About the course
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About the Final Examination
Final Examination Tips
The material from the first half of the course permitted a useful strategy for the
mid-term review. While the lectures proceeded from figure to figure, in the review session
it was possible to summarize each figure's contribution to a number of themes. The
combination of historically oriented lectures and thematic treatment in the mid-term
review worked well.
Unfortunately, I see no way to take the same approach to the review of the second half
of this course. The reasons for this derive from the rich diversity of figures and themes
to the point that there is profound disagreement among the figures of the second half of
the course even over what are the important issues to debate.
In class, the solution to this problem was to offer a thirty minute summary of a few
topics, filling in a few gaps along the way, and then allowing questions to direct the
rest of the time devoted to the review. For the web page, we shall have to be content with
a few pointers for the exam that may help you focus your studyingbut remember that
you are responsible for all of the material in the second half of the course. At the end
of this page I also include a list of three essay questions from which two will be chosen
for the examination.
Here is an approximate description of the final examination. It is a two-hour,
closed-book test consisting of 5 parts:
- Mark 10 of 12 (or 13) statements True or False, qualifying statements where you feel
this is necessary. (20%)
- Fill in the blanks with appropriate words. (20%)
- Define 10 of 12 (or 13) technical terms in a single sentence. (20%)
- Write a crisp paragraph expounding 4 of 5 themes. (20%)
- Write an essay on 1 of 2 topics. (20%)
Except for the longer time, which you probably will not need, this examination is
identical in form to the mid-term examination. Also like the midterm, the aim is not to
find out gaps in knowledge, but to enable students to demonstrate what they do know. For
example, choice is provided in most sections of the examination. Moreover, the learning of
dates is not required, though having a very rough idea of the era to which major figures
belong is a good idea.
The exam is designed to be manageable by those for whom English is a second language.
For such students, the essay (Part 5) is the hardest part but a list of possible essay
questions is provided to enable them to focus their preparation (see below.) They are also
given a few minutes more than others to complete the examination.
There is something for everyone in the exam. Everyoneincluding people who are
strong in memory related tasks and those better at judgment and understanding
skillswill find areas of the examination suited to their strengths.
Here are a few pointers intended to be helpful as you prepare for the final
examination. They are rather generalized, however, so it is wisest to study all of your
notes. First, then, some general tips:
- The examination is concerned almost entirely with material covered in the lectures or
discussion sections. You will not be asked detailed questions about the course readings
though they are expected to prove useful in the writing of your examination essay.
- Nothing from the class on phenomenology, hermeneutics, and Heidegger will be examinable.
However, the definitions concerning hermeneutical themes that we discussed at a later
class session are important for you to understand.
- Nothing from the class on pragmatism and naturalism will be examined directly but I hope
you found it helpful!
- Now and then I included extra notes on the web for figures not discussed in class. That
material is not examinable; it is just for your interest.
- You should expect questions on all of the main themes covered in lectures,
though some themes may only show up in minor ways.
Second, and more specifically, make sure you understand the handy little schemas for
philosophical issues that we discussed in class. These include, but are not limited to,
- The problem of universals (its definition, the significance of the problem, the
large-scale division of positions, and the small-scale division of positions within
- The meaning and significance of epistemic foundationalism.
- Descartes' four-step philosophical method and why he thought it important.
- Descartes' three-step argument in Meditations.
- Locke's view of the way human beings know in general.
- Locke's view of the justification of theological beliefs.
- The three-fold contrast between Rationalism and Empiricism.
- Kant's two kinds of judgments and two kinds of knowledge.
- The history of the interpretation of the status of metaphysical knowledge leading up to
Kant's understanding of the synthetic a priori.
- The two-fold definition of hermeneutics and the various kinds of hermeneutical circles.
- Hegel's understanding of logic and the interpretation of history that this permitted.
- The major new perspectives upon religion in sketch form (including those of Feuerbach,
Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, and Ayer).
- The characteristics of existentialismat least some of them!
- Kiekegaard's "three stages."
- The problem of the meaningfulness of theological language raised in logical positivism.
- Wittgenstein's recommendations for philosophy and his view of language games.
- Whitehead's understanding of reason, nature, creativity, and God.
- Whitehead's theory of actual occasions (including prehension and concresence).
Third, and completely uselessly, there can always be questions other than those
suggested and excluded by the tips. Maybe even a philosophical joke-question or two...
Two of the following three questions will appear in Part V (the
essay section) of the final examination. You will be required to write on one essay
- Summarize the main lines of theological response to the philosophical
achievement of Immanuel Kant, describing as much of Kant's own thought as is necessary to
make the lines of response intelligible. Which of these theological responses do you find
most effective? Give an argument for your opinion.
- Summarize what you think are the main conceptual themes of
twentieth-century existentialism. Describe its implications for theology, illustrating
what you say with instances of actual influence where possible. Is this philosophical
approach disastrous for theology or is it on the contrary a fruitful option for
constructive theological development in our time? Justify your opinion.
- Briefly summarize the main modern critiques of religion (you ought to
include at least three of those advanced by Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, and Ayer). It
might be argued that theology must reply to these critiques (or else it is finished), and
yet must also learn from them (because they offer valid insights). Can this dual goal be
accomplished, in your opinion? If so, how? If not, why not?
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