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Friday, March 24, 2006

Sweet relief, for now

Well, I finished my PhD qualifying exams this morning. The first one on the history of modern philosophy was yesterday and went well. I answered the three questions that I was really hoping were going to be on the exam:
  1. What is the charge of circularity against Descartes in the Meditations and how could one defend Descartes against this charge?
  2. Explain the view of creation as held by Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza. Be sure to include Descartes' discussion of the creation of eternal truths, Leibniz's divine calculus, and Spionza's necessitarianism.
  3. What is Locke's view on the primary/secondary quality distinction? How does he argue for this distinction? How does Berkeley critique Locke's view? Does Berkeley misunderstand Locke?

This morning I took the exam on metaphysics and epistemology and, again, the questions I wanted to be on the test most were there:
  1. What is the ontological argument for the existence of God and what are the objections to it? How does it stand up to those objections?
  2. What is (are) the main problem(s) of free will? What is a compatibilist response to the problem(s)? How does compatibilism stand up to objections raised against it?
  3. What is Gettier's objection to the traditional account of knowledge? What are the possible responses to that problem? How do the responses fair to objections?

I feel really good knowing that I answered everything that I wanted to and don't think I forgot anything that was crucial to the arguments. My only concern is that in preparing my notes and outlines, I may have overlooked or forgotten something important and because of that, it didn't end up on the exam. I don't think that is a real plausible scenario, but it is plausible at least.
So, I leave with another request. Please continue to pray for favor among the 5 professors that will be grading the exam. I need to get a 'high pass' to continue in the program. I'll keep you updated.

Grace and peace,

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

Well it's that time of year... I'm among about 8 other graduate students that are trying to spend their time studying for the upcoming M.A. general exam/ Ph.D. qualifying exam. This Thursday at 10:00 I'll be taking a 2 hour test on the history of modern philosophy and then Friday at 10:00 I'll take the metaphysics and epistemology exam. This is quite frightening because if I don't get a "high pass", I don't get to stay in the program.

Fortunately, I have past exams to look through to see what type of questions are usually asked and, in some cases, what the chances are of certain questions being on the exam. This second part is a tremendous help. It's not too fun to think that you have to know enough to write for about 40 minutes each on 6 questions when there are about 40-50 questions to study. My study guide is somewhere between 45-55 pages long, and that's with eliminating many of the questions that have been asked in the past. Here is a list of the questions I feel like I need to knock out of the ballpark the following questions/subjects:

  1. Anselm's Ontological Argument
  2. A compatibilist response to the free will/determinism debate with a critique of that response
  3. The functionalist account of the mind/body problem with critique
  4. A response to Gettier's critique of knowledge consisting of 'justified true belief'
  5. An argument for epistemological skepticism with critique
  6. Descartes' main purposes in writing his Meditations
  7. The charge of circularity against Descartes and a defense of him
  8. Leibniz's law of the 'Indiscernibility of Identicals' and what its supposed to support
  9. Spinoza's position on the mind/body problem noting his doctrine of explanatory isolationism
  10. Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz on God's creation of the world
  11. The discussion around Locke and Berkeley's conception of primary and secondary qualities
  12. Berkeley's idealism with critique, noting how he thinks he avoids skepticism
  13. Hume's view on causation and/or induction

Some of these are almost gauranteed to be on the exam, whereas others just might be. Of these 13 questions, I'll answer 6; 3 on Thursday and 3 on Friday. I'm hoping that I'll have time to at least briefly study for about 6 others just in case I get totally screwed and most of these 13 are on the test. I figure if I can really blow them away with my answers on 2 out of the 3, then it may not be so bad if I don't do as well on that final test. My prayer is that the questions on the exam will include most if not all of these questions. That way I can really just pick the ones I feel the best about and not just the ones I feel less screwed about.

I've had my break now, so it's back to studying. Well, it's actually time for dinner, but then back to studying. Please pray for me this Thursday and Friday morning. Thanks.

Grace and peace