PHIL 450A: Discussion Questions on
the Metaphysics and Epistemology of Epistemology
1. What is the metaphysical status of truths in epistemology. Consider, for example, principles of good reasoning. Are they necessarily true? Are they empirical propositions about human reasoners?
2. The epistemology of epistemology: How do we acquire epistemically justified beliefs in epistemology—for example, beliefs about principles of good reasoning? Do we directly apprehend them with a priori insight? Do we reason bottom-up from actual and hypothetical examples of what we take to be good reasoning? Do we look for principles or processes that are reliable in the kinds of circumstances in which we typically find ourselves?
3. When we do epistemology, we engage in reasoning about the principles of good reasoning. What kind of reasoning is it that we engage in when we do epistemology?
4. How would BonJour answer questions (1)-(3)?
5. What does Quine mean when he says: "[E]pistemology still goes on, though in a new setting and a clarified status. Epistemology or something like it, simply alls into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science."(292) Does this imply that Quine thinks that epistemology is purely descriptive and not normative?
6. What does Quine mean by "the old threat of circularity"(293)? Why does he think it is not a problem?
7. Quine thinks that evolution can help to clarify induction (295). How could it do so?
8. What do Quine and Kornblith mean when they reject the conception of epistemology as "first philosophy"?
9. How would Kornblith answer questions (1)-(3) above?
10. What is the normative element in Kornblith's naturalistic account?
11. What is BonJour 's argument, quoted by Kornblith, that naturalism is self-referentially inconsistent (or self-refuting)? Explain why BonJour's claim is a version of the Intellectual Suicide Thesis. What is Kornblith's reply?
12. How would Nozick answer questions (1)-(3) above?
13. What does Nozick mean by the a priori view of reasons? What does he mean by the factual view of reasons? How does he propose to combine the two? How does his proposal explain why Kant thought Euclidean geometry was synthetic a priori?
14. What is Kant's "Copernican Revolution" in epistemology? How does Nozick propose to reverse it?
15. According to Nozick, how can reason correct itself?
16. What does Talbott mean by the Definition Paradigm? What does he mean by the Proof Paradigm? Why does he mean by an explicit sensitivity account of reasoning? What does he mean by an implicit sensitivity account of reasoning?
17. What is mistake correcting reasoning? Why does Talbott think that no one has made explicit the principles that govern it?
18. How does Talbott disagree with BonJour? How does he disagree with the naturalists, especially Kornblith and Nozick?