Epistemology and Metaphysics

Epistemology [L5]
Fall 2014-15
Overview: Epistemology is the philosophical study of knowledge. We will investigate
what knowledge is and under what conditions we might have it. We will consider
skeptical challenges to the idea that we can really know many of the things we
ordinarily take ourselves to, and how such challenges might be answered. Finally, we
will consider the value of truth (and knowledge).
Lecturer/ Tutors: The lecturer is Dr. Andrew Huddleston
(a.c.huddleston@gmail.com). If you have any questions about the material or the
organization of the course, please contact him. The tutors are ****.
Lectures: The lectures for this module will be in **** on Mondays at 6PM.
Seminars: The seminars for this module will be in **** on Mondays at 7PM.
Essays (BA): For this module, you will be assessed on the basis of two essays
(combined total of 3500 words). Neither essay should be shorter than 1200 words.
Included below is a list of essay questions. If you wish to write on a different
question, you should seek my permission or your tutor’s permission in advance. The
first essay will be due on the Monday following Reading Week. The second essay
will be due on ****.
Readings: Two excellent introductions are the following:
Richard Feldman, Epistemology (Prentice-Hall, 2003).
Michael Williams, Problems of Knowledge: A Critical Introduction to Epistemology
(Oxford, 2001). [This is the more challenging read of the two.]
The required readings (1-2) for each week are listed below. In some weeks, I also list
‘secondary readings.’ These are supplementary and are not required. If you are
interested in going into more depth on a particular topic, please be in touch and I can
suggest additional readings.
Electronic copies of certain course materials will be available through Moodle, at
http://moodle.bbk.ac.uk. You will need your ITS login name and password to enter.
Week 1: What is Knowledge?
Edmund Gettier, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?,” Analysis 23 (1966).
Linda Zagzebski, “The Inescapability of Gettier Problems,” Philosophical Quarterly
44:174 (1994).
Week 2: Internalism
Roderick Chisholm, “The Directly Evident” in Knowledge: Readings in
Contemporary Epistemology, ed. Sven Bernecker and Fred Dretske (Oxford, 2009).
Secondary Reading:
Wilfrid Sellars, “Does Empirical Knowledge Have a Foundation?” in Knowledge:
Readings in Contemporary Epistemology, ed. Sven Bernecker and Fred Dretske
(Oxford, 2009).
Week 3: Internalism Cont’d
Ernest Sosa, “The Raft and the Pyramid” in Epistemology: An Anthology, ed. Ernest
Sosa and Jaegwon Kim (Blackwell, 2000).
Secondary Reading:
Laurence BonJour, The Structure of Empirical Knowledge (Harvard, 1985), Ch. 5.
Reprinted in Knowledge: Readings in Contemporary Epistemology, ed. Sven
Bernecker and Fred Dretske (Oxford, 2009).
Week 4: Externalism
Alvin Goldman, “Discrimination and Perceptual Knowledge,” Journal of Philosophy
73:20 (1976).
Timothy Williamson, Knowledge and Its Limits (Oxford University Press, 2000), p.
Secondary Reading:
Alvin Goldman, “A Causal Theory of Knowledge,” Journal of Philosophy 64:12
Week 5: Skepticism
Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Meditations 1 and 2 (available in various
May be available online here:
G.E. Moore, “Proof of an External World,” in his Philosophical Papers (Allen &
Unwin, 1959); Reprinted in Epistemology: An Anthology, ed. Jaegwon Kim and
Ernest Sosa (Blackwell, 2000).
Week 6: Truth-tracking
Robert Nozick, “Knowledge and Skepticism,” in Epistemology: An Anthology, ed.
Jaegwon Kim and Ernest Sosa (Blackwell, 2000).
Week 7: Contextualism
Keith DeRose, “Solving the Skeptical Problem,” Philosophical Review 104 (1995).
Secondary Reading:
David Lewis, “Elusive Knowledge,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (1996).
Week 8: Relativism
Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge, (Oxford, 2006), p. 1-9, 58-94.
Week 9: Peer Disagreement
Thomas Kelly, “The Epistemic Significance of Disagreement,” Oxford Studies in
Epistemology, ed. John Hawthorne and Tamar Gendler (Oxford, 2005).
May be available at: https://www.princeton.edu/~tkelly/esod.pdf
Jennifer Lackey, “What Should We Do When We Disagree?” Oxford Studies in
Epistemology, ed. John Hawthorne and Tamar Gendler (Oxford, 2008).
May be available at:
Week 10: The Value of Truth (and Knowledge)
Jane Heal, “The Disinterested Search for Truth,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian
Society 88 (1987).
Paul Horwich, “The Value of Truth,” Nous 40:2 (2006).
Essay Questions:
1. Can it ever be a matter of luck that one knows something?
2. Can the notion of the ‘directly evident’ play the justificatory role that Chisholm
wants it to?
3. ‘My beliefs could all be coherent but could utterly fail to match up to reality’.
4. Does reliabilism offer a good solution to the problems Gettier identified with the
traditional ‘justified true belief’ conception of knowledge?
5. ‘Knowing does not factorize as standard analyses require’ (T. Williamson).
