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Study Questions - Aquinas & Nietzsche

A.K.A. matter vs. anti-matter!

With final exams fast approaching, in my Intro. Phil. course, I've been working up a set of questions which may, or may not, appear, in some form or other, on the test.

Descartes is still giving me a lot of trouble. But I think I've come up with a pretty good set of questions on Aquinas & Nietzsche, at least, and I think they might provide a few moment's amusement for some of our regulars.

Please note: I'm NOT asking anybody to answer ANY of these questions, let alone the whole lot. On the other hand, if any of them are obvious clinkers - ill-formed, unnecessarily ambiguous, or what have you, I'd like to find it out from y'all before I find it out from my students. IOW, suggestions welcome.

Assigned texts:

Edward Feser: *Aquinas*

Friedrich Nietzsche: *On the Genealogy of Morals* - Preface & First Essay

So here it goes:

* * * * *

I. Aquinas

1. According to Aquinas, everything that exists is either pure act or a compound of act and potency. What being is pure act?

2. Give an example of something that is a compound of act and potency. What in it is act? What in it is potency?

3. According to Aquinas, "potency does not raise itself to act." What does he mean by this? What can raise potency to act?

4. What are the three essential elements of all motion (i.e., change), according to Aquinas? Explain, and give an example.

5. What is the difference between a substance and an accident? Give an example.

6. What is the difference between form and matter? Give an example.

7. Can matter exist without form? What is Aquinas' expression for formless matter?

8. Give three examples of forms that can exist without matter, according to Aquinas.

9. What is the doctrine of "hylemorphism?"

10. The distinction between form and matter is a special case of the distinction between act and potency. Explain.

11. What are the names of the four causes? Identify the four causes of a substance of your own choice.

12. What are the principles of causality, of proportionate causality, and of finality?

13. According to "classical theism," God is "simple." What does this mean?

14. Explain, with examples, the difference between univocal, equivocal, and analogous predication.

15. According to Aquinas, are power, knowledge, and goodness predicated to both man and God (a) univocally; (b) equivocally; or (c) analogously? Explain your answer.

16. Explain the difference between an accidentally ordered and an essentially ordered causal series. Give an example of each.

17. What is a "cosmological" argument? What makes Aquinas' "First Way" a "cosmological" argument?

18. Does Aquinas' "First Way" depend on the notion of an accidentally, or an essentially ordered causal series? Explain.

19. Are animals examples of self-moved movers? Why or why not?

20. What is Aquinas' definition of the soul? What are the three types of soul? Illustrate your answer with examples.

III. Nietzsche

1. What is the fundamental concept of what Nietzsche calls "master morality?" What is its opposite concept? Give at least three synonyms for each, as seen by the "masters."

2. What is the fundamental concept of what Nietzsche calls "slave morality?" What is its opposite concept? Give at least three synonyms for each, as seen by the "slaves."

3. How would Nietzsche prefer to describe those seen as "evil" by "slave morality?" How would he prefer to describe those seen as "good" by "slave morality?"

4. According to Nietzsche, "master morality" is creative, while "slave morality is reactive. Explain.

5. According to Nietzsche, "the judgement 'good' [in "master morality"] does not derive from those to whom 'goodness' is shown!" So how does it originate?

6. According to Nietzsche, how does the judgement "evil" [in "slave morality"] originate?

7. What does Nietzsche mean by the phrase "the slave revolt in morality?"

8. According to Nietzsche, what is the attitude of the "good" to the "bad" in "master morality?" Compare and contrast the attitude of the "good" to the "evil" in "slave morality" (as Nietzsche sees it).

9. What groups does Nietzsche identify as historical examples of "master morality" and "slave morality?" Name two of each.

10. Describe "the parable of the lambs" and explain its point.

11. What are Nietzsche's criteria for the "value of [a system of] values?"

12. Relate Nietzsche's claim: "'Rome against Judaea, Judaea against Rome' - so far, there has been no greater event than this struggle, this questioning, this mortal enmity and contradiction" to his distinction between "master" and "slave" morality, in ten sentences or less.

13. According to Nietzsche, "Rome has been defeated." Explain, in ten sentences or more.

Comments (13)

A couple of quick notes:

Aquinas #7: the second part of this question cues the answer to the first part, which is OK iff you meant to do that.

Aquinas #8 can't be used in the same exercise as Aquinas #7; again, #8 (partially) cues #7.

Hope this helps at least a little!


