Knowledge & Belief

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Course Description

This course is an introduction to epistemology, the branch of philosophy that studies the possibility, sources, and justification of knowledge. Epistemology is central to public discourse, and familiarizing yourself with its concepts will enable you to navigate public discourse more effectively. The need for such familiarity has never been more pressing: on one hand, there is more information available to more people; on the other, most people do not take the time to consider how such information translates into beliefs, actions, and knowledge. In this course, we will consider three central epistemological problems: the problem of epistemic causation; the problem of justification; and, the problems posed by collective epistemology. Figures include Plato, Descartes, James, Elgin, and more.

Course Texts

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

Course Requirements

Requirement Description Weight Date
Midterm One midterm test on the material covered from weeks one to five (inclusive). 25% 13 Oct
Essay One essay on the material from units two or three. 30% 08 Dec
Participation Assessed on the quality and quantity of participation. 10% Ongoing
Final Examination One sit-down cumulative examination. 25% 15 Dec

Course Schedule

Week Readings Topic
04 Sep     Syllabus. Welcome!

Snows that Piff

11 Sep TCK: 1-7; 10-15. TCK: 20-3; E1; E2. The Standard Analysis
18 Sep TCK: 31-4. E3. Agrippa’s Trilemma
25 Sep TCK: 35; E4. Coherentism
02 Oct TCK: 36-7; E4. Foundationalism
09 Oct [Thanksgiving] [Review] [Midterm] Midterm

Escaping the Vat

16 Oct TCK: 169-72; E5. TCK: 69-71; E5. Academic Skepticism
23 Oct TCK: 49-51. TCK: 55-6; E6. Reliabilism
30 Oct TCK: 57-60; E7. [Instructor away] Virtue Epistemology
06 Nov TCK: 177-9; E8. Contextualism

The Knowing of Things Together

13 Nov TCK: 42-9; E9. Epistemic Rationality
20 Nov TCK: 80-6; E10. Expertise
27 Nov TCK: 101-7, 115-7; E11. Science & Induction
04 Dec TCK: 183-7; E12; E13. Truthiness


TCK What is this Thing Called Knowledge? E7 Zagzebski, L. Virtues of the Mind.
E1 Plato, Meno E8 Dretske, F. “The Pragmatic Dimension…”
E2 Plato, Thaetetus E9 James, W. “The Will to Believe”
E3 Sextus Empiricus E10 Goldman, A. “Experts: Which Ones…?”
E4 Sosa, Ernst. “The Raft and the Pyramid” E11 Goodman, N. “The New Riddle…”
E5 Descartes, R. Meditations E12 Elgin, C. “True Enough”
E6 Alston, W. “How to think…” E13 Frankfurt, H. “On Bullshit”