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PHIL 240 Introduction to Epistemology

Topics in epistemology such as skepticism, truth, justification, a priori and a posteriori knowledge. Readings from classic and contemporary texts.

This course is eligible for Credit/D/Fail grading. To determine whether you can take this course for Credit/D/Fail grading, visit the Credit/D/Fail website. You must register in the course before you can select the Credit/D/Fail grading option.

Credits: 3


Status Section Activity Term Interval Days Start Time End Time Comments
  PHIL 240 001 Lecture 1 Mon Wed 9:00 10:00

NOTE: Students must sign up for one discussion section among L01, L02, L03, L04 and L05.

Phil 240 is an introduction to philosophical issues about the nature of knowledge and evidence (epistemology). In our everyday lives, we often claim that we know or have good reasons to believe many things that Vancouver is near the Pacific Ocean, that 2 + 2 = 4, that Orcas are mammals, that the sun will rise tomorrow, and so on. But what is it that distinguishes knowledge from mere opinion? There is a long history of attempts to describe what it is that all cases of knowledge have in common. We will spend some time examining this history, with an eye to figuring out what knowledge is, and how we might go about obtaining it.

In addition to thinking about what knowledge is, we will also worry about whether (or to what extent) we have knowledge. Philosophical skeptics doubt or deny that we have knowledge or justification of various sorts. Some deny that we know anything at all, while other skeptics maintain that you dont have very much knowledge. We will spend a lot of time thinking about arguments for and against various kinds of philosophical skepticism. How can you tell that youre not dreaming as you read this, or that youre not currently in a Matrix? Are our beliefs about the future justified? How?

We will also spend some time doing applied epistemology. Epistemological issues arise in a number of areas of philosophy. Well examine some of these, including design arguments for the existence of God. Well think about cases where ignorance seems to help one make better decisions. Well also look at the relationship between psychology and epistemology. Finally, well think about some epistemological issues about the nature of democracy. In what sense might diversity within a group help the group come to better epistemic decisions?

This course aims to provide the student with an introduction to various epistemological concepts (knowledge, justification, evidence, skepticism, rationality, etc.) and theories about the nature of knowledge. Although we will examine works by historically important figures such as Plato, Descartes and Hume, the primary focus of this course will be on assessing philosophical arguments and theories for their correctness.

The course also aims to help you develop your critical thinking and writing skills. Besides being a subject, philosophy is also a way of thinking, of asking questions and evaluating the answers to them. In examining your views about epistemological issues, it is important to develop and refine your ability to ask questions and critically examine the arguments offered by various thinkers. Because reasons (arguments) are offered for positions in nearly every subject, the rewards that you may reap from cultivating critical thinking and writing skills extend far beyond the scope of this course.

Two books - Jennifer Nagels, Knowledge: a very short introduction, Oxford University Press. and

Anthony Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments, Hackett Publishing Co plus a course packet will be available at the UBC bookstore.

  PHIL 240 L01 Discussion 1 Fri 13:00 14:00

This discussion section is for students registered in PHIL 240 001.

  PHIL 240 L02 Discussion 1 Thu 13:00 14:00

This discussion section is for students registered in PHIL 240 001.

  PHIL 240 L03 Discussion 1 Fri 11:00 12:00

This discussion section is for students registered in PHIL 240 001.

  PHIL 240 L04 Discussion 1 Fri 14:00 15:00

This discussion section is for students registered in PHIL 240 001.

  PHIL 240 L05 Discussion 1 Thu 12:00 13:00

This discussion section is for students registered in PHIL 240 001.

  PHIL 240 002 Lecture 2 Tue Thu 9:30 11:00

What makes some things reasonable to believe, and others unreasonable? What is the difference between knowing something and merely believing it? Do we have moral reasons to have certain beliefs? This course comprises an introduction to epistemology, the branch of philosophy concerning questions about knowledge and justified belief. It is a commonplace that there are more and less reasonable ways to believe, that we know many things, and that knowledge is in some sense an intellectual achievement. Epistemology concerns the attempt to determine whether these commonplace claims are true, in what they might consist, and how we might resolve the philosophical challenges to which they give rise. Topics include scepticism, theories of epistemic justification, the nature of knowledge, testimony and~

and testimonial injustice, and the semantics of knows . No prior familiarity with philosophy will be assumed.