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Epistemology Seminar: (Spring ’99)

 General Introduction to Epistemology with a focus on skepticism

        course_number: PHIL441
           department: Philosophy
           instructor: Keith DeRose
            course_ID: 20526
   limited_enrollment: yes
 course_meeting_times: T 1.30-3.20
       class_location: C 305
                  aka: phil441b/phil641b
   course_description: below

SkepticismPhil. 441/641, Epistemology
Spring, 1999
Tuesdays, 1:30 – 3:20, Connecticut Hall, room 305

Prof. K. DeRose
CT Hall, room 410
office phone: 432-1674
dept. phone: 432-1665
Office Hours: W 1:30-2:30, Th 1:30-2:30

Philosophy seminars tend to be of two different types: “breadth” seminars attempt to study a number of the central topics in an area of philosophy, while “depth” seminars focus in on one such topic. Thus, in epistemology, a depth seminar might focus on the topic of skepticism, or naturalized epistemology, or internalism vs. externalism, or foundationalism vs. coherentism, etc., while a breadth seminar would sample many such topics. But in looking at The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology, a book ideally suited for a breadth seminar, one is struck by how many of the pieces in the book devote substantial space to skepticism, indicating how heavily recent treatments of other epistemological topics have been influenced by their interactions with the topic of skepticism. This in turn suggests that one might, in epistemology, attempt a seminar which, by exploiting these connections, is both a breadth seminar, covering various topics in the field, while it at the same time constitutes an in-depth look at the topic of skepticism. We will try to pull off just such a seminar this spring. It will be quite an ambitious undertaking, but I’m convinced that it’s possible. We’ll see. Of course, we won’t be able to look very carefully at the topics other than skepticism. Still, by the end of the semester, students should have a good feel for what’s happening throughout current epistemology.

Textbooks (these should be available at Book Haven*):

-G&S Greco and Sosa, ed., The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology
-D&W DeRose and Warfield, ed., Skepticism: A Contemporary Reader

Readings not from the textbooks will be in a reserve file for reading at the Philosophy Department.

Written work and other requirements:

1. Draft/Presentation. Each student will make an approximately 20 minute presentation to the seminar. By noon on the Friday before the presentation is made, the student will submit a 5-8 page draft paper, on which the presentation will be based.

2. Paper. A 12-16 page (typed, double-spaced) paper will be due at the end of the seminar. It is not only allowed, but advised, that the paper be on the same topic as the “draft/presentation” in the above requirement, and that an appropriately revised version of the draft constitute a major portion of the final paper.

3. Questions. Each student will turn in an essay question for five of the topics, 2-9. These are due at the start of the seminar on the first date that the topic is scheduled.

4. Participation. Each student will be expected to attend seminar regularly, to participate cooperatively, and to read the other students’ drafts before they are presented.

Grading: To be discussed at the first meeting

Topics, Readings and Tentative Schedule (note that many of the readings are very brief “background” pieces):

1. What Is Knowledge?: January 12. Note: This is our first meeting. Please try to, if possible, have the below listed papers read before our first meeting. Gettier is available in the phil. dept.

-L. Zagzebski, “What Is Knowledge?” G&S, 92-116
-E. Gettier, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” Analysis 23 (1963): 121-123

2. Naturalized Epistemology: January 19

-W. Quine, “Epistemology Naturalized,” in Quine, Ontological Relativity and Other Essays
-H. Kornblith, “In Defense of a Naturalized Epistemology,” G&S, 158-169
-R. Feldman, “Methodological Naturalism in Epistemology,” G&S, 170-186
-R. Foley, “Naturalized Epistemology,” EPS, 374-375

3. A Priori Knowledge: January 26

-G. Bealer, “The A Priori,” G&S, 243-279
-P. Boghossian, “Knowledge, A Priori,” EPS, 281-283

4. The Structure of Knowledge (Foundationalism and Coherentism): February 2

-L. BonJour, “The Dialectic of Foundationalism and Coherentism,” G&S 117-142
-R. Fumerton, “Classical Foundationalism,” EPS, 79-80
-J. Bender, “Coherentism,” EPS, 81-83

5. Perception — and Perceiving God: February 9

-W. Alston, “Perceptual Knowledge,” G&S, 223-242
-W. Alston, “Perceiving God,” Journal of Philosophy 83 (1986): 655-665

6. Internalism, Externalism, and Skepticism: February 16, 23

-E. Sosa, “Skepticism and the Internal/External Divide,” G&S, 145-157
-C. Hill, “Process Reliabilism and Cartesian Scepticism,” D&W, 115-128
-E. Sosa, “Philosophical Scepticism and Epistemic Circularity,” D&W, 93-114
-B. Stroud, “Scepticism, ‘Externalism,’ and the Goal of Inquiry,” D&W, 292-304
-J. Greco, “Internalism Versus Externalism,” EPS, 265
-M. Swain, “Reliabilism,” EPS, 504-506

7. Semantic Externalism and Skepticism: March 2

-H. Putnam, “Brains in a Vat,” D&W, 27-42
-T. Warfield, “A Priori Knowledge of the World: Knowing the World by Knowing Our Minds,” D&W, 76-90
-B. Loewer, “Content, Mental,” EPS, 108-111

8. Relevant Alternatives, Tracking, Closure, and Skepticism: March 23, 30

-F. Dretske, “Epistemic Operators,” D&W, 131-144
-G. Stine, “Skepticism, Relevant Alternatives, and Deductive Closure,” D&W, 145-155
-R. Nozick, selections from Philosophical Explanations, D&W, 156-179
-K. DeRose, “Relevant Alternatives,” EPS, 503-504

9. Contextualism, Invariantism, and Skepticism: April 6, 13, 20

-K. DeRose, “Solving the Skeptical Problem,” D&W, 183-219
-K. DeRose, “Contextualism: An Explanation and Defense,” G&S, 187-205<
-P. Unger, selections from Philosophical Relativity, D&W, 243-271
-B. Stroud, Chapter 2 of The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism
-K. DeRose, “Contextualism,” EPS, 111-113

Check out The Epistemology Page.

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