Previously Used Final Exam Questions
UC Davis Philosophy 102 (Mattey)
Part One (There will be one question only, to be answered
- Discuss the role of acceptance in Lehrer's theory of knowledge.
What is it? How is it distinguished from belief? What is its role
in Lehrer's coherence theory of justification? What special role
does it play in Lehrer's arguments against rival theories of knowledge?
- Lehrer attempts to analyze the concept of knowledge in the
sense of knowing that the information one possesses is correct.
How does he interpret this sense of knowing? How does it manifest
itself in his own theory of knowledge? How does he exploit this
sense to knowing to argue against rival theories of knowledge?
- In his "Self-Profile" (quoted in class), Lehrer described
his theory as "an attempt to show that the proper blend of
coherence and truth among a certain set of propositions yields
knowledge." Explain in detail how this description
applies to his account of knowledge given in the text.
- Lehrer describes his theory as follows: "complete justification
is a matter of coherence within a system of thigns a person accepts,
which is a subjective fact about a knower but with some
features adapted from the foundation theorist and the externalist"
(p. 15). Show the ways in which Lehrer's theory agrees with and
differs from foundationalism and externalism.
- In the opening chapter of Theory of Knowledge, Lehrer
makes the following statement, "If a person claims to know
something, how well she answers the question 'How do you know?'
will determine whether we accept her claim" (p. 8). Explain
what Lehrer means by this remark and explain its importance in
Lehrer's own theory of knowledge. Show how he uses this standard
of knowledge attribution to argue against rival theories such
as foundationalism, externalism and skepticism.
- Lehrer describes his theory of knowledge as "ecumenical," combining key insights of
foundationalism and externalism with the central doctrine of coherentism. Explain how
Lehrer undertakes to accomplish his synthesis.
- In Chapter One, Lehrer introduces a dispute between, on the one hand, the foundation and coherence theorist, and on the other hand, the externalist. He describes the dispute as "the centerpiece of our inquiry" (p. 14). What is this dispute? What considerations does each side bring to the dispute? How does Lehrer resolve the dispute? Why do you think Lehrer takes it to be the centerpiece of his theory?
- In Chapter 1 of Theory of Knowledge, Lehrer states that "The correct theory of knowledge must provide the correct blend of subjective acceptance and truth in what is accepted, the right match between mind and reality" (p. 18). Explain what Lehrer means by this, and describe how his own theory is supposed to provide the right blend.
- In Chapter 1 of Theory of Knowledge, Lehrer states that, "It is information that we recognize to be genuine that yields the characteristically human sort of knowledge that distinguishes us as adult cognizers from machines, other animals, and even our childhood selves" (p. 4). What other sort of knowledge might there be? How does Lehrer's concern with "knowledge in the information sense" shape his theory of knowledge and his criticism of rival theories?
- (2000) In several places in the text, Lehrer raises the objection that his opponents' theories permit "intellectual opacity." What does he mean by this expression? Show how he applies the objection to the various theories he criticizes. Be sure to use examples to illustrate how opacity is supposed to arise. show how Lehrer's own account of knowledge is supposed to yield "intellectual transparency."
Part Two (There will be a choice of one of three or four
From Chapter 2
- What is Lehrer's final account of truth? What are its limitations?
How does it deal with the paradoxes?
- According to Lehrer, the "absolute" theory of truth, (AT) It is true that p if and only if
p, is not adequate as it stands. What problem does Lehrer find with this theory, and how
does he try to overcome the problem?
- Some philosophers claim that it is possible to know that
p without accepting that p, for some p. Give
an example of such alleged knowledge. How does Lehrer criticize
- Lehrer maintains that there are things one accepts in the interest of "attaining truth and avoiding error with respect to the very thing one accepts" (p. 11). How does Lehrer distinguish this kind of acceptance from belief? What is the "functional role" he assigns to it? How does he use the notion of acceptance to show how there can be cases of accurate memory without knowledge?
- Lehrer distinguishes between acceptance and belief. What is the difference? Why does Lehrer think that acceptance is required for knowledge?
- (2002) What is the difference, for Lehrer, between belief and acceptance? Why does he think that only acceptance is adequate as a basis for knowledge in the sense of knowing "that the information one possesses is correct" (p. 6)? How does the distinction affect the case of "John" described on p. 34?
From Chapter 3
From Chapter 4
- What is an incorrigible foundations theory, and how does Lehrer
argue against its use as a theory of justification?
- Lehrer argues against foundations theories on the grounds
that very few propositions are self-justified. What arguments
does he advance for his claim that self-justification is too narrow
a basis for the kind of justification necessary for knowledge?
- Lehrer advances this criticism of foundations theories: "these
general beliefs cannot be justified by particular beliefs without
arguing in a circle. But the particular beliefs cannot be be justified
by those general beliefs without arguing in a circle, either"
(p. 84). Show, using at least one example, what the general and
particular beliefs in question are. Explain how this criticism
is supposed to apply to foundations theories. Indicate how Lehrer's
theory is supposed to avoid it.
- Lehrer describes foundationalists as claiming that all justification
is based on beliefs which are self-justified. What are some ways
in which a belief might be self-justified? What is Lehrer's fundamental
argument for the anti-foundationalist claim that very few of our
beliefs are in fact self-justified?
