This module will present an advanced overview of the metaphysics of epistemology. A central question in the metaphysics of epistemology that we will investigate is: what, fundamentally speaking, is knowledge? Some sub-questions we will investigate can be usefully be grouped under three headings:
1. Relation Questions: What kind of relation is the relation between knower and known?
Is knowledge fundamentally a propositional attitude—e.g., a kind of belief? Or is it a more direct relation to reality—e.g., a kind of intellectual perception?
Might knowledge be better understood in terms of its relation to action and practical reason? Might it be a sort of skill? Or even a sort of action?
Is knowledge better understood as grounded in something the world does to us (i.e., as the world’s informing us), rather than in something we do to the world?
Is there even a single fundamental kind of knowledge, or might there be several fundamental kinds of knowledge? What is the relationship between knowledge and ways of knowing like seeing and remembering? And what is the relationship between knowing-that, knowing-why, knowing-how, knowing-who, and so on?
Is knowledge a natural relation, a social relation, a normative relation, or what?
2. Faculty Questions: What sort of faculty is the faculty of knowing, and what is its relationship to other mental faculties?
Is it part of the faculty of reason, making knowledge a ‘standing in the space of reasons’? Or is knowledge prior to reason?
Is the faculty of knowledge a faculty that all creatures with minds have, or that only some have? Does knowledge require conceptual capacities? Or could there be non-conceptual knowledge?
3. Object Questions: What are the objects of knowledge?
Is knowledge fundamentally a relation to propositions or facts? Or is knowledge fundamentally a relation to objects and properties? Or something else?
Is there even a single fundamental object of knowledge? Or should we say that there is equally fundamental knowledge of things, knowledge of truths, etc.?
These questions are intertwined in the literature, making it difficult to cover them in separate units. Hence, the module will use one of the headings as the dominant one—namely, (1)—and cover the questions under (2) and (3) subordinately. The module will be divided into five units, with four primarily discussing four main views about the relation of knowing, and one discussing wider issues about the relationship between knowledge and reality:
We will begin in Unit 1 with the allegedly traditional view that knowledge is a kind of belief and consider the resistance to it. Here we will also consider the question of whether the fundamental objects of knowledge are true propositions.
In Unit 2, we will then consider what is arguably a more traditional view according to which knowledge is a kind of intellectual perception of reality. Considering historical versions of this view will bring up questions about the faculty of knowledge, the nature of animal knowledge, and the relationship between the various ‘ways of knowing’.
In Unit 3, we will consider the relationship between knowledge, action, and practical reason. Here we will also touch on the relative fundamentality of knowing-how and knowing-that.
In Unit 4, we consider two versions of the idea that knowledge is information. The ancient version of this idea comes from Aristotle, and proposes that knowledge is literally an in-formation of the mind by the world. A different version which is more immediately suggested by the title proposes that knowledge might be akin to stored information, such as the information on a computer, in a book, in a map, or in a picture.
We then conclude in Unit 5 with broader metaphysical issues. We first consider what the metaphysical relationship is between the knowable and the knower, and consider the dispute between realism and idealism as a dispute in epistemology. We then consider whether knowledge is best understood as a natural phenomenon.
A note about the readings and what I will cover in lectures: You are required to carefully read at least one of the primary readings for each week. You will have the option of doing your presentation on one of the secondary readings marked with a †, but you may write your essay on any of the readings, or on wider issues covered by multiple readings. I include several primary readings to indicate several important sources on which the lecture content will be based, but the lectures will also generalize and give you a more synoptic picture of each area, with references made to the secondary readings. A star is included by the primary readings that I think would be most useful to read, but I don’t expect you to read them all equally carefully: try to focus on one and bring questions to ask about it.
