Monday, November 07, 2005

Historical Introduction to Western Philosophy: NYT Supplement

A good friend of mine, Harvey Cormier, just alerted me to his sample questions and answers for a pop quiz, which the New York Times website (Education) published. You can find his answers to the questions, here (you need to scroll down to Harvey's answers).

Here is the lead in to the different quizzes.

Bonnie Steinbock says:

“I tell my students that if they can give me a good reason why an answer that I say is the wrong one is actually better than the one that I say is correct, they will get full credit,” says Prof. Bonnie Steinbock, who teaches “Moral Choices” at the State University of New York, Albany. “I also add that this has never happened. But they do have the opportunity to argue the case."

I too give multiple choice examinations in many of my Philosophy courses. I too extend the invitation to students to come argue their case for why they should get credit for their "wrong" choice. I will add that what is most puzzling to me is that students don't even bother to argue their case.

When they do argue their case, they often point out that they were "tricked" or "deceived" or "confused" by my question, which, unfortunately doesn't count as a good argument in my book.

To add to the quiz questions offered on the NYT's website, I offer one of my own here:

Socrates claims that he would not have lived long were he to be a politician. He also tells us that his "divine voice" prohibited his participation in politics. His calling is, rather, to love wisdom. What is the implication of Socrates claims? What is his opinion, then, of politicians?

(a) Because politicians are public officials, they are likely to be martyred at a high rate for acting justly.

(b) Politicians are far more interested in gold and power than governing well.

(c) Socrates is not wise enough to rule Athenians; he does not yet know what it means to be just.

(d) Politicians are too beholden to their constituents when it comes to legislating, especially in a democracy.

What is the right answer? And, tell me why . . .