Philosophy Professor at UNC Chapel Hill
Class Times: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2-3.15 pm
Location: Caldwell Hall, 103
Course Website: https://gillianrussell.net/phil-335-theory-of-knowledge/
Instructor: Professor Gillian Russell
Office hours: Thursdays 3.15-4.15pm, Fridays 1.30-2.30pm.
Office Location: Caldwell Hall, 203
Email: gillian UNDERSCORE russell AT unc DOT edu
Final Exam: There is no final exam for this course, but we have a course meeting during the scheduled exam time: Thursday 5th May at noon.
This course will be a survey of some key problems in epistemology. Topics will include the definition of knowledge, arguments for radical skepticism, theories of knowledge, and the problem of induction. Questions considered include: What is knowledge? Can I know that I am not dreaming? Am I justified in my beliefs about the external world? Can I know that other people have minds? How can I justify my beliefs about the future? How does the scientific method work?
Prerequisite: at least 1 PHIL course.
The course textbook is Michael Huemer’s Epistemology: Contemporary Readings. Some additional readings will be posted on the course’s electronic reserve page (accessible online through UNC’s library.) http://library.unc.edu/support/reserves/ Some other readings may be available on the web, in which case there will be a link on this syllabus.
(E) means that the reading is in the textbook.
(R) means that the reading is on the electronic reserves page for this course. http://library.unc.edu/support/reserves/
No reading for today.
John Locke – Essay Concerning Human Understanding (E)
George Berkeley – Of the Principles of Human Knowledge (E)
David Hume – Of the Academical or Skeptical Philosophy (E)
First short paper is due today.
Jennifer Nagel – “Rationalism and Empiricism” in Knowledge (R)
Plato – Meno (E)
Immanuel Kant – Critique of Pure Reason (E)
Bertrand Russell – Problems of Philosophy (E) – pages 152-166.
A. J. Ayer – “The Elimination of Metaphysics” (E)
Quine – “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” (E)
Short paper 2 is due today.
Quine – “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” (this will be our second class on Quine)
Optional additional reading: “Quine on the Analytic/Synthetic Distinction” – G. Russell in A Companion to W.V.O.Quine edited by G. Harman and E. Lepore, Wiley-Blackwell (Chichester 2014). (R)
John Locke – Essay Concerning Human Understanding (E, pages 219-220)
David Hume – “Of Miracles” (E)
No class. (The next two readings were updated on 2/23/2016.)
“White Ignorance” – Charles Mills (R), available at this link: http://shifter-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/mills-white-ignorance.pdf
Selections from Epistemic Injustice – Miranda Fricker (R)
David Hume – An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (E)
Wesley Salmon – “An Encounter with David Hume” (R)
MIDTERM EXAM (1 hour, in class)
P.F Strawson – “The “Justification” of Induction” in Introduction to Logical Theory (R)
Nelson Goodman – “The New Riddle of Induction” (E)
Elizabeth Anderson – “Feminist Epistemology : An Interpretation and Defence” available on Jstor here: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3810237
Rene Descartes – Meditations on First Philosophy (E)
O.K. Bouwsma – “Descartes’ Evil Genius” (R)
G.E. Moore – “Proof of an External World” (E)
Peter Unger – “An argument for skepticism”
David Lewis – “Elusive Knowledge“
There is no final exam for this class, but we will still meet at this time for the last session of the course. (No additional reading.)
I will send out prompts for all the papers.
In this course, doing the assigned reading prior to each class is very important. It is vital to your understanding of the material we are covering and it improves the level of discussion in class. In order to create a class culture in which everyone does the reading, 20% of your grade for the course is for something we will call “Memos and Comments.”
A Memo is a paragraph (roughly 50-200 words) that you write in response to an assigned reading. Memos can do various things, including: outline an argument from the text, clarify a thesis, disagree with a thesis or with one of the premises, give a counterexample to a claim made in the text, question the meaning of the text, offer an interpretation of a particular paragraph, or an analogy that helps to make the author’s point, etc. Early on in the course I will provide prompts for Memos, but if things are going well I may eventually just ask you to come up with some Memo on the reading (without a particular prompt.) Memos are due by 8pm on the night before the relevant class.
A Comment is a response to another student’s Memo. It may be one or more sentences (it doesn’t have to be long.) All comments should be constructive and respectful – remember that this is a formally assessed exercise, everyone in the course will be able to see your comment, and your name is attached to it – but you ARE allowed to disagree with something from the original memo. Other things you might do in Comments include: give another example that illustrates or strengthens the student’s point, compare the paragraph they are discussing with a related one, disagree with the student’s main point, challenge a presupposition of their point, etc. Comments on other students’ memos are due before the relevant class starts.
Over the course of the semester you are required to write 20 memos, and 40 comments. If you complete your 20 memos and 40 comments in a satisfactory fashion, then you will receive the full 20% of the Memos and Comments grade. You will have completed your 20 memos and 40 comments in a satisfactory fashion if:
If you don’t complete 20 Memos and 40 Comments in a satisfactory fashion, then you will receive 0 for the Memos and Comments part of your grade. Note that Memos can be done as far ahead of time as you like – if you wanted to read all the texts next week and write your memos you could – but they cannot be “made up” after deadline. I recommend that you plan to have all your memos and comments finished a few weeks before the end of the semester, to allow for contingencies such as illness or family emergencies.
All students must be familiar with and abide by the Honor Code, which covers issues such as plagiarism, falsification, unauthorized assistance or collaboration, cheating, and other grievous acts of academic dishonesty. Violations of the Honor Code will not be taken lightly.
Located in the Student Academic Services Building, the CSSAC offers support to all students through units such as the Learning Center and the Writing Center.
Any student in this course who has a disability that may prevent them from fully demonstrating their abilities should contact Disability Services as soon as possible to discuss accommodations.