reason alone must be the means for getting knowledge.
 (d) Knowledge is based ultimately on innate ideas and a priori principles.

1. B
2.  B
3.  A
4.  B
5.  B
6.  B
7.  A
8.  B
9.  B
10.  A
11.  A
12.  B
13.  B
14.  A
15.  A
16.  A
17.  A
18.  A
19.  A
20.  B
21.  B
22.  B
23.  A
24.  A
25.  B
26.  A
27.  B
28.  B
29.  A
30.  A
31.  B
32.  B
33.  A
34.  B
35.  A
36.  B
37.  B
38.  B
39.  A
40.  B
41.  A
42.  B
43.  C
44.  D
45.  A
46.  C
47.  D
48.  C
49.  D
50.  C
51.  A
52.  B
53.  A
54.  C
55.  A
56.  C
57.  D
58.  D
59.  A
60.  B
61.  A
62.  C
63.  D
64.  B
65.  C
66.  B
67.  A
68.  B
69.  A