Debates in contemporary theoretical philosophy (5cr)
- 2021-01-25 - 2021-02-05
- Monday-Friday: 10:00 - 13:00
- Online. Please email instructor for the link.
Aims. The course is concerned with two central questions: what we know and what we should believe. It approaches these questions by examining candidate principles for knowledge and justified belief. Examples of such principles are: what is known is true; one should believe only what one knows; it is not justified to have contradictory beliefs; it is justified to believe what follows from one’s beliefs, and so on. Studying such principles is one of the main ways in which contemporary philosophers gain insight into what knowledge is, what we know and what we should believe.
Topics. The first week, taught by Sven Rosenkranz, provides a general introduction to epistemology, its central conceptual distinctions and core questions (25 - 29 January, 2021). The second week is taught by Julien Dutant, King’s College London (1 - 5 February, 2021). It will cover views of knowledge in Western philosophy, the contemporary debate on the analysis of knowledge, some influential contemporary theories of knowledge and their implications for some of our principles. It will also ask what we should believe, in particular whether we should believe what is sufficiently probable, whether our beliefs should be coherent, whether we should believe the consequences of what we believe, and whether we may believe things we know we don’t know. Along the way it will provide students with formal tools that are essential for epistemology: epistemic logic, probability theory, epistemic utility theory. A detailed provisional programme for week 2 is provided below.
Provisional programme for week 2. The programme may be adjusted before the course starts. Main readings for each unit are listed; these are not mandatory, but recommended for those who wish to get deeper in some topic.
Week 2, Day 1: The concept of knowledge
Knowledge in the history of philosophy
Theories of knowledge since Gettier
Week 2, Day 2: Epistemic Logic
Introduction to epistemic logic
An application: Lewis’ theory of knowledge
Week 2, Day 3: Safety and the KK principle
From epistemic logic to safety
The KK principle
Week 2, Day 4: Epistemic enkrasia; Introduction to probability theory and epistemic utility theory
Introduction to probability theory and epistemic utility theory
Week 2, Day 5: The Lottery and the Preface
The lottery paradox and the preface paradox
Knowledge-based approaches to the lottery and preface
The course will combine lectures by the course instructors with seminar-like discussions to which students are expected to actively contribute. A list of mandatory readings (about 50 to 100 pages in total) will be communicated before the Christmas break. Some preparatory readings are also suggested in the bibliography.
Evaluation will be based on active participation in class and a final essay, of around 3000 words, on a pertinent question to be agreed with the course instructors.
CB6. Students should be able to critically understand central texts in epistemology in a way that puts them in a position to develop and apply original ideas.
CB9. Students should be able to communicate their knowledge and their arguments to specialized audiences in a clear and articulate way.
CG2. Students should be able to design, create, develop and undertake new and innovative projects in their area of expertise.
CG3. Students should be able to engage both in general and specific discussions in the domain of epistemology. They should be able to conduct a philosophical discussion (orally and in written form), by putting forward, for example, general arguments or specific examples, in support of one’s position.
CG4. Students should be able to work both independently and in a team, in an international environment.
CG5. Students should be able to identify methodological errors, rhetorical, conventional and uncritical assumptions, vagueness and superficiality.
CE1. Students should be able to critically engage with the concepts and methods of contemporary epistemology.
CE2. Students shoulld be able to identify the core arguments and theories of contemporary epistemology.
CE4. Students should be able to assess the writings of leading contemporary philosophers in the field of epistemology.
CE5. Students should be able to identify and critically engage with the current state of a particular philosophical debate, and form a reasoned view, even if provisional, about it.
CE7. Students should be able to critically use specialized terminology in the field of epistemology.
This course will be given online, using Zoom. Students will be expected to connect during the indicated hours for the entire course and to actively participate during the discussion periods. The essay submission and evaluation processes will stay the same. Please email the instructor some days before the course starts for the link.