Proposed: Introductory Epistemology

Course Description

 It’s getting harder to separate the signal from the noise. Each new YouTube account brings in a new voice clamouring for your intention, convinced in its own absolute correctness. “Believe me,” they say, “for I have The Facts.” What should you believe? For that matter, how do you form beliefs? And when can you say that you know something? Is that different from just being right? With so many voices all saying contradictory things, can we really know anything at all?

In this course, we will consider three foundational topics of epistemology, the branch of philosophy that studies the possibility, sources, and justification of knowledge. First, we will consider whether knowledge has a particular structure that sets it apart from true belief. Second, we will consider whether knowledge has a particular source that sets it apart from true belief. Lastly, we will consider the social dimension of knowledge, and whether being with others affects the possibility and/or extent of knowledge available to us. Recurring themes include epistemic luck, epistemic responsibility, and epistemic injustice.

Required Course Texts

  1. Pritchard, Duncan. What is this Thing Called Knowledge? 3d. ed. (Routledge, 2013).
  2. Various articles, as posted.

Course Schedule

All information subject to change with notice. 

Week Readings Topic

Snows that Piff

01 TCK: 1-23; Plato, Meno & Theaetetus. The Standard Analysis
02 TCK: 31-4; Sextus Empiricus. Agrippa’s Trilemma
03 TCK: 35; Sosa, “The Raft and the Pyramid.” Foundationalism
04 TCK: 36-7; Sosa, continued. Coherentism
05 Review and Midterm

Escaping the Vat         

06 TCK: 69-71; Descartes, Meditations. Academic Skepticism
07 TCK: 49-56; Alston, “How to Think About Reliability.” Reliabilism
08 TCK: 57-60; Zagzebski, Virtues of the Mind. Virtue Epistemology
09 TCK: 177-9; Dretske, “The Pragmatic Dimension of Knowledge.” Contextualism

The Knowing of Things Together  

10 TCK: 42-9; James, “The Will to Believe.” Epistemic Rationality
11 TCK: 80-6; Goldman, “Experts: Which Ones Do You Trust?” Expertise
12 TCK: 101-17; Goodman, “The New Riddle of Induction” Scientific Knowledge
13 TCK: 183-7; Elgin, “True Enough”; Frankfurt, “On Bullshit.” Truthiness & Bullshit


TCK    Pritchard, What is this Thing Called Knowledge?