PHIL 490A Advanced Topics in Epistemology [W]

Talbott TTh 11:00-12:50, 5 credits

This course will be based on the manuscript of a book that I am writing on the nature of rational belief to be titled Learning from Experience. The manuscript defends a Discovery Paradigm of rational belief against traditional accounts based on the Proof Paradigm, and against contemporary accounts based on the Naturalist Paradigm. In addition to reading my manuscript, we will read what I regard as the most persuasive defenses of the Proof Paradigm (BonJour) and of the Naturalist Paradigm (Nozick) for rational belief. The course will address such questions as: What makes a belief rational? For a belief to be rational must the believer be able to articulate a justification of it? Are there any principles of rational belief change? If so, are they necessarily true? If so, are they knowable purely a priori? Is anything knowable purely a priori? Can we have non-a priori justification for believing some principles of rational belief change to be necessarily true? Can we have good reason to believe that there are necessarily true principles of rational belief change, even if we don't know exactly what they are? Do our judgments of necessity merely reflect psychological tendencies in us (rather than objective constraints on reality)? If we ourselves are the products of evolution, does that imply that any beliefs that we have about the principles of rational belief change are themselves simply products of evolution? Could facts about evolutionary selection make our beliefs about rational belief change true? Could such facts make those beliefs rational? The course will be an opportunity for me to present the ideas in the manuscript and for me to obtain critical responses to the manuscript. Course requirements include weekly short (2-3 page) papers; one slightly longer (5 page) paper for the session in which you are a discussion leader (which substitutes for your short paper for that week); and a term paper (10-15 pages).

Meets I&S Requirement. W course.

Prerequisites: PHIL 350 or PHIL 450 or the permission of the instructor.

Texts: Laurence BonJour, In Defense of Pure Reason; Robert Nozick, The Nature of Rationality; and a course reader.