Descartes Medititations and the Scientific Revolution: A Literary View


I.                    What is a “Literary View?”: A Return to First Principles of the Course

A.     Literary Knowledge

B.     Epistemology: The Study of Knowledge

C.     Ontology: The Study of Existence

D.     Self-contained Systems

E.      The Scholastic Philosophers and Secular Thoughts

F.      The Conscious Mind

G.     The Need for Science

II.                  René Descartes (1596-1650) and His Time

A.     Dissent and Orthodoxy in Seventeenth-century France

B.     Revolutions and Wars

C.     Galileo and the Church

D.     Mathematical Minds

E.      Truth and Consensus

III.               The Meditations on First Philosophy  and their Audience

A.     Meditations on a priori and a posteriori Knowledge

B.     The Criterion Problem

C.     Who Would Read This?

D.     The Geometric Route to the Enlightenment

IV.              The Meditations

A.     Dedication and Preface

B.     First Meditation: Cartesian Doubt

C.     Second Meditation: The Cogito

D.     Third Meditation: God Exists as an Innate Idea

E.      Fourth Meditation: Clear and Distinct Truths

F.      Fifth Meditation: The World and God Exist by Definition

G.     Sixth Meditation: The Mind and the Body

V.                 Midterm Advice

A.     Instructions


General Instructions: The examination has two parts: short answers, and an essay.  The short answer sections are worth 33%; the essay is worth 66%.  If you can, leave a little extra time for proofreading. You have an hour and fifteen minutes to complete the exam, but most people should be done in an hour. Please be ready to hand in the exam by the end of the time allotted.


Part I: Short Answers. At most, take 30 minutes to complete this section.

Choose eight of the following questions and answer them in one or two complete sentences, while also indicating the particular work or lecture relevant to the question. Please answer in the blue book, and number your answers.


Example: Who is the worst man ever born? Why? In Boccaccio’s Decameron, a wicked monk named Ciapelleto becomes a saint with a false deathbed confession, the most blasphemous statement imaginable.


Part II: Essay.  Take approximately 50 minutes to complete this section.    


Write a clear, carefully considered essay on one of the following topics.  You do not necessarily need to address each question within the topic in turn; your goal is to write a brief, yet carefully constructed essay using the topic as a starting point.  Be sure to include specific examples from at least three of the works or lectures, and have a solid, arguable thesis.


B.     “Will this be on the test?”

C.     “Am I ready for the midterm?”

D.     How to Take a Midterm

E.      How to Study