Dr Tom Kerns
North Seattle Community College


Sample questions for the
Midterm Exam


This is a sampling of the kinds of questions that could be asked on the upcoming midterm exam. You'll see that some of them are simple questions whose answers will require only a few words (like in the first two questions below, for example). Other questions ­ probably most questions on the exam ­ will be short essay questions whose answers will require a fuller development.

In general, questions on the exam can potentially cover anything that we've covered in the class so far, including everything covered this coming week. So that includes all the Greek and all the Hebrew stuff. It will potentially cover material in our Greek and Hebrew readings, in the lectures, in the discussion questions, and in the class discussions.

When you read these sample questions below (some of which may turn out to actually be on the exam) you will see that they are written so that there are right and wrong answers to them. They are not asking for opinions or impressions., but for something that is actually verifiable in a text or lecture or discussion question.

Study groups

I know that study groups prior to exams can be a big help to students who want to do well on exams. What I'm not sure about is how you might creatively develop a study-group-like situation here in the online environment. If anyone thinks of an innovative way to do so, please let the rest of us know with a message in the classroom.

Sample exam questions

  1. What are the titles of the five Platonic dialogues we read?
  2. What are the titles of the three books of the Hebrew wisdom tradition that we've read?
  3. One lecture explained that the Socratic method had four main elements. Explain briefly what each element is, paying particular attention to the element that was enunciated by Soren Kierkegaard, who was quoted extensively in one of the lectures. This question requires that you a) name each of the four elements of Socratic method, and b) give a very brief explanation of what each element is, and a longer explanation of what the element enunciated by SK is.
  4. List and explain the four major elements of the Socratic method. What is this method intended to achieve? In your opinion how effective is Socrates in achieving his goal? Why? (Be sure you illustrate with examples.)
  5. Explain and evaluate Socrates's views on civil disobedience as presented in the Crito. In your opinion, is Socrates's view tenable? Why or why not? Is civil disobedience ever justified? Why or why not? (Be sure you give reasons for your views.)
  6. Explain the charioteer analogy in the Phaedrus. What do each of the horses, the charioteer and the chariot represent? What is Plato telling us about the nature of human happiness? Do you agree? Why or why not?
  7. Give the clear, unambiguous English meaning (as we have been using them in class) of the following Greek words: eros, philia, hosion, sophia
  8. List three of the things that God likes about Job, as described in one of the lectures (see the lecture "What God likes about Job")
  9. Describe the problem of evil, what some of the proposed solutions for it have been, and how the two different kinds of solutions differ. This question requires that you a) thoroughly and clearly outline the problem of evil as it was described in the lecture; b) outline the possible solutions that have been offered to that problem, also as outlined in lecture; and c) then explain why it is said that some of those solutions are attempts to "save" God, and other solutions are attempts to "save" the reality of evil in the world (much of the "c" portion of this question will be found in some of my postings during the class discussion on the problem of evil).
  10. State the problem of evil (presented to you in class in the Book of Job) and at least two potential solutions to that problem. Which, if any, strikes you as likely to succeed? For what reasons?
  11. Outline the four "stages on life's way" that were described in one of the lectures, and note which of the books we read is associated with each stage. (This lecture will be posted in a few days when you begin to read Ecclesiastes.)
  12. The first "stage on life's way" was said - in that lecture - to be characterized by three propositions; write out those three propositions. (See above lecture)
  13. One lecture tried to explore why The Book of Job may have been chosen by the rabbis to be included in the canon of holy writ, despite all the reasons there may have been for not including the book. In this question I would like you to a) explain in some detail at least two reasons (given in the lecture) for why the rabbis may have thought The Book of Job to be heretical enough that it should not be included in the scriptural canon. b) Then describe one reason offered in the lecture that may explain why they did include it.
  14. Compare and contrast the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job on the topic of human happiness and the meaning of life. Which view, in your opinion, seems closest to the truth? For what reason or reasons?
  15. In the "A injures B" discussion, we saw that Socrates clearly holds to one side of the question. a) outline exactly what the A injures B discussion question was, and what the two possible answers were. b) Say which side Socrates came down on. c) Describe what I explained during the discussion about Socrates' reasons for holding to that side. Briefly explain what his reasons were.
  16. On what grounds do Socrates and Plato maintain that when an unjust man attempts to harm a just man by dispossessing him, torturing killing him the unjust man succeeds only in harming himself regardless of whether or not he attains his goal? Do you regard this view as plausible? Why or why not? (Give reasons!)
  17. Characterize wisdom as presented in the Books of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiates. What connection, if any, do you see between wisdom as understood in the Hebrew scriptures and the sort of wisdom which was the object of Greek philosophy? If none, contrast the two traditions.

Following are a few examples of the kinds of questions that could be taken from the study questions:

  1. What are some of the reasons Crito gives Socrates for why it would be right for him to break jail and leave Athens?
  2. What does Socrates (in The Crito) believe about civil disobedience? This question requires that you a) explain what is meant by the term "civil disobedience;" b) explain what Socrates' position on it is in The Crito.
  3. What do Job's friends think is the explanation for why Job is suffering?
  4. Why, according to the first chapters in The Book of Job, does the adversary want to torture Job?