Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bac 2013: Philosophy Subjects for Geeks

The younger Frenchling took her Philosophy exam yesterday morning.  Going through her papers today she handed me the question sheet and I thought I would share it with you.

These questions are destined for French high school students seeking a Bac-S (Science) and that means all the budding physicists, engineers, mathematicians, computers scientists, biologists and geologists (the Geeks).   The exam format is as follows:  Three questions (the candidate must choose one); answer is essay format; he/she has four hours; no calculators allowed.

Subject 1:  Peut-on agir moralement sans s'interesser a la politique? (Can one act morally without being interested in politics?)

Subject 2:  Le travail permet-il de prendre conscience de soi?  (Does work lead to self-awareness?)

Subject three (comment on a text):   Translation came from this site.
Qu'est-ce qu'un jugement vrai ? Nous appelons vraie l'affirmation qui concorde avec la réalité. Mais en quoi peut consister cette concordance ? Nous aimons à y voir quelque chose comme la ressemblance du portrait au modèle : l'affirmation vraie serait celle qui copierait la réalité. Réfléchissons-y cependant : nous verrons que c'est seulement dans des cas rares, exceptionnels, que cette définition du vrai trouve son application. Ce qui est réel, c'est tel ou tel fait déterminé s'accomplissant en tel ou tel point de l'espace et du temps, c'est du singulier, c'est du changeant. Au contraire, la plupart de nos affirmations sont générales et impliquent une certaine stabilité de leur objet. Prenons une vérité aussi voisine que possible de l'expérience, celle-ci par exemple : "La chaleur dilate les corps." De quoi pourrait-elle bien être la copie ? Il est possible, en un certain sens, de copier la dilatation d'un corps déterminé, en la photographiant dans ses diverses phases. Même, par métaphore, je puis encore dire que l'affirmation "cette barre de fer se dilate" est la copie de ce qui se passe quand j'assiste à la dilation de la barre de fer.  Mais une vérité qui s'applique à tous les corps, sans concerner spécialement aucun de ceux que j'ai vus, ne copie rien, ne reproduit rien.
What constitutes a true judgment? If an affirmation agrees with reality then we say it is true.   But in what does this agreement consist?   Our inclination is to see in it something like the resemblance of the portrait to the model: the true affirmation would be the one which would copy reality.  Upon reflection, however,  we shall see that it is only in rare and exceptional cases that that this definition of the true finds its application.  Think about this, however, we see that it is only in rare, exceptional cases, that this definition of the true find its application. What is real is any determined fact taking place at any point in space and time, it is singular - it is changing.  On the contrary, most of our affirmations are general and imply a certain stability on the part of their object.  Let us take a truth as close to experience  as possible, for instance, "heat expands bodies."  Of what model is this truth a copy?  It is possible, in a certain sense, to copy the expansion of a specific body at particular moments by photographing it in various stages.   Even by metaphor I can still say that the affirmation, "the metal bar is expanding" is the copy of what happens when I watch the expansion of the iron bar.  But a truth which is applied to all bodies without that applies to all bodies, without concerning any one in particular that I have seen any concern especially with what I've seen, copies nothing, reproduces nothing.
The younger Frenchling choose question 3.  I think that was insane myself but it was her choice.

If you're interested here is the post I wrote about the 2011 Philo exam of the elder Frenchling (Bac-L).

This exam will be graded on a 0-20 scale (20 being a fantasy that is almost never ever achieved). We'll see how she does after the exams are over and the results are published.  However, her father (the engineer) confessed last night that he scored below 5 on his Philo exam thirty odd years ago.


Catherine said...

Wow, she is brave with number three. Good on her. I would have chosen number two, and I O'Kelly would have finished in about 10 minutes - i.e. Philosophy is Difficult! I'm so impressed that scientific minds are encouraged to think so abstractly.

Christophe said...

That's why your husband choose to be an engineer :-)
You were right when you said we might have lots in common :-)
I always preferred rational scientific problems rather than being subjectively graded by someone who would agree or not with what you wrote. And I hated paraphrasing all these texts they were presenting us in French class. I did not see the point. I did pretty badly in French (written: 9, oral: 8). Luckily, I was good in all the other subjects.
Philosophy teachers are known to give pretty bad grades. Back when I was in terminale, the average philosophy grade for the class was around 7 or so. If you had above 10, it was excellent. That's not especially encouraging, and what's the point when all students grade badly. Maybe the teacher should ask himself if he's doing a good job at this point, or maybe the subject is just way above the kid's ability at this age. I think I graded 11 in my Baccalaureat exam, and I was pretty happy with that. I recall the main difficulty being to link the subject to philosopher's quotes.

I am all for grades. They're a good indication of how you're doing just for yourself and also compared to the other kids. Evaluation is good. It can be motivational, and I don't think a little competition is bad.
It would be if the teachers were reading them out loud in front of everyone, but that was never the case.
I hear the trend in France is to get away from them, or move to a less accurate grading system like the letters they use in the US. I don't really understand why. That's shielding the kids from the reality that they're going to be faced with. In the end, there's going to be a selection process, regardless how granular the grades are. So why not stick with a more accurate grading system?

Christophe said...

Just my .02 about the subjects. I would argue that the most difficult one is actually the first one. I can't think writing a 4 page essay on this one! Morale has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with values. You can act morally, do the right thing not be interested in politics. In fact that's the case for millions of people. Done!

I probably would have picked #2. Seems easier than #3.

Amee said...

This is cool!

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Amee, Pretty good questions, I think. And especially good for those STEM students.

@Christophe, my daughter got a 9. :-)