Epistemology: The Theory of Knowledge

We all think we ‘know’ many things, and are guided by our knowledge in our everyday lives. But what is “knowledge”? What does it mean to ‘know’, and how does ‘knowledge’ relate to evidence, truth, belief, expectation, and mere remembering? Is there ‘objective’ knowledge ‘out there’, so to speak, just waiting to be known? And how do we know that we really know? What is “truth”, and how can we be sure that our beliefs are ‘true’? How do we know that our justifications are truly justificatory? Plato characterised knowledge as “justified true belief”; but many questions remain. In this masterclass I propose that ‘knowledge’ and ‘belief’ are different in kind, and that strictly speaking, even philosophers (sadly, myself not excepted) ‘know’ almost nothing at all!

This class will be delivered face-to-face at WEA Sydney. Enrolling students need to ensure they have read the current COVID-19 Safety Guidance that WEA Sydney has put in place before enrolling.

SUGGESTED READING

  • D. M. Armstrong: A Theory of Universals (Cambridge: CUP, 1978)
  • A. J. Ayer: Language, Truth and Logic (Penguin, 1990)
  • A. J. Ayer: The Problem of Knowledge (Penguin, 1990)
  • A. J. Ayer: Metaphysics and Common Sense (Macmillan, 1969)
  • P. Boghossian: Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism (Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • C. D. Broad: Scientific Thought (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1923)
  • R. A. Burton: On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not (New York: St Martin’s Griffin, 2008)
  • I. Kant: Critique of Pure Reason (1781), 2nd ed’n, tr. P. Guyer & A. W. Wood (Cambridge University Press, 1998)
  • Bart Kosko: Fuzzy Thinking: The New Science of Fuzzy Logic (Hyperion, 1994)
  • P. K. Moser: Philosophy after Objectivity: Making Sense in Perspective (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999)
  • P. L. Nunez: Brain, Mind, and the Structure of Reality (Oxford University Press, 2010)
  • B. K. Ridley: On Science: Thinking in Action (Routledge, 2001)
  • B. Russell (1961): History of Western Philosophy, 2nd ed’n (Routledge, 1996)
  • G. Ryle (1949): The Concept of Mind (Penguin, 1990)
  • M. Seidel: Epistemic Relativism: A Constructive Critique (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)
  • A. N. Whitehead: An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 1919)

COURSE OUTLINE

This masterclass in epistemology – the theory of knowledge – addresses the following topics:

  • The different definitions of “knowledge” – as ‘remembering’, ‘access’, ‘capacity’, ‘learned ability/skill’, and/or ‘understanding’.
  • Propositional knowledge
  • Objective vs subjective knowledge
  • Knowledge as “Justified True Belief”
  • Validity vs Truth
  • Various theories of Truth
  • Semantic foundationalism: axioms, ‘brute’ facts, experiences, ideas, & opinions
  • Absolute knowledge and absolute conviction
  • Justification: logical/formal proof and evidential substantiation
  • The different definitions of “fact” – facts vs factual statements
  • The two paths to knowledge: Fact > Data > Information > Explanation > Understanding > Knowledge | Idea > Opinion > Belief > Knowledge
  • Knowledge as conviction
  • Belief as expectation vs belief as acceptance

PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Be acquainted with various definitions of “knowledge”, “fact”, “belief”, “expectation”, “justification”, and “truth”.
  2. Understand the relationships between these concepts, and their implications.
  3. Be familiar with the rules of evidence and justification.
  4. Gain insights into the role of critical thinking in our everyday lives.
$125 Limited / $113

<p>We all think we ‘know’ many things, and are guided by our knowledge in our everyday lives. But what is “knowledge”? What does it mean to ‘know’, and how does ‘knowledge’ relate to evidence, truth

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12 Apr

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