Sample Midterm 1 (20%) — Objective and Essay Portions


Phil 17 Sample Midterm on Parts 1-4


PART I (15 points): The following argument is invalid. Use the method of refutation by logical analogy or Venn diagrams to prove the argument invalid.


All rock musicians are cool. So no nerds are cool, since no nerds are rock musicians.


PART II (30 points): If any sentence below contains any errors of spelling or grammar, rewrite the sentence and correct all errors. Do not arbitrarily alter word choice or word order; donít reword or introduce synonyms to avoid correcting spelling. If the sentence contains no errors, do nothing. NOTE: Some sentences contain no errors, some contain a single error, and some contain more than one error.


1.        My car starts everyday.

2.        No one can truly no their own sole.

3.        Whoís had lunch?

4.        The parakeet is screeching, its time to feed him.

5.        I hate these kind of mistakes!

6.        Lucyís breakup with Todd effected her performance.

7.        Born at the age of forty-three, the baby was a great comfort to Mrs. Wooster.

8.        Who do you think I saw the other day the Dalai Lama said my Aunt Minnie.

9.        Bay Area athletes are winning a large amount of Olympic medals.

10.    When Mom returned, she and Dad greeted one another with hugs and kisses.

11.    The termites had a disastrous affect on the piano.

12.    My principal objection is that the plan creates unnecesary traffic.

13.    No one can prove the existance of angels.

14.    The FBI sent Mulder and Scully to investigate the strange occurence.

15.    Iím not conscious of any inconsistancy in the Presidentís testimony.


PART III (15 points): Rewrite and improve the following paragraphs. Prune unnecessary verbiage, streamline construction, eliminate passive voice, improve word choices, etc. Make the sentences clearer and easier to understand. Significant cutting and revision may be necessary. Be ruthless in the interests of clarity!


1.        The average amount of commercials a thirty minute program airs is something like eight minutes long.

2.        This world we human beings live in is not without a variety of many different and diverse cultures.

3.        If a small group, say a culture in the Far East, believes that rain will be forthcoming if it is prayed for, and then the rain falls, then theyíll have the belief that their prayer worked and succeeded.

PART IV (20 points): Using the names in Conway and Munson, name the forms (patterns) of each of the following arguments, and say if each argument is valid or invalid.


1.        If your homework isnít done, you wonít pass the class. This is because if your homework isnít done, you wonít get any extra credit, and if you donít get any extra credit, you wonít pass the class.

2.        If capital punishment deters murder, then the murder rate should increase when capital punishment is abolished. The murder rate does not increase when capital punishment is abolished. Therefore, capital punishment does not deter murder.

3.        If Japan cares about endangered species, then it has stopped killing whales. So Japan doesnít care about endangered species, since Japan hasnít stopped killing whales.

4.        If twelve million children die yearly from starvation, something is wrong with the way food is distributed. Twelve million children do die yearly from starvation. Therefore something is wrong with the way food is distributed.

5.        If Hoyle's theory of why the universe is expanding was correct, then the universe had no beginning in time. But the universe must have had a beginning in time, since Hoyle's theory turned out not to be correct.


PART V (10 points): True or false?

1. ____         If all farkles are foodles, then being a farkle is necessary to be a foodle.

2. ____         Stipulative definitions cannot be true or false.

3. ____         An argument can be simultaneously both factually incorrect and logically correct.

4. ____         The following argument is valid: "All dogs are carnivores. My cat Fluffy is not a dog. So my cat Fluffy is not a carnivore."

5. ____         The following argument is valid: "Bill Gates must be a genius. Why? Because Gates is either a fraud or a genius, and he's no fraud."

6. ____         We should avoid using open concepts in our arguments, since such concepts cannot be precisely defined and we require precise definitions of all key terms.

7. ____         Deliberate vagueness is sometimes socially or politically acceptable, but in general, we should avoid deliberate vagueness when we write argumentative essays.

8. ____         There are no substitution instances of valid argument forms with all true premises and a false conclusion.

9. ____         Valid arguments remain valid no matter what new premises are added. Adding premises to a nondeductive argument, however, might radically strengthen or weaken the support provided for the conclusion.

10. ____     If an argument is clear and has a valid form, it can be refuted only by showing that one or more premises are false or questionable.


PART VI (10 points). Answer the following.

1.        Give an example of a term with more than one denotation.

2.        Give an example of a closed concept, and explain why it is closed.

3.        Describe a circumstance in which a precising definition would be useful.

4.        Give an example of a singular term.

5.        Give an example of an epistemological question.


Extra Credit (up to 10): What's going on in this argument? Is it valid? Why or why not?


If there were a highest number, you could always add 1 to the supposedly ďhighestĒ number, and the result of the addition would be an even higher number. Thus, the notion of a highest number is self-contradictory. So there canít be a highest number.



Part VII (100 points) ESSAYS. Please type and double space. Essays should be as long as necessary to answer the question completely and clearly. For guidelines see the section ďCriteria for Grading Exams and PapersĒ in your syllabus.


1.         In your own words, explain the difference between inductive and deductive arguments. Give your own examples. Then explain why reasonable people should believe the conclusions of sound arguments.

2.         Write an essay that critically analyzes the argument in the following passage. (This is NOT an editing exercise; the writer commits no obvious technical errors.)


Whatever people say, they're just expressing their personal opinions. And opinions are subjective, after all. Because every person's set of personal experiences is unique, nobody can be objective. Every person comes from somewhere; there's no "view from nowhere." And so there's really no such thing as "knowledge," since knowledge requires objectivity. All honest opinions are equally correct. In fact, I'd even go further: I'd say there's no such thing as objective "reality." We all live in our own private little worlds. Who can say their reality is more real than anyone else's?


3.         Write an essay that critically analyzes the argument in the following passage. (This is NOT an editing exercise; the writer commits no obvious technical errors.)


Iím against abortion, even very early in pregnancy, and hereís why. On the day a mother goes to the hospital to give birth, itís pretty clear to everyone that what sheís got inside her at that point is a little person. The nurses and doctors call it her ďbabyĒ even if it hasnít been born yet. Now what about the previous day, the day before the delivery? Nothing much has changed. Itís still a little person ó just a slightly younger person. And what about the previous day ó the day before the day before delivery? Slightly younger again, but still a person. Where do you draw the line? I say you canít. And for that reason, no matter how many days you count back, itís still a person, and killing it at any point is wrong.