SCHEDULE OF READINGS
Unit 1 (Weeks 1 and 2): Knowledge and Belief
Primary Readings *Linda Zagzebski. ‘What Is Knowledge?’ Jennifer Nagel. ‘Knowledge as a Mental State’ Timothy Williamson. ‘Knowledge and Belief’ Ichikawa, J. and Steup, M. ‘The Analysis of Knowledge’
Secondary Readings †Danto, A. C. ‘Knowledge and Belief’ †Dutant, J. ‘The Legend of the Justified True Belief Analysis’ Fumerton, R. Epistemology, chapter 2 †Fricker, E. ‘Is Knowledge a State of Mind? The Case Against’ Gao, J. and Fassio, D. 'An English-Chinese Cross-Linguistic Study of Some Central Concepts in Epistemology' Gettier, E. ‘Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?’ †Haslanger, S. 'What Knowledge Is and What It Ought To Be' †Hossack, K. The Metaphysics of Knowledge, Chapter 1 †Ichikawa, J. and Jenkins, C. ‘On Putting Knowledge First’ Millar, A. Selections from 'Knowledge and Recognition' Potter, K. 'Does Indian Epistemology Concern Justified True Belief?' †Prichard, H. A. ‘Knowing and Believing’ †Pritchard, D. 'Anti-Luck Virtue Epistemology' Russell, B. Problems of Philosophy, chapters 5-7, 11 and 13 Sellars, W. The Metaphysics of Epistemology, chapter 1 Sosa, E. Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Selections Sosa, E. Knowing Full Well, Selections Sosa, E. Judgment and Agency, Selections Sosa, E. Epistemology, Selections Sosa, E. ‘Timothy Williamson’s Knowledge and its Limits’ †Udefi, I. 'The Rationale for an African Epistemology' †Vendler, Z. 'On What One Knows' †Williamson, T. ‘Introduction’ and ‘A State of Mind’ in Knowledge and its Limits
Unit 2 (Weeks 3 and 4): Knowledge and Perception
Primary Readings *Michael Ayers and Maria Antognazza. ‘Knowledge and Belief from Plato to Locke’ *Bimal Krishna Matilal. ‘Knowing as a Mental Episode’ Papers by Mathieu Marion on 19th and early 20th century British epistemology: - ‘Theory of Knowledge in Britain from 1860 to 1950’ - ‘Oxford Realism: Knowledge and Perception I’ - ‘Oxford Realism: Knowledge and Perception II’
Secondary Readings Annas, J. ‘Stoic Epistemology’ Antognazza, M. ‘The Benefit to Philosophy of the Study of its History’ †Bhatt, G. The Basic Ways of Knowing, chapters 1-3 †Chatterjee, S. C. The Nyaya Theory of Knowledge, chapters 1-3 †Cook Wilson, J. ‘The Relation of Knowing to Thinking’ Gerson, L. Chapter of Ancient Epistemology on Plato Gupta, B. Introduction to Perceiving in Advaita Vedanta Hamilton, W. Selections from Lectures on Metaphysics on consciousness and knowledge †Hamilton, W. 'Of Presentative and Representative Knowledge' †Ichikawa, J. ‘Basic Knowledge First’ Longworth, G. 'Austin on Knowing: Enough is Enough' †Millar, A. Selections from 'Knowledge and Recognition' †Moss, J. and Schwab, W. 'The Birth of Belief' Moss, J. 'Plato's Appearance-Assent Account of Belief' Phillips, S. Epistemology in Classical India, selections Phillips, S. Introduction to Epistemology of Perception †Reid, T. ‘Of Seeing’ †Russell, B. ‘Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description’ †Taylor, A. E. ‘Knowing and Believing’ Vogt, J. ‘Ancient Skepticism’ †Wodehouse, H. ‘Knowledge as Presentation’ †Wodehouse, H. The Presentation of Reality
Unit 3 (Weeks 5 and 6): Knowledge, Skill, and Action
Primary Readings *Carlotta Pavese. ‘Skill and Knowledge' Gilbert Ryle. Selections from The Concept of Mind John Hyman. ‘Knowledge as an Ability’ Ernest Sosa. ‘Knowledge as Action’
