CLEP Humanities : Analyzing the Content of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Nonfiction and Philosophy

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for CLEP Humanities

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Example Questions

Example Question #6 : Analyzing The Content Of Nonfiction And Philosophy

Who was the English philosopher who first spelled out a theory of religious toleration in the late seventeenth century?

Possible Answers:

Thomas Hobbes

John Locke

Isaac Newton

William Godwin

John Milton

Correct answer:

John Locke

Explanation:

After the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution, many people in Britain sought a way to combat religious divisions and conflicts. John Locke, an early enlightenment figure, set out a theory of religious toleration in his Letters Concerning Toleration, which were published without his knowledge by the letters' recipient.  Locke actually only advocated toleration for any Protestant believers, as he argued both atheists and Catholics were enemies of the English state.

Example Question #7 : Analyzing The Content Of Nonfiction And Philosophy

The early modern philosopher who is notable for the phrase "I think, therefore I am," is __________.

Possible Answers:

John Locke

Blaise Pascal

David Hume

Rene Descartes

Michel de Montaigne

Correct answer:

Rene Descartes

Explanation:

The French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is well known for being a leading figure in "rationalism," the philosophy that holds that reason is the chief source of knowledge. Descartes' most famous phrase is almost a perfect summation of this viewpoint. "Cogito, ergo sum," a Latin phrase meaning "I think, therefore I am," asserts in one phrase that existence is proved by a person thinking.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing The Content Of Seventeenth And Eighteenth Century Nonfiction And Philosophy

Which English philosopher is notable for describing human life as "nasty, brutish, and short”?

Possible Answers:

John Milton

John Stuart Mill

Thomas Hobbes

Jeremy Bentham

John Locke

Correct answer:

Thomas Hobbes

Explanation:

Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan was published in the aftermath of the chaos of the English Civil War. Hobbes began with an extremely negative view of human life and the human condition. His full phrasing of the human condition was in the following quotation: "In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently, not culture of the earth, no navigation, nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." (XIII.9)

Example Question #2 : Analyzing The Content Of Seventeenth And Eighteenth Century Nonfiction And Philosophy

Which philosopher is best known for writing, "Cogito ergo sum," (I think therefore I am), or, "Dubito ergo sum"?

Possible Answers:

René Descartes

Plato

Thomas Hobbes

John Locke

David Hume

Correct answer:

René Descartes

Explanation:

In his Discourse on Method and his Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes undertakes a radical reevaluation of everything that he currently believes. He questions everything in order to find out what he actually knows is true. Particularly in the Meditations, he develops a detailed thought experiment in which a potential "evil genius" or evil spirit deceives him—even to the point of making him doubt his senses as well as his very ideas about mathematical facts. Thus, he notices, in the midst of this confusion, that one thing remains—even when he doubts and is potentially deceived, he must at least exist. In order to be fooled, you must actually be. This realization becomes a moment of liberation for him, and he then proceeds to prove that the world does in fact exist, though not before first proving the existence of God.

Example Question #3 : Analyzing The Content Of Seventeenth And Eighteenth Century Nonfiction And Philosophy

With which of the following is the philosopher David Hume associated?

Possible Answers:

Romanticism

Skepticism

Logicism

Idealism

Semiotics

Correct answer:

Skepticism

Explanation:

David Hume is most famously associated with skepticism. Often, people recall the stormy picture that he paints at the end of the first book of his Treatise of Human Nature in which he reflects on the skeptical conclusions at which he seems to arise in the first book's discussions. It is arguable that this is a simplistic reading of Hume. Still, this is what most people know about him from his philosophical writings (especially the Treatise as well as his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding). Thus, he is known for doubting the reality of things like personal identity and even the relation of our mind to the external world. 

Example Question #4 : Analyzing The Content Of Seventeenth And Eighteenth Century Nonfiction And Philosophy

Which of the following is most associated with the De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius?

Possible Answers:

Atomism

Experimental Method

Idealism

Sophistry

Polygenism

Correct answer:

Atomism

Explanation:

Lucretius's great poem was a kind of popularization and systematization of the Epicurean cosmology. He presents a kind of worldview that believes that everything physical is merely made up of atoms of different shapes. Indeed, there is nothing more than this matter. He uses this overall cosmology (as had various Epicureans) to present arguments regarding morality.

It should be noted that while this outlook is also called "materialism" (in that it reduces everything to matter), it should not be associated with self-indulgence. Lucretius and other Epicureans were actually quite strict people, whose goal was the reduction of pain, not the maximization of pleasure. Indeed, one of his ways of reducing pain was by critiquing the so-called gods of the Greeks and Romans using the overall atomistic outlook.

Example Question #5 : Analyzing The Content Of Seventeenth And Eighteenth Century Nonfiction And Philosophy

Which of the following writers is known for his work on international law as well as the natural law?

Possible Answers:

George Berkeley

Niccolò Machiavelli

Aristotle

Hugo Grotius

Thomas Aquinas

Correct answer:

Hugo Grotius

Explanation:

The tradition of natural law ethics spans from at least the Stoics through the Middle Ages and beyond. It has earlier resonances in Aristotle as well. Its greatest development occurred in the Middle Ages into early modernity. While the Treatise on Law in the Summa theologiae of Thomas Aquinas is an important text in the natural law tradition, he is actually not the correct answer for this question. He did not write much (if anything) on international law. That really was not a problem in the Latin Middle Ages.

Instead, it is to the Dutch jurist and political philosopher Hugo Grotius that we must turn for such matters. Writing in the midst of many international conflicts in Europe, Grotius penned works like De Jure Belli ac Pacis (On the Law of War and Peace) as well as an important tract on the rights of nations on international waters. He undertook to discuss what rights pertain to people naturally as well as how these are related to the rights of nations. His work was not utterly unique, but it was an important touchpoint for later writers on these matters.

Example Question #6 : Analyzing The Content Of Seventeenth And Eighteenth Century Nonfiction And Philosophy

Which of the following philosophers is known for a form of idealism, stating that all of reality is merely ideas? He famously stated that esse est percipi or "to be is to be perceived."

Possible Answers:

John Locke

Immanuel Kant

Martin Heidegger

George Berkeley

Donald Davidson

Correct answer:

George Berkeley

Explanation:

It was George Berkeley who stated esse est percipi. In his Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous and A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, he lays out a scathing critique of John Locke. Berkeley truly believed that Locke's theory of knowledge and metaphysics would lead to skepticism. He tried to overcome this by saying that all of reality is made up of ideas. That is things themselves are ideas and we know those very ideas. This required him to undertake a number of interesting discussions which, although quite strange, present a very interesting set of philosophical musings.

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