- Lehrer claims that "a person can make all sorts of mistakes about what is presently going on in her mind" (p. 50). Why does he hold this view? How does he use it to refute foundations theories of justification?
- What role does probability play in fallible foundations theories?
What are the different interpretations of probability, and how
does Lehrer argue that each fails to play the role required by
a fallible foundations theory?
- Explain how a fallible foundations theory treats basic beliefs.
What is Lehrer's primary objection to this view, and what kind
of example does he use to motivate his objection?
- Lehrer rejects the claim that there are self-justified yet fallible beliefs. How does he make his case against fallible foundations? How does he rebut the suggestion that the only independent needed for self-justfication is semantical?
From Chapter 5
- Lehrer thinks that explanatory coherence is not a necessary condition for the kind of justification required for knowledge. How does he describe explanatory coerence theories? What features of them does he find objectionable? What cases does he bring forward as involving justification without explanation?
- Lehrer claims that there can be justification without explanation,
and hence that explanatory coherence is not a necessary condition
for knowledge. Show how Lehrer argues for this point, and describe
what he takes to be the important insight of the explanatory coherence
- What is the basis for Lehrer's contention that explanatory coherence is inadequate as
an account of justification?
From Chapter 6
From Chapter 7
- According to Lehrer, justification is always relative to an
acceptance system. What is an acceptance system? What grounds
does Lehrer give for his claim that justification begins and ends
with the acceptance system? How is his theory of knowledge built
around the notion of an accepance system?
- Lehrer claims that the Gettier problem is solved by his condition
that one's justification must not be defeated. Explain the other
solutions mentioned in the text and why Lehrer thinks they are
inadequate. In giving your answer, be sure to distinguish between
the Grabit example and the newspaper example.
- Lehrer's analysis of undefeated justification requires that
the only way that p can "depend on a false statement"
is through the falsehood of some member of the acceptance system.
Clearly state the example Lehrer uses to motivate this restriction.
Show how the restriction is embodied in his notion of justification
in the ultra system.
- What does it mean to say that S's justification has
been defeated? Why does Lehrer claim that knowing requires undefeated
justification? How does his theory of knowledge reflect this
claim, and how does his account differ from some rival accounts
of undefeated justification?
- Lehrer defines undefeated justification as justification in
every member of the ultrasystem. What is the ultrasystem? How
does Lehrer use it to solve the various counterexamples to the
analysis of knowledge as justified true belief?
- What is the "ultrasystem" and why does Lehrer think it is required for an adequate
account of knowledge?
- (2002) Show how being "ultra justified" is supposed to elucidate how someone is justified in a way that does not depend on any false statement.
From Chapter 8
- Lehrer accuses externalism of committing the "causal fallacy" and backs up his charge
with the example of Mr. Raco. What is the "causal fallacy" and how is the Raco example
used to illustrate it?
- What are the different forms of externalism described in the text? What do they have in common? What do you take to be Lehrer's most important criticisms of externalism as such? Illustrate the criticism by reference to one of the forms you described in the first part of your answer.
- Lehrer says that, "the insight of externalism is the contention that there must be some truth connection between our accepting something and the truth of what we accept" (p. 174). How does his own theory of knowledge accommodate this insight?
From Chapter 9
[Philosophy 102 Home Page | G. J. Mattey's Home Page]
- Show how externalist theories of knowledge try to deal with
skepticism. To what extent does Lehrer think their attempts are
- Lehrer makes this controversial claim: "It is not hard
to know that you know when your evidence is good enough"
(p. 147). What is the basis for this claim in Lehrer's theory
of knowledge? Could an externalist plausibly make a similar claim?
Is the claim consistent with Lehrer's further claim that "we
cannot refute the skeptic by appeal to demonstration" (p.
- Lehrer asserts that his "epistemology closely approaches
the agnoiology of skepticism" (p. 184). In what ways does
his theory of knowledge resemble a theory of ignorance, and why
does he think it should? Why does he think his theory of knowledge
is not a theory of ignorance?
- Descartes proposed the possibility of an evil demon or genius
who is capable of producing in us experiences which are completely
deceptive but which cannot be distinguished from the experiences
one would have if perceiving a real world. Why does this constitute
an apparent threat to human knowledge? How does Lehrer's theory
deal with the possibility of radical deception? Compare and contrast
his response to the possibility of radical deception with that
given by externalists.
- According to Lehrer, the fundamental premise in the argument for skepticism is that there is virtually always some chance that we are in error with respect to what we accept. Lehrer also accepts this skeptical premise. What is the skeptical argument, and why does Lehrer think its conclusion does not follow from its premise?
- Lehrer asserts that we can know that the skeptic is incorrect (p. 180). What is the skeptical claim that he says we can know to be incorrect? Why does he think we can have such knowledge?
- Lehrer claims that, "It is not only logically possible that any belief is in error, there is some genuine chance that it is so." Why does he make this claim? To what extent does it support skepticism? Why, then, is Lehrer not a skeptic?
- (2002) Lehrer says that he can know the skeptic to be wrong despite the fact that he cannot prove this. Why does he think he knows the skeptic is wrong? Why does he think he cannot prove that the skeptic is wrong? How does he try to reconcile these two claims?