Secondary Readings †Bengson, J. and Moffett, M. ‘Non-Propositional Intellectualism’ †Brogaard, B. ‘Knowledge-How: A Unified Account’ Brogaard, B. ‘What Mary Did Yesterday: Reflections on Knowledge-Wh’ Dharmakirti. Chapter 1 of the Nyaya-Bindu †Fodor, J. 'The Appeal to Tacit Knowledge in Psychological Explanation' Fodor, J. LOT2 †Miracchi, L. ‘Competence to Know’ †Noe, A. Selections from Action in Perception †Peirce, C. S. ‘Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man’ †Schellenberg, S. ‘Perceptual Consciousness as a Mental Activity’ Sosa, E. ‘Epistemic Agency’ Stanley, J. Know How, selections †Stanley, J. and Williamson, T. ‘Knowing How’
Unit 4 (Weeks 7 and 8): Knowledge and Information
Primary Readings *Lloyd Gerson. Chapter of Ancient Epistemology on Aristotle’s epistemology *Jennifer Nagel. Chapter 1 of Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction Fred Dretske. Selections from Knowledge and the Flow of Information J. J. Gibson. 'A New Approach to Knowing'
Secondary Readings †Craig, E. Selections from Knowledge and the State of Nature Dickie, I. ‘The Essential Connection Between Epistemology and the Theory of Reference’ Gibson, J. J. Remainder of 'The Theory of Information Pickup and its Consequences' †Goldman, A. I. ‘A Causal Theory of Knowing’ Evans, G. Selections from The Varieties of Reference Fodor, J. 'An Epistemological Postlude' in The Elm and the Expert Fodor, J. 'Meaning and the World Order' Millikan, R. Beyond Concepts: Unicepts, Language, and Natural Information Millikan, R. Selections from Language, Thought and Other Biological Categories Recanati, F. 'Singular Thought: In Defense of Acquaintance' Spelke, E. ‘Where Perceiving Ends and Thinking Begins’ Strawson, P. F. Selections from The Bounds of Sense Strawson, P. F. Selections from Individuals
Unit 5.1 (Week 9): Knowledge and World—The Question of Realism
Primary Readings *G. E. Moore. ‘A Refutation of Idealism’ *Bina Gupta. The Introduction to Perceiving in Advaita Vedanta Quassim Cassam. Selections from The Possibility of Knowledge
Secondary Readings †Alexander, S. ‘The Basis of Realism’ †Cassam, Q. and Campbell, J. Berkeley’s Problem Eliot, T. S. Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley Gibson, J. J. 'The Environment to Be Perceived' Mohanty, J. N. Classical Indian Philosophy, chapter 5 †Moore, G. E. ‘A Defence of Common Sense’ †Moore, G. E. ‘Material Things’ †Moore, G. E. ‘Proof of an External World’ †Prichard, H. A. ‘Appearances and Reality’ Prichard, H. A. Selection from Kant’s Theory of Knowledge Sellars, W. The Metaphysics of Epistemology, Chapter 2 Strawson, P. F. Selections from Individuals
Unit 5.2 (Week 10): Knowledge and World—The Question of Naturalism
Primary Readings *Hilary Kornblith. Selections from Knowledge and its Place in Nature *Ruth Millikan. “Naturalist Reflections on Knowledge”
Secondary Readings †BonJour, L. ‘Kornblith on Knowledge and Epistemology’ Craig, E. Selections from Knowledge and the State of Nature Goldman, A. ‘Kornblith’s Naturalistic Epistemology’ Horvath, J. ‘Conceptual Analysis and Natural Kinds: The Case of Knowledge’ †Kim, J. ‘What is ‘Naturalized Epistemology’?’ †Quine, W. V. O. ‘Epistemology Naturalised’ Rysiew, P. ‘Naturalism in Epistemology’ Sellars, W. 'Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind' †Sylvan, K. ‘Knowledge as a Non-Normative Relation’