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Course materials 2015/16

Module Tutor: Johannes Roessler

In the first half of the term we'll be looking at the nature of epistemic justification from a range of perspectives. Weeks 7 and 8 are devoted to some recent work on testimony, in weeks 9 and 10 we'll pursue in more detail issues regarding philosophical scepticism broached in week 5.

Core reading for each week are the papers below marked with an asterisk. I strongly recommend reading these core texts before the relevant lecture (and perhaps looking at them again after the lecture). At some point, whether during the term or in the vacation, you should follow up some suggestions for further reading. To explain and analyze a debate on a particular issue, as you'll be expected do in your esssays and exams, you'll need to go beyond the core reading.

A number of papers relevant to this course are collected in Epistemology. An Anthology. (ed. by Ernest Sosa, Jaegwon Kim, Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath) Blackwell 2008. Helpful introductory textbooks on epistemology include: J. Dancy, An Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology and D. Pritchard, What is this thing called knowledge?


Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10 first lecture
Week 10 second lecture
Week 10 slides


The module will be assessed in the following way:
One 1,500-word essay (worth 15% of the module)
One 2-hour examination (worth 85% of the module)

Questions for the assessed essay:
1. Is there reason to think that any attempt at a reductive analysis of knowledge will be open to Gettier-style counterexamples?
2. Is an ‘externalist’ approach to epistemic warrant defensible?
3. Is there something wrong with believing that p if you don’t know that p?
4. How (if at all) does perceptual experience make a difference to our warrant for beliefs about physical objects?
5. Does reliance on testimony compromise our epistemic autonomy?


Week 1 Gettier problems
*E. Gettier, ‘Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?’
*L. Zagzebski, 'The Inescapability of Gettier problems', The Philosophical Quarterly 1994

Further reading:
A.J. Ayer, The Problem of Knowledge, ch. 1 (esp pp. 31-35)
J. Jenkins Ichikawa/M. Steup, 'The Analysis of Knoweldge', Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 
T.Williamson, ‘A state of mind’ (See link under week 3.)
Q.Cassam, ‘Can the concept of knowledge be analysed?’,
in in P. Greenough & D. Pritchard, Williamson on Knowledge (see also Williamsons’ reply to Cassam in the same volume)
R. Fogelin, Pyrrhonian Reflections on Knowledge and Justiifcation
G.Pappas & M.Swain (eds.), Essays on Knowledge and Justification. (The editors' introduction is helpful, and the volume contains some classic responses to the Gettier problem.)
R.Shope, The Analysis of Knowing (helpful guide to the first two decades of work on the 'Gettier problem')

Week 2 Knowledge and Rationality
*L.BonJour ‘Externalist Theories of Empirical Knowledge’
For a PDF click here.

Further reading:
R. Brandom, 'Insights and Blindspots of Reliabilism'
F.Dretske, ‘Entitlement: Epistemic Rights without Epistemic Duties?’, Phillosophy and Phenomenological Research 60, 2000
Dretske, ‘Two Conceptions of Knowledge: Rational vs Reliable Belief’, in his Perception, Knowledge and Belief
B. Williams, 'Knowledge and Reasons', in his Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline
Goldman, ‘Internalism Exposed’, Ch. 29 in Sosa et al, Epistemology
BonJour, ‘Recent work on the internalism-externalism controversy’, in Dancy et al, A Companion to Epistemology W. Alston, 'An internalist externalism', ​Synthese​ 74, 1988, reprinted in his ​Epistemic Justiifcation
Vogel, ‘Reliabilism Leveled’, ch 27 in Sosa et al, Epistemology Greco & Feldman, ‘Is Justification Internal?’, in M. Steup and E Sosa (eds), Contemporary Debates in Epistemology

Week 3 The Norm of Belief
*John Gibbons, The Norm of Belief, chapter 1

Further reading
J.Sutton, 'Stick to what you know', Nous 35, 2005
*T.Williamson, ‘A state of mind’ (This is chapter 1 of Knowledge and its Limits. See esp. section 1.5 'Knowing and Believing')
R. Fogelin, Pyrrhonian Reflections on Knowledge and Justification, ch. 1 (for helpful disscussion of two interpretations of epistemic justification)
B. Williams, 'Deciding to believe' (for the idea that 'beliefs aim at truth'), in his Problems of the Self
C. Littlejohn & J. Turri (eds.), Epistemic Norms
D. Fassio, 'The aim of belief', Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
N. Kolodny, 'Why be rational?', Mind 2005

