Political Philosophy (Fall 2010) - Midterm

Political Philosophy - Midterm Exam (Fall 2010)

Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer four (4) questions. All key terms, theories, and named objections must be explained.

I. Answer one question from 1-3. (State of Nature)

1. Why does Locke think that people would want to leave the state of nature and give up the "executive right of nature"?

(This question does not ask for evaluation. Be as clear and concrete as possible.)

2. Evaluate Hobbes's argument for the claim that the State of Nature would be a State of War.

(This question requires evaluation. Make sure that you explain the argument as clearly as you can before you evaluate it.)

3. Explain Rousseau's objection to Hobbes. Why does Rousseau think that the State of Nature would not be a State of War?

(This question does not ask for evaluation. Be as clear and concrete as possible. You will have to explain Hobbes's argument to answer this question.)

II. Answer question 4. (Freud)

4. The myth of the taming of fire serves as a metaphor for the central thesis of Civilization and its Discontents. Explain how. What aspects of human suffering does Freud attempt to illuminate with this myth? How does it help us see the inevitability of (at least some degree of) unhappiness for humans living in civilization?

(This question does not ask for evaluation.)

III. Answer one question from 5-6. (Patriotism)

5. Evaluate MacIntyre's chief argument for the claim that patriotism is a virtue.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain the argument as clearly and convincingly as you can. Then say where it might go wrong.)

6. Explain Keller's argument for the claim that there is an internal connection between patriotism and bad faith.

(This question does not ask for evaluation. In answering this question, you will have to say something about Keller's conception of the nature of patriotism and about the nature of bad faith.)

IV. Answer one question from 7-8. (Social Contract)

7. Locke thinks that consent is required to make a government legitimate. But neither you nor I signed any social contract or explicitly consented to be governed. What does Locke think makes a government legitimate for future generations? That is, why and when are we bound by the laws of a government that our ancestors founded? Evaluate his argument.

(This question requires evaluation.)

8. Evaluate Hart's Fairness Argument for Political Obligation.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain the argument. Then say where it might go wrong.)

Note: In order to evaluate a theory, you must first explain the theory. When explaining a counterexample to a definition, you need to specify whether the example shows that a proposed condition is not necessary, not sufficient, or neither. If you are evaluating an argument, you need to build up the argument and then show where it might go wrong. To build up an argument, you must do more than merely offer a formalization. You must explain the argument. Typically, showing where an argument goes wrong will require arguing that one of the premises is false. When providing your own evaluations, be sure to consider obvious, compelling replies to your objections. If you think an argument is good, then you will need to defend it against the strongest objections that you can think of.

Note: Keep quotations to an absolute minimum. Never use a quotation to speak for you.

Due Date

Monday 11/08/2010


The complete midterm should be no more than 2,100 words. This is approximately 7 pages double-spaced in Arial 12 point font.


The midterm must be typed. It should be double spaced. It should have one inch margins. You should use a 12 point font. I prefer Arial, since it is easy to read. Please follow the general paper and exam instructions under the "course documents / writing" section on Blackboard.

Write a separate essay for each answer. Do not try to answer all the questions in a single essay. Formal introductions and conclusions are unnecessary, though you must use paragraphs.

Please skip a line or two between your answers. Include the question number at the start of each answer. Do not copy the questions.


You don't have much space, so you will need to be clear and to the point. Clarity should be your chief goal in writing the midterm. Pick your words carefully. Write to be understood. Assume that you are writing the paper to be read by someone completely unfamiliar with the issues.

I want you to explain the theories and objections as clearly as you can within the space allotted. I do not want papers that are longer than the word limit. The space limitation is designed to force you to practice verbal economy. That said, it is impossible to write a set of adequate answers in much less than the allocated space. You'll have to use most of the space, and use it well.


You are required to hand in a paper copy at the start of class on the due date. In addition you must submit the midterm through Safe Assign via Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the due date. Safe Assign is a plagiarism detection tool. It will compare your paper against others available online, in journals, submitted in this class, RIC, and from all other universities that use the software.

Note: Plagiarism will result in a failing grade in the class, not just on this assignment.


Your paper should be clearly written, well-structured, and free of grammatical and spelling errors. It is practically impossible to get higher than a C if you start writing the night before the paper is due. The grading scale is as follows:

A = excellent

B = good

C = meets minimal expectations

D = bad

F = awful


Before writing this paper you must read several documents under the writing section of Blackboard. Read the following: 1. Writing Tip Sheet, 2. General Instructions, 3. Kagan's "How to Write a Philosophy Paper", 3. Pryor's "Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers", and 4. Pryor's "Glossary of Philosophical Terms."