Philosophy 122: Theory of Knowledge

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  1. Essay #1 (due 2/20): 5 pages, double-spaced, normal font. You are to answer ONE of the following questions:
    1. Reconstruct the argument from hallucination. Explain what the main problem with/objection to this argument is supposed to be. Can you give a more charitable rendition of the argument (including a response to the main objection), as a motivation for sense-datum theory? And, can you offer a revised challenge to (this motivation for) sense-datum theory on behalf of the adverbial theorist? Which theory do you find more plausible on this set of issues (viz., with respect to providing an account of hallucinatory experience)? Explain.
    2. According to Audi, it is possible to see that p without knowing that p. Explain why he thinks this is possible (this will involve discussing and motivating a salient example). Interestingly, Audi does not seem to think it is possible to remember that p without knowing that p. Why not? What difference between perception and memory is supposed to explain this epistemic difference? Do you agree with Audi on this point? Explain. [Note: This question is closely related to question #4, below. Thinking a bit about question #4 might also help in answering this question.]
    3. How much conscious awareness do you think is necessary for seeing an object? Discuss a salient example (e.g., the chameleon example from lecture) to illustrate your position. Now, how much conscious awareness do you think is necessary for remembering an object? Use a retained (and perfectly faithful, let us assume) memory image of the chameleon scene as the salient example. If you say you (originally) saw the chameleon, and you (later) call-up a perfectly faithful memory image of the chameleon scene, wouldn't you then have to (also) say that you remember the chameleon? Explain. Using these sorts of considerations, explain what you see as the salient similarities and differences between seeing and remembering of objects. [Here, I have in mind simple seeing and remembering, but if you have space you can also say something about the more cognitive forms of seeing and remembering of objects.]
    4. So far, we have seen a few distinctions between justified true belief and knowledge. In the case of perception, we saw that one could (allegedly) have a justified true perceptual belief that p without knowing that p. Explain how this is (allegedly) possible (this will involve the careful discussion of a salient case involving perceptual belief). What (if anything) do you think is missing in such cases (i.e., what would we need to add in order to get from justified true belief in these cases to knowledge)? [If you don't think anything is missing, explain why you think such cases are not possible.] In the case of memory, we also saw these two concepts come apart, but in a different way. Audi claimed that we could have memorial knowledge that p without being justified in believing that p. Explain how that is supposed to be possible (again, by carefully discussing a salient example). Do you think this makes sense? Explain. [Note: This question is closely related to question #2, above. Thinking a bit about question #2 might also help in answering this question.]
  2. Essay #2 (due 4/5): 5 pages, double-spaced, normal font. You are to answer ONE of the questions:
    1. Compare and contrast classical vs empiricist views of truths of reason (with any eye toward deciding which view you think is more plausible). Your discussion should begin by addressing the central question: (a) What are truths of reason, and why are they necessarily true on a classical view? [Here, be sure to cover the synthetic a priori as well as the analytic].  Additionally, you should also address at least one of the following three questions (from the point of view of classicism vs empiricism): (b) From an empiricist standpoint, why is the synthetic a priori an illegitimate category?, (c) Can there be empirical necessary truths?, and (d) Are all conceptually necessary truths a priori?
    2. Compare and contrast Coherentism and Foundationalism (with any eye toward deciding which view you think is more plausible). Your discussion should touch on at least the following two issues: (a) the precise role of coherence as a contributor to justification (and/or truth and knowledge), (b) whether foundational beliefs (or the coherence of one's beliefs) are (is) the sine qua non of justification (and/or knowledge).
    3. Discuss either the preface paradox or the lottery paradox (but not both). First, explain what the (chosen) paradox is. Then, explain what it is supposed to show about deductive/inductive inference and the transmission of justification/knowledge. Do you think it succeeds in showing what it is supposed to show? Explain. [See lectures #12 and #13 for my notes on these two paradoxes.]
    4. Deductive inference is supposed to a be a primary means of expanding our knowledge. Question this, by asking whether deductive inference (even) transmits knowledge. Describe and explain example(s) that are supposed to show that deductive inference does not (even) transmit knowledge. What do you think about such examples? Can you think of a response on behalf of someone who thinks deductive inference does/should transmit knowledge?  How serious a problem would it be if knowledge were not (in general) transmitted by deductive inference?
    5. Discuss some Gettier-style counterexample(s) against the justified true belief (JTB) theory of knowledge. Here, you can discuss Gettier's original example(s) (I discuss these two examples in lecture #16), or you can discuss other similar example(s) that you think are even more compelling.  You should give a precise analysis and discussion of your chosen example(s), and you should say whether you think they are effective (for refuting the JTB theory).  Can you think of a response on behalf of a JTB theorist?  In light of such examples, what do you think about the prospects for a JTB theory of knowledge (here, the Zagzebski paper might be especially useful — see lecture #16 for more on that paper, and here is a JSTOR link to the paper itself)?
  3. Final Exam (5/16/07, 5–8pm @ 141 MCCONE). The six (6) exam questions will be chosen from the following nine (9) questions. You will be asked to write short essays on three (3) of those six.
    1. What is justification? How can it come apart from knowledge? Give examples of how you can have justification without knowledge. Is justification necessary for an account of knowledge? Discuss why or why not, and be sure to address the relevant distinctions between internal and external elements of a theory of knowledge.
    2. What is a basic source of knowledge? Which sources of knowledge can be considered foundational, if any? You should discuss at least three possible sources of knowledge and potential problems with considering them foundational. What does your analysis tell about whether knowledge should be considered defeasible or not?
    3. Compare and contrast direct and indirect realist accounts of perception, memory and consciousness. What challenges does each view encounter, and which do you think is more plausible?
    4. What are deductive and inductive inferences? What do these ways of expanding our knowledge tell us about the structure of knowledge? How is each kind of inference defeasible, if at all?
    5. Discuss the role of epistemic closure in the transmission of knowledge through deductive inference. Why does maintaining closure lead to a skeptical result? How might that result be resisted?
    6. What kind of an account can we give of our scientific knowledge? What are its sources? Is it defeasible? What does the history of science teach us about our scientific knowledge? On what basis can we be said to have more scientific knowledge today than we did 200 years ago?
    7. What can skeptical arguments teach us about knowledge and justification in everyday life? Can skepticism be ignored as absurd, or must we answer it with philosophical argument? If skepticism (especially about justification) cannot be refuted, does this mean our beliefs are completely irrational? Make sure to use examples.
    8. What is fideism in the epistemology of religion? Describe the two varieties discussed in the readings and lecture. Why might one wish to embrace fideism (you should say something about evidentialism)? Is it ultimately a plausible view?
    9. Discuss relativism and non-cognitivism about moral knowledge. Why are these views considered anti-realist? How might one resist such anti-realism?

Of course, as always, you are to strictly follow the University's guidelines on plagiarism and academic integrity.

And, for many useful tips on writing a philosophy paper, look here and here.