Week 4 Perceptual Justification
*Hannah Ginsborg, 'Reasons for Belief' (Philosophy and PHenomenological Research 72, 2006)

Further Reading
J.McDowell, Perception as a Capacity for Knowledge
Mind and World, chs. 1-2
— 'Responses to Stroud and Brandom', in N.Smith (ed.), Reading McDowell
D. Davidson, 'A coherence theory of truth and knowledge'
J. Dancy, An Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology, part II, esp. ch. 4
A. Millar, 'How visual perception yields reasons for belief'
M. McGinn, 'Non-inferential knowledge'
H. Ginsborg, 'Perception, Generality and Reasons'
J. Roessler, 'Perceptual Experience and Perceptual Knowledge', Mind 118, 2009

Week 5 Scepticism and Commonsense
*Barry Stroud, 'Philosophical Scepticism and Everyday Life' (ch. 2 of The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism)

Further Reading
J.L. Austin, 'Other Minds', in his Philosophical Papers
P. Rysiew, 'Epistemic Contextualism', Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
K. DeRose, The Case for Contextualism (esp. ch. 2, 'The Ordinary Language Basis for Contextualism')
R. Feldman, “Skeptical Problems, contextualist solutions’, Philosophical Studies 103 (2001), 61-85.
K. DeRose, ‘Contextualism: An Explanation and Defence’, in J. Greco & E. Sosa (eds.), The Blackwell Giude to Epistemology
K. DeRose, ‘”Bamboozled by our Own Words’: Semantic Blindness and Some Objections to Contextualism’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73, 2006 (reprinted in his The Case fo Contextualism)
S. Schiffer ‘Contextualist Solutions to Scepticism’ Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society XCVI (1996) 317-333.

Week 7 Testimony and the Ideal of Autonomy
*Elizabeth Fricker, 'Testimony and Epistemic Autonomy' (in J. Lackey & E. Sosa, The Epiistemology of Testimony ch. 10)

Further reading
B. McMyler, Testimomy, Trust and Authority, ch. 1
C. Coady, Testimony: A Philosophical Study
T. Burge, 'Content Preservation'

Week 8 Testimony and Second-Hand Knowledge
Benjamin McMyler, 'Knowing at Second Hand' (ch. 2 of Testimomy, Trust and Authority)

Further Reading
R. Moran, 'Getting Told and Being Believed' (in J. Lackey & E. Sosa, The Epiistemology of Testimony)
A. Millar, 'The Social Transmission of Knowledge', in A. Millar, D. Pritchard, A. Haddock, The Nature and Value of Knowledge, ch. 8

Week 9 Scepticism and Interpretation

D. Davidson, 'A coherence theory of truth and knowledge' 

Further reading
B. Stroud, ‘Radical Interpretation and Philosophical Scepticism’
D. Davidson, 'Reply to Barry Stroud', in L.E.Hahn (ed.), The Philosophy of Donald Davidson
P. Strawson, Scepticism and Naturalism ch. 1
J. Ellis, 'Strouds Proposal for Removing the Threat of Skepticism', in N.Kolodny et al, The Possibility of Philosophical Understanding
T. Nagel, 'Davidson's New Cogito', in L.E.Hahn (ed.), The Philosophy of Donald Davidson
B.Stroud, Understanding Human Knowledge, chs. 11 & 13

Week 10 Scepticism and Disjunctivism
J.McDowell, 'The Disjunctive Conception of Experience as Material for a Transcendental Argument' (in A.Haddock & F. Macpherson, Disjunctivism)

Further Reading
J. McDowell, 'Criteria, Defeasibility, and Knowledge'
A. Millar, 'Disjunctivism and Scepticism', in J. Greco (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism
M. Martin, 'On Being Alienated' (esp. part III, pp. 399ff), in T.Szabo Gendler & J. Hawthorne (eds.) Perceptual Experience.
B. Stroud, 'Scepticism and the Senses', European Journal of Philosophy 2009
C. Wright, 'Comment on John McDowell' (in A.Haddock & F. Macpherson, Disjunctivism)