PHIL 550A: Seminar in Epistemology
There is one course reader containing my manuscript, Learning from Experience (LFE), All other readings are on E-RESERVE, except one (my SEP article), which is accessible directly online. [E-RESERVE URL: http://www.lib.washington.edu/services/course].
Reading Response Papers. All readings should be done before the class for which they are due. In weeks 2-9, you are required to submit a 2-page reading response to the PHIL 550 electronic dropbox by noon on the day the readings will be discussed in class.
Discussion Leaders. Each student will take a lead role in a one-half-hour discussion on one of the discussion topics in weeks 8 or week 9. Up to two students may sign up for each topic. If two of you sign up for the same topic, you must divide the topic so that one of you explains my view and the other explains the opposing view(s). Then each of you should defend the side you explain. Be careful to be generous to the opposing side. If you are the only person to sign up for a topic, you are responsible for explaining both sides. Sign-ups are on a first-come, first-served basis. All students must sign up by the end of class on Oct. 10.
Week #1 (Oct. 3): Introduction
Students should have read (or reread) Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Week #2 (Oct. 10): The Proof Paradigm. SIGN UP FOR A DISCUSSION TOPIC BY THE END OF CLASS TODAY.
Reading Assignment: (1) Talbott mss., Introduction and Chaps. 0,1, and 2 of LFE.
(2) W.V.O. Quine, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”.
Week #3 (Oct. 17): An Epidemic of Epistemic Arbitrariness Arguments
Reading Assignment: (1) Talbott mss., Chaps. 3-4 of LFE.
(2) Nelson Goodman, “The New Riddle of Induction” (excerpt), pp. 72-81.
(3) Saul A. Kripke, “The Wittgensteinian Paradox” (excerpts), pp. 7-9 and 22-37.
(4) W.V. Quine on underdetermination of theory, Pursuit of Truth, pp. 195-101.
(5) Laurence BonJour, “A Moderate Rationalism”.
Week #4 (Oct. 24): Problems for Bayesian and non-Bayesian Probabilist Accounts
Reading Assignment: (1) Talbott, “Bayesian Epistemology”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology-bayesian/)
(2) Talbott mss., Chap. 5 of LFE.
(3) Paul Teller, “Conditionalization and Observation” excerpt, ONLY sections 0 – 1.3, pp. 218-225 are required.
Not required, but recommended for those who are comfortable with formal epistemology (especially if you choose to write your term paper on my challenge to Bayesianism and to probabilism):
(4) Remainder of the Teller article, “Conditionalization and Observation”.
(5) James Joyce, “A Nonpragmatic Vindication of Probabilism”.
Week #5 (Oct. 31): A Holist Account of Earning Rational Confidence
Reading Assignment: (1) Talbott mss., Chap. 6 of LFE.
(2) Susan Haack, “Foundherentism Articulated” excerpt, pp. 117-134.
(3) Carl Hoefer, “The Third Way on Objective Chance: The Sceptic’s Guide to Objective Chance” (because of file size limits, this article is in two parts on E-Reserves).
Week #6 (Nov. 7): A Principle of Meta-Cognitive Equilibrium
Reading Assignment: (1) Talbott mss., Chap. 7 of LFE.
(2) John Pollock, “Reliability and Justified Belief”.
Week #7 (Nov. 14): Causation in Epistemology
Reading Assignment: (1) David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, Section 1.3.2, pp. 52-55, and Section 1.3.14, pp. 105-116.
(2) Judea Pearl, “The Art and Science of Cause and Effect”.
This will be the topic of Chap. 8 of my mss. Unfortunately, this chapter is not yet written. These readings will set the stage for a discussion of my position in class.
Week #8 (Nov. 21): Equilibrium Paradigm vs. Proof Paradigm
Reading Assignment: (1) Talbott mss., draft of Chap. 9. This chapter is not complete, so you will find some gaps.
(2) Nelson Goodman, “Dissolution of the Old Problem” (excerpt), pp. 62-66.
(3) Laurence BonJour, “The Justification of Induction”.
(4) David Alexander, “In Defense of Epistemic Circularity”.
Discussion Questions: (1) Are there any monotonic rules of rational inference? deductive? inductive?
(2) What is the threat of skepticism? Proof paradigm vs. equilibrium paradigm account.
(3) Consider the following definition: A nonseparable cognitive faculty is one whose reliability cannot be rationally determined without using it. It is clear that memory is a nonseparable cognitive faculty.
(a) Can we have epistemically rational opinions about the reliability of our own memory, or are all determinations of the reliability of memory irrational because they are justificationally circular?
(b) Is testimony (understood to include everything that we believe on the basis of other human sources, oral, written, recorded, etc.) a nonseparable cognitive faculty?
Week #9 (Nov. 28): The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Epistemology. TERM PAPER TOPICS MUST BE APPROVED BY THE END OF CLASS TODAY
Reading Assignment: (1) Talbott draft article, “What is Moral Sensitivity and How Could We Have Acquired It?” [E-RESERVE] Note that this paper makes the same argument for fundamental moral principles that I will make for fundamental epistemic principles (e.g., the IER Principle) in Chapter 10 of my manuscript, which, unfortunately, does not exist yet.
(2) Robert Brandom, “Objectivity and the Normative Fine Structure of Reality”.
(3) Hilary Kornblith, “Knowledge as Natural Phenomenon” (excerpt), pp. 61-69.
(4) Robert Nozick, “Evolutionary Reasons” (excerpt), pp. 107-114.
Discussion Questions: (1) Are the true principles of epistemic rationality true in all possible worlds? Defend Brandom or Kornblith vs. Talbott. [You must discuss this question without addressing the naturalist’s challenge, which is part of the next question.]
(2) Talbott believes that cognitive transitions, when epistemically rational, involve probabilistic responsiveness to strongly universal (or metaphysically necessary) principles of epistemic rationality and that our beliefs about which such transitions are epistemically rational can be probabilistically sensitive to those same strongly universal principles. What is the naturalist’s challenge to this position? What is Talbott’s reply. Argue each side.
Week #10 (Dec. 5): Discussion of Term Paper Drafts
TERM PAPER DRAFTS ARE DUE IN PHIL 550 ELECTRONIC DROPBOX BY MIDNIGHT ON MONDAY DEC. 5.
No Reading Assignment for this week. Discussion of term paper topics in class.
FINAL TERM PAPER DUE IN ELECTRONIC DROPBOX BY MIDNIGHT ON TUES. DEC. 13.