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Epistemology Seminar: Conservatism, Evidence, and Skepticism

Phil. 701: Epistemology
Fall 2002
Prof. K. DeRose
M, 1:30-3:20

Office hours, 12/4 thru 12/17
Wed., 12/4: 9-11 AM
Thur., 12/5: 1-2 PM
Mon., 12/9: 12-1 PM
Wed., 12/11: 10-11 AM
Tues., 12/17: 10:30-11:30 AM (note: though 701 students are welcome, this office hour is after the papers are due: it’s mainly for students in my other class)
Our topic this semester will be: Conservatism, Evidence, and Skepticism.

Requirements: Consistent seminar attendance & participation and the following written work.

Written Work: Choose either option A or option B, below.  All work typed, double-spaced

  • Option A: 1-2 page paper proposal, due Nov. 11; and a 13-18 page seminar paper, due Dec. 13
  • Option B: three shorter papers, 5-8 pages each, due on Oct. 15, Nov. 11, and Dec. 13.

Readings will include:

  • Portions of Thomas Reid, Inquiry into the Human Mind
    • In connection with this, read also section II.B (pp. 326-331) of my “Reid’s Anti-Sensationalism and His Realism,” Philosophical Review 98 (1989): pp. 313-348. [JSTOR]
  • The Alston, Plantinga, and Wolterstorff papers in Plantinga, Wolterstorff, ed., Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God
  • David Christensen, “Conservatism in Epistemology,” Noûs 28 (1994): 69 – 89. [JSTOR]
  • Gilbert Harman, “Skepticism and Foundations,” forthcoming, Steven Luper, ed., The Skeptics: Contemporary Essays (Ashgate).  [pdf]
  • Parts of Michael Huemer, Skepticism and the Veil of Perception (Rowman & Littlefield, 2001)
  • Laurence BonJour, “In Search of Direct Realism,” forthcoming, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research [word, pdf]
  • Ram Neta, “Contextualism and the Problem of the External World,” forthcoming, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research [link]
  • Timothy Williamson, “Knowledge as Evidence,” Mind 106 (1997): 717-741. [pdf at OUP site]
  • James Pryor, “The Skeptic and the Dogmatist,” Nous 34 (2000): 517-549 [on Ingenta site]

First meetings:

  • The first meeting will concern some background issues: skepticism, the contextualist approach to skepticism, evidentialist challenges to external world beliefs, direct realism, regress arguments, foundationalism & coherentism.
  • We will then have approximately two meetings on Thomas Reid.  Read the following portions of his Inquiry:
    • Dedication, pp. 3-6
    • Chapter 1, sects. 3-8; pp. 16-24
    • Chapter 2, sects. 3-7; pp. 27-38
    • Chapter 4, sect. 2; pp. 50-53
    • Chapter 5, pp. 54-76
    • Chapter 6, sects. 2-7 and sect. 19 (beginning with “We have now finished…”)-24; pp. 78-98, 166-202
    • Chapter 7, pp. 203-218
  • We will then have approximately two meetings on Reid-inspired religious epistemology.  Read the Plantinga, Wolterstorff, and Alston papers in Faith and Rationality.  You might also enjoy reading Alston’s old paper, “Perceiving God” [JSTOR]

Background: The Contextualist Approach to Skepticism:

  • For the contextualist approach to skepticism, you can see section 2 (pp. 4-7) of my “Solving the Skeptical Problem,” Philosophical Review 104 (1995): pp. 1-52 [JSTOR] and/or section 7 (“Contextualist Responses”) of my “Responding to Skepticism,” in DeRose and Warfield, ed., Skepticism (1999), pp. 1-24 [link].
  • For a critique, see Hilary Kornblith’s “The Contextualist Evasion of Epistemology,” Philosophical Issues 10 (2000): 24-32 [on Ingenta site, under Nous 2000, supp. 1].

Weeks 4-5(?): Williamson on evidence, knowledge, and skepticism.  Reading:

  • Williamson, “Knowledge as Evidence,” Mind 106 (1997): 717-741 [pdf at OUP site].  (Corresponds roughly to Chapter 9 (“Evidence”) of Williamson’s Knowledge and Its Limits (Oxford UP, 2000).)
  • Williamson, Chapter 8 (“Scepticism”) of Knowledge and Its Limits (Oxford UP, 2000).  (Corresponds roughly to Williamson’s “Scepticism and Evidence,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60 (2000).)
  • DeRose, Review of Williamson’s Knowledge and Its Limits, forthcoming, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (Dec. 2002). [word, pdf]

Vogel, “Cartesian Scepticism and Inference to the Best Explantion,” Journal of Philosophy (1990): JSTOR link.

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