6. Is knowledge ‘closed under known entailment’?
7. Do you know that this question contains nine words?
8. Does contextualism offer a satisfactory way of resolving the challenge of
9. Can the relativist about knowledge know that relativism about knowledge is true?
10. When faced with disagreement from an epistemic peer, how, if it all, should one
adjust one’s beliefs?
11. Should I strive to have as many true beliefs as possible? If not, why not?
Epistemology and Metaphysics
Metaphysics, ‘the science of Being’, aims to describe Reality at the highest level
of generality. The module’s lectures will discuss the following topics.
1) Properties. Is a property a ‘universal’? If so, what is the difference between
particulars and universals?
2) Possible worlds. Do other possible worlds really exist? If so, what is their
metaphysical nature?
3) Freedom and necessity. Is fatalism true? Is Free Will compatible with
Recommended textbook
Metaphysics: Metaphysics. T Crane, K Farkas eds. Oxford University Press, Oxford,
Seminar Readings
Week 1. The world of universals
Seminar question. ‘Does Russell make a convincing case for the existence of
Reading. Russell, B 1912. The Problems of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. Read Chapters 9 and 10
Week 2. Universals and semantics
Seminar question. ‘Assess Quine’s claim that “attributes” [i.e., universals] are not
needed in semantic theory.’
Reading. Quine, W van O 1948. ‘On what there is.’ Review of Metaphysics 2
Week 3. Universals and Laws
Seminar question. ‘Are universals needed in the account of the laws of nature?’
Reading. Lewis, D 1983. ‘New Work for a Theory of Universals’.
Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61:4, 343-377. Read pages 343-355.
Week 4. Ramsey’s objection to universals
Seminar question. ‘Does Ramsey succeed in undermining the particular-universal
Reading. Ramsey, F. P. 1925. ‘Universals
’. Mind, New Series, Vol. 34,
No. 136, pp. 401-417
Week 5. Kripke’s conception of possible worlds
Seminar question. ‘“Possible worlds are stipulated, not discovered by powerful
telescopes”. (Kripke). Discuss.’
Reading. Kripke, S. Naming and Necessity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Read
pp15-20, 34-53
Week 6. Lewis’s conception of possible worlds
Seminar question. ‘Is a possible world a parallel universe?’
Reading. Lewis, D K 1986. On the Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Basil
Blackwell. Read §§1.1, 1.2, 1.9.
Week 7. Counterfactuals
Seminar question. ‘Can counterfactual conditionals be explained in terms of
‘closeness’ to the actual world?
Reading. Lewis, DK 1979. ‘Counterfactual Dependence and Time’s Arrow’.
Nous 13, 455-76.
Week 8. Compatibilism
Seminar question. ‘“I act freely when the desire on which I act is one that I desire to
be effective.” (Frankfurt) Discuss.’
Reading. Frankfurt, H G 1971. ‘Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a
Person’. The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 68, No. 1. (Jan. 14, 1971), pp. 5-20.
Week 9. Incompatibilism
Seminar question. ‘Does van Inwagen succeed in proving that Free Will is
incompatible with Determinism?’
Reading. van Inwagen, P. 1975. ‘The Incompatability of Free Will and
Determinism’. Philosophical Studies 27: 185-199.
Week 10. Agent causation
Seminar question. ‘Can agents be causes? What implications does this question have
for the problem of Freedom?
Reading. Chisolm, R, 1964. ‘Human Freedom and the Self’, The Lindley
Lectures, Department of Philosophy, University of Kansas. Reprinted in
Watson, Gary, (ed.), 2003, Free Will, Oxford: Oxford University Press, and
online at www.tc.umn.edu/~ston0235/1002/readings/chisholm.pdf
Essay titles and Readings
1 Assess the view that possible worlds are parallel physical universes.
Reading:Stalnaker, R (1988). Critical Notice of On the Plurality of Worlds,
Mind 97: 117–28.
2 Is Free Will compatible with Determinism?
i) van Inwagen, P. 1975. ‘The Incompatability of Free Will and Determinism’.
Philosophical Studies 27: 185-199. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4318929
ii) Lewis, D. 1981. ‘Are We Free to Break the Laws?’, Theoria 47 (1981),
113-121). Reprinted in his Philosophical Papers Vol II, Oxford, Oxford
University Press: 291-299
3. If materialism is true and I and my body are identical, might I and my body
nevertheless not have been identical today?
i) Kripke, S 1980. Naming and Necessity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. pp97-105.
ii) Lewis, D. ‘Counterparts of Persons and of their bodies’. Reprinted as
Chapter 4 of his Philosophical Papers Volume 1. Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1983. On Oxford Scholarship Online.
4 Is ‘Ostrich’ nominalism a tenable view?
Reading:i) Devitt, M 1980. ‘Ostrich Nominalism’ or ‘Mirage Realism’?
Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 61, 433-9. Reprinted as Chapter 1 of his
Putting Metaphysics First: Essays on Metaphysics and Epistemology,
available on Oxford Scholarship Online.
ii) Armstrong, D 1980. Against ‘Ostrich Nominalism: a reply to Michael
Devitt’. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 61, 440-9.
Both are reprinted in Properties, Mellor and Oliver (eds.) Oxford: Oxford
University Press, pp 93 -111.