Jun 21, 2024  
College Catalog 2021-2022 
College Catalog 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

PHIL 315 - Contemporary Epistemology

Epistemology is the philosophical study of knowledge, belief, and rationality. The historical focus of epistemology has been questions about human knowledge.  What is knowledge?  How do we acquire knowledge?  Do we have any knowledge at all, or do nightmarish “skeptical” possibilities (like Descartes’ demon and /The Matrix/) show that we know little or nothing? Epistemologists are also interested in broader questions about the nature of belief and mental representation in general.  What is it to believe something?  What does it take for my beliefs to be rational, or reasonable?  Can I choose what to believe, or is belief somehow involuntary?  How does our commonsense notion of belief relate to the idea of subjective probability or graded belief common in cognitive science and the decision sciences? A final set of important questions apply epistemological thinking to specific topics. Can religious beliefs ever be rational?  Do phenomena like implicit bias and stereotype threat undermine rational belief?  How should we understand epistemological standards in the law, such as the idea of proving something “beyond a reasonable doubt”?  Can reasonable people disagree about difficult moral, political, and religious questions, or must we ultimately say that one side of such disputes irrational? In this course we consider how contemporary philosophers have tried to answer these questions, and others. Prerequisite(s): Any 100- or 200- level Philosophy course. Alternate years. (4 Credits)