Final Examinations,

General Honors Course 110,
University of Chicago

[Note: These are two excerpts from the final examinations given by Robert Maynard Hutchins and Mortimer Adler in their 1931 and 1932 General Honors Course at the University of Chicago.]

Final Examination, General Honors Course 110

June, 1931.


Take one hour to answer two of the following questions.

  1. Discuss Homer, Herodotus, Thucydices, the Old Testament, Plutarch, and the New Testament, as histories, as biographies, and as literature.
  2. Comment on the works of the Greek tragedians and Shakespeare's tragedies in the light of Aristotle's Ethics.
  3. Compare and contrast Aristophanes, Rabelais, Erasmus, Cervantes, and Shakespeare as satirists and as comedians.
  4. Write an introduction to a book entitled "Plato and the Platonists."
  5. Chacterize as Romans: Cicero, Aurelius, Lucretius, Vergil, Plotinus and Dante.
  6. State the conception of the good life and the good estate according to (a) Plato and Aristotle (b) Cicero and Aurelius and (c) Dante and Machiavelli.
  7. Discuss the following authors: Erasmus, Montane, Rabelais, and Francis Bacon, in the light of the four R's: Romanticism, revolution, reformation, and renaissance.
  8. Compare the following in the expression of the scientific spirit: Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Thucydices, Lucretius, Roger Bacon, Ockham, Leonardo da Vinci, and Francis Bacon.
  9. Write the Table of Contents and the Preface for a book entitled "Orthodoxy and Heresy from Augustine to Aquinas."

Final Examination, General Honors Course 110

June, 1932.


Either the intellectual history of western Europe reveals a progressive enrichment of culture and development of ideas, or the intellectual history of western Europe reveals the increasing failure of the educational process to regain the richness and maturity of Greek Culture.

Consider this dilemma to be constituted by exclusive alternatives. Take one of these positions and support it argumentatively. The argument should be entirely affirmative; it should not consist of denials of the position opposite to the one you take, or of compromises between the two. The argument should emphasize the principles of your interpretation of the thesis and the basis of your evaluation. The evidence should be marshalled comprehensively, but cited with maximum brevity.


Answer one of the following:

  1. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. And God said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light." (Genesis, 1.1)

    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men." (John 1, 1-5).

    Interpret these two texts in relation to one another.

  2. "The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content." (Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War).

    Discuss this passage with reference to Herodotus, Machiavelli, Gibon and Tolstoi.

  3. "Therefore we call final without qualification that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else. Now such a thing happiness, above all else, is held to be; for this we choose always for itselfand never for the sake of something else, but honor, pleasure, reason, and every virtue we choose indeed for themselves....but we choose them also for the sake of happiness, judging that by means of them we shall be happy. Happiness, on the other hand, no one chooses for the sake of these, nor, in general, for anything other than itself." (Aristotle, Ethics, I).

    Discuss this passage with reference to Aurelius, Lucretius, Spinoza, Schopenhauer, John Stuart Mill, and Freud.

  4. "For as God is comprehensible in that one deduces from creation that he is, and incomprehensible because what he is can be comprehended by no understanding, human or angelic, nor even by himself because he is not a what but is superessential: so it is given to the human mind to know only htis, that it is, but it is in no way granted to it to know what it is." (Erigena, On the Division of Nature, IV, 7).

    Discuss this passage with reference to Bonaventura, Ockam, Dante, Descartes, and Kant.

  5. "There are also two kinds of truths those of reasoning and those of fact. Truths of reasoning are necessary and their opposite is impossible: truths of fact are contingent and their opposite is possible.". (Leibnitz, Monadology, 33).

    Discuss this passage with reference to Locke, Hume, Kant, and William James.

  6. "My design in this book is not to explain the properties of light by hypotheses, but to propose and prove them by reason and experiments: in order to do which I shall premise the following definitions and axioms." (Newton, Optics, I).

    Discuss this statement with reference to Galileo, Francis Bacon, Darwin, Galton, and Einstein.

  7. "Whoever knows what is good or bad tragedy, knows also about epic poetry. All the elements of an epic poem are found in tragedy, but the elements of a tragedy are not all found in the epic poem." (Aristotle, Poetics, V, 4)

    Discuss this statement with reference to Homer, the Greek tragedians, Shakespeare's 'King Lear' and Balzac's 'Pere Goriot.'

  8. "Comedy is, as we have said, an imitation of characters of a lower type, - not, however, in the full sense of the word bad, the ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly. It consists in some defect or ugliness which is not painful or destructive."

    Discuss this statement with reference to Aristopanes, Rabelais, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Swift and Moliere.

  9. "The public good ought to be the object of the legislator; general utility ought to be the foundation of his reasonings. To know the true good of the community is what constitutes the science of legislation; the art consists in finding the means to realize that good." (Bentham, Principles of Legislation, I).

    Discus this passage with reference to Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Cicero, and Aristotle.


Answer one of the following:

  1. Compare Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides as tragedians in their treatment of the Electra theme.
  2. Discuss Lucretius, Dante, Milton and Goethe as "philosophical poets."
  3. Define the novel as a form of art, in the manner in which Aristotle defines the tragedy. Use Fielding, Balzac, Dostoievski, and Tolstoi to illustrate the elements in your definition.
  4. What factors determine the market value of labor according to Smith, Malthus and Marx. Criticize their analyses by reference to the wider context of their economic theories.
  5. The seventeenth century has been called the century of genius; the eighteenth century has been called the age of reason. Name the nineteenth century in terms of its dominant trait, and justify your name.
[NOTE: If you have other very old exams that are not in copyright, I would be interested in adding to this collection on line; send me email at: Wager]
Return to Test List
Triton College, River Grove, IL 60171