@Peter: #7 is okay, because for Aquinas formless matter exists only as an abstraction.

Brilliant work, otherwise, Steve!

I suspect that the reaction of your students to your will to power will be ressentiment.

These questions are very representative of the content in both Feser's Aquinas and Nietzsche's On The Genealogy of Morals. As a student myself, I would be happy to take such a straightforward and accurately reflective test. Now if only we could make pop atheist writers take the same test.

Peter Brown: Leo Mollica is on to my joke, there: #7 is kind of a trick question. There is an *expression* for formless matter - i.e., "prime matter" - even though no such thing can really exist, as other than an abstraction.

#8, on the other hand, is *not* a trick question. The answer is: (1) God, (2) Angels, (3) human souls after death.

Perseus: heh! Always a pleasure to see you here. And you're probably right.

E.R.Bourne - Oh, how I would love to rake Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris over the coals in an Intro. Phil. course!

Some of the questions might be easy, but this isn't one of them: 9. What is the doctrine of "hylemorphism?"

I wonder if they have to answer that one in twenty-five words or less, Bill. :-)

Bill - following Ed Feser's *Aquinas*, p. 13:

"the ordinary objects of our experience are composites of form and matter - a doctrine known as hylemorphism (sometimes spelled hylomorphism) after the Greek words hyle ('matter') and morphe ('form')."

It took Steve (or Ed) twenty-nine. I guess he just wanted a definition, not an explanation.

Hi Steve: I love the study questions. I know little about Nietzsche though, so can you tell me if there is a logic in the pairing of Aquinas and Nietzsche or is that somewhat arbitrary?

Also, will you be posting study questions on Descartes sometime? I hope so. I'd love to see them.

Mark - I thought, at first, that there was a certain logic in pairing Aquinas & Nietzsche in an introductory course. But, truth be told, now that I've tried it, I think that I've changed my mind, and I prob'ly won't try it again. Both authors are so difficult that you end up spending your whole time lecturing, just to get across the basics, while all too many of your students - sleep.

You really want to see my study questions for Descartes, Meditations I-II? Here you go:

1. Why does Descartes insist on calling into doubt everything that he possibly can? What is the goal of his project?

2. What is "epistemology?" What is "foundationalism" in epistemology? In what sense is Descartes a foundationalist?

3. According to Descartes, what sort of beliefs does common sense hold to be most reliable?

4. Descartes considers various possible objections to the reliability of particular beliefs based on the senses. Which objection does he take most seriously, and why?

5. Can you prove to yourself that you're not dreaming by pinching yourself? Explain.

6. Descartes thinks there are certain general beliefs based on the senses that might still be reliable even if one were dreaming. Give two examples. How does he call even these beliefs into question?

7. Why doesn't Descartes think that he can dismiss out of hand the possibility that God might be a deceiver?

8. Descartes finally discovers one thing of which he can be absolutely certain, even if he is dreaming, or being systematically deceived by an evil demon. What is it?

9. What are the essential properties of the mind, according to Descartes?

10. What are the essential properties of material bodies, according to Descartes?

11. What is materialism? What is idealism? What is dualism? In what sense is Descartes a dualist?

12. How does Descartes argue for his claim that the mind and body are really distinct?

13. What is the point of the "piece of wax" passage in the second Meditation? Explain in as much detail as you can.

I'm sure this isn't a place you'd want to have an extended discussion, but are you familiar with "History of the Mind-Body Problem" edited by Tim Crane? Some essays made a highly persuasive case that the The Meditations are traditionally misread and the French-speaking world understands what he was up to far better than the English.

I was not asking for the questions as any sort of trick question. I am not a Descartes scholar and have read little at this point, but what little I have makes me think it is an unusually tricky project and proceeding with caution is in order. The book seems to indicate that there is an "iconic" Descartes that is far more widely at variance to the real one than is normal in this type of thing.

If so, then I guess that makes four things I'm interested in: 1) the historical Descartes and Cartesianism, 2) the "iconic" Descartes, 3) the meaning(s) of the term "Cartesianism" today, and 4) what is Descartes' role in modern philosophy? Would Etienne Gilson be a considered a good source for #1?

I'm sorry if this is too off-topic.

Mark - interesting. Unfortunately, the book you cite is, like so many academic books these days, insanely overpriced.

Personally, I find the first & second (at least) of Descartes' meditations fairly straightforward. But I'm perfectly prepared to accept the possibility that I've got him all wrong, and would welcome being corrected.

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