Meets Tuesdays from 9-10 in 54/8033 and Wednesdays from 11-1 in 58/1065
Epistemology is dedicated to questions about knowledge and the norms governing belief-formation. Some questions we will consider include:
What is knowledge? Is knowledge just a special case of belief (e.g., a belief that is accurate and justified?)
What is justified belief? Is evidence necessary for justified belief, or can some beliefs be justified without evidence?
Can arguments for skepticism be answered?
We will investigate these questions from historical and contemporary angles.
In the first unit of the module, we will consider two approaches to the nature of knowledge. On the one hand, many 20th century philosophers and a handful of historical philosophers held that knowledge is a species of belief. On this view, a person knows that a proposition is true just when the person correctly believes that it is true in virtue of justifiably believing it is true. But there is a long history of opposition to analyzing knowledge in terms of belief going back to ancient Greek and classical Indian philosophy, and this tradition was robust until the mid-2oth century. This tradition has recently been revived in contemporary philosophy by the Oxford philosopher Timothy Williamson, though there was an earlier history in the UK, with realists like Helen Wodehouse, John Cook Wilson, and H. A. Prichard defending this kind of view. We will consider both traditions, as well as the possibility of a compromise that captures the insights of both while avoiding their respective flaws.
We will then spend several weeks considering the nature of justified belief. We will begin by considering whether justification is rightly understood as having a foundationalist structure, where justification begins with a set of basic beliefs that are not justified by means of inference, and on the basis of which all other beliefs derive their justification by inference. We will consider two kinds of foundationalist approaches—the ‘internalist’ approach according to which the foundations of justified belief are internal mental states, and an ‘externalist’ approach according to which basic beliefs are justified simply by being products of reliable mental faculties. We will then consider some challenges to the structure of foundationalist epistemology from the ‘foundherentist’ theorist Susan Haack and the coherentist Catherine Elgin.
We will conclude the module by considering skeptical challenges to knowledge and justified belief and some recent attempts to answer these challenges. This part of the module will be taught by our PhD student in epistemology, Ben Paget-Woods.
SCHEDULE OF READINGS
For each week, the readings mainly divide into required, strongly recommended, and optional further readings. I include the optional readings just in case you find the topic especially interesting and would like to write a paper on it or simply learn more.
Students who are registered for the module can find links to all readings to which the University has access through the library on this password-protected page. Below there are links to readings in the public domain for others, as well as links to journal articles to which others may have access at their universities.
Part 1. Knowledge
Week 1: Introduction
Required reading Nagel, Jennifer. Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction, Chapters 1 and 4
Strongly recommended reading Zagzebski, Linda. ‘What Is Knowledge?’
Strongly recommended reading Antognazza, M. 'The Benefit to Philosophy of the Study of its History' LINK
Optional further reading Gerson, Lloyd. Selection from Ancient Epistemology Dutant, J. 'The Legend of the Justified True Belief Analysis' LINK
Week 3: Knowledge as Justified True Belief (+) and the Gettier Problem
Required reading Gettier, Edmund. 'Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?' LINK Zagzebski, Linda. ‘The Inescapability of Gettier Problems’ LINK
Strongly recommended reading Ichikawa, J. J. and Steup, M. (eds.) 'The Analysis of Knowledge' LINK
Optional further reading Zagzebski, L. ‘What Is Knowledge?’ Matilal, B. K. Selection from Perception Russell, B. The Problems of Philosophy, chapter 13
Week 4: Early Attempts to Solve the Gettier Problem
Required reading: Sections 4-6 of Ichikawa and Steup’s ‘The Analysis of Knowledge’ LINK
Optional further reading Comesaña, J. ‘Knowledge and Subjunctive Conditionals’ LINK Roush, S. Selection from Tracking Truth Goldman, A. ‘A Causal Theory of Knowing’ LINK Harman, G. Selection from Thought Klein, P. ‘Knowledge, Causality and Defeasibility’ LINK Lehrer, K. and Paxson, T. ‘Knowledge: Undefeated Justified True Belief’ LINK Nozick, R. Selection from Philosophical Explanations Sosa, E. ‘How to Defeat Opposition to Moore’ LINK
Week 5: The State of the Art: Sosa and Williamson
Required viewing/reading Video lecture by Ernest Sosa on the nature and value of knowledge Timothy Williamson’s ‘Knowledge and Belief’
Optional further reading E. Sosa, Selections from Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge: A Virtue Epistemology E. Sosa, Selections from Epistemology J. Lackey, ‘Why We Don’t Deserve Credit for Everything We Know’ LINK D. Pritchard, ‘Apt Performance and Epistemic Value’ LINK K. Sylvan, ‘Can Performance Epistemology Explain Higher Epistemic Value?’ LINK
Part 2. Justified Belief
Week 6: Justification and the Regress Problem
Required reading Sosa, E. 'The Raft and the Pyramid'
Optional further reading BonJour, L. ‘Can Empirical Knowledge Have a Foundation?’ LINK Sellars, W. ‘Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind’ LINK Haack, S. ‘Foundationalism vs. Coherentism: A Dichotomy Disclaimed’ Siegel, S. Selection from The Rationality of Perception
Week 7: Internalist Foundationalism
Required reading Hasan, A. and Fumerton, R. ‘Foundationalist Theories of Epistemic Justification’ LINK
Optional further reading Hasan, A. ‘Access Internalism, Mentalism, and Reliabilism’ Fales, E. ‘The Given and Knowledge’ Feldman, R. ‘Justification is Internal’ Fumerton, R. ‘Traditional (Internalist) Foundationalism’ Goldman, A. I. ‘Internalism Exposed’ LINK Sosa, E. Selection from Epistemic Justification Poston, T. ‘Internalism and Externalism in Epistemology’ LINK
Week 8: Externalist Foundationalism
Required reading Goldman, A. ‘What Is Justified Belief?’
Optional further reading BonJour, L. ‘Externalist Theories of Empirical Knowledge’ Cohen, S. ‘Justification and Truth’ LINK Conee, E. and Feldman, R. ‘The Generality Problem for Reliabilism' LINK Fumerton, R. Selection from Metaepistemology and Skepticism
Week 9: Foundherentism and Coherentism
Required reading Haack, Susan. ‘A Foundherentist Theory of Empirical Justification’
Strongly recommended reading Peter, Murphy. ‘Coherentism in Epistemology’ LINK Catherine, Elgin. ‘Non-Foundationalist Epistemology’
Optional further reading Dancy, J. ‘Coherence Theories’ BonJour, L. ‘Haack on Justification and Experience’ LINK Haack, S. ‘Foundherentism Articulated’ Haack, S. ‘Reply to BonJour’ LINK Tramel, P. ‘Haack’s Foundherentism is a Foundationalism’ LINK
Part 3: Scepticism
Week 10: Can Scepticism Be Answered? Part 1
Required reading Rinard, Susanna. 'Reasoning One's Way out of Scepticism' LINK
Optional further reading Pryor, J. ‘The Skeptic and the Dogmatist’ LINK Pryor, J. ‘What’s Wrong with Moore’s Argument?’ LINK Chalmers, D. ‘The Matrix as Metaphysics’ LINK Vogel, J. ‘Cartesian Skepticism and Inference to the Best Explanation’ LINK Williamson, T. ‘Scepticism and Evidence’ LINK Sosa, E. ‘Philosophical Skepticism and Epistemic Circularity'
Week 11: Can Scepticism Be Answered? Part 2
Required reading Lewis, David. ‘Elusive Knowledge’ LINK
Optional further reading J. Ichikawa, Introduction to The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism J. Ichikawa, Selections from Contextualizing Knowledge