Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ok, that's a wrap!

Here's how we finish:
1. Final draft of Analysis 3 due Sunday December 11
2. Upload your finished Google Doc to Turnitin per the instructions in the syllabus.
3. Final exam: Tuesday December 13, 10:15 - 12:15

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

We'll finish the explanatory co-existence paper on Thursday.

Last thought question:

  • What, if anything, that we studied this semester do you expect to find yourself thinking about later when you don't have to anymore?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The final exam questions are now posted on the top of the schedule page and here.

See previous post for Tuesday's thought question.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Be sure to read the previous post if you missed it.

Thought question for Tuesday
Identify a phenomenon for which you find yourself inclined to accept multiple but mutually incompatible explanations. Do you regard this tendency as irrational or otherwise undesirable? Why or why not?
(Note: This should not be one that you simply can't make your mind up about because of inadequate evidence, but something more of the kind considered in the current reading.)

Please note that you have all received invitations to evaluate this class in your Saclink email. I would personally appreciate it if you would do so, but you will note that there is a significant incentive provided as well. The incentive is:

  • As an incentive to participation, all students will receive 5 extra points if 95% of students who take the final exam participate in the survey.

Since there are only 12 people enrolled in the class, we will need everyone to do the evaluations for the incentive to kick in. Feel free to encourage each other.

We will move on to our last reading on Monday Bundles of contradiction, by T. Lombrozo & A. Shtulman. I will have all the relevant materials up by today or tomorrow. 

Note that the first draft for your last analysis is due on Tuesday night.

Since you are all working on it, I will make the test due Wednesday night.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thought question for Thursday:

Can a belief discordant alief ever be the target of rationalization? If so, provide an example showing how. If not, explain why.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thought question for Tuesday:

1. Do you think rationalization, as Ellis and Schwitzgebel define it, is irrational?
2. Do you think it is ever to our benefit to rationalize in this sense? 
3. Are your answers to the above questions compatible with your answer to the question from last week?  It was:
Do you think it can ever be to one's benefit to behave in a way that is unequivocally irrational? Why or why not? Be clear about the sense of irrationality you are employing.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The target article for your final paper is "The Pragmatic Metaphysics of Belief," by Eric Schwitzgebel. This article is in draft form and has not yet been published. You will find the topic familiar.

We will not meet on Tuesday so that people can attend the Ethics Symposium. The thought question below must be turned in to me at the Symposium during the session that corresponds to our classes. I'll hang around outside of the room until it starts. Note that you can get extra credit for this class for attending and writing on the content of any particular session in the designated place in your journal. Study the syllabus carefully for the correct way to do this and for the due dates. If you do it incorrectly or submit it after the due date you won't get credit.

There are two weeks left in the semester after Thanksgiving. We will only cover two more of the essays on our list. The first one will be "Rationalization in moral and philosophical thought," by E. Schwitzgebel and J. Ellis. The second one will be  "Bundles of contradiction," by T. Lombrozo & A. Shtulman.

In the syllabus I guaranteed 15 tests but we are only doing 13 articles. My view  is that what is essential is the number of points available, rather than the number of tests, so the final two tests will be worth 20 points rather than 10. If anyone finds this to be an unreasonable solution, please let me know right away and we can discuss it.

I will have the study questions, test and the discussion questions link available by this Sunday, but nothing will be due until the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Thought question
Do you think it can ever be to one's benefit to behave in a way that is unequivocally irrational? Why or why not? Be clear about the sense of irrationality you are employing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

We'll do Nagel's reply to Gendler on Thursday.  Thought question:

Nagel defends the Platonic view that knowledge is a commanding force against Gendler's argument that the reality of implicit bias, aversive racism etc. implies that it is not. 
Question: Is this really an argument about the power of knowledge or something else (belief, rationality, etc.)? In other words, is there some sense in which the truth of the things we believe (rationally or not) figures essentially into either Nagel's or Gendler's perspective?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Here is the thought question for Tuesday. You may recognize it as a variation on a previous thought question but it may provoke a different response:

Consider the following statement:  
Everyone does what they believe to be right. Hitler and Stalin may have been profoundly evil men, but they believed in the rectitude of what they were doing. When people do what is wrong, it is because they lack moral knowledge. That's just what it is to be evil. 
By the same token, anyone who really knows what is right, will do what is right.  Jeremy didn't stop and help that old lady by the side of the road. Today he is feeling all guilty and says he knew he should have. But that's not correct. If he knew he should have, then he would have. That's just what it is to have moral knowledge.

Do you agree with this? Why or why not? Do you think this is more intuitively compelling than the same sort of argument made with respect to non moral contexts? For example, if someone were to say: If you really knew your glasses were on your head, you wouldn't have been looking for them just now in the drawer. Why or why not?
Tuesday we'll be on Nagel's "Intuition, Reflection and Command of Knowledge." I'll post the usuals by today or tomorrow and quiz will be due Monday night. This paper is actually a response to Tamar Gendler's essay "The Third Horse." Gendler's paper is also available on BB, but here are my notes on it as well (in the form of answered study questions.) It is worth reviewing these at least.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

We're on Gendler's "Alief and Belief" on Thursday.  Thought question:

Identify one of your belief discordant aliefs and explain how you deal with it. Do you think the alief has any value to you despite the fact that you don't believe it? Why or why not?

Monday, November 7, 2016

There are two talks tomorrow. One right after class, the other at 1:30. Good chance to do one or two extra credit colloquium analyses. See CPPE or FB for details.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

On Tuesday we will finish the Cassam article. I will post the study questions, and quiz over Tamar Gendler's paper "Alief and Belief" by tomorrow, but they will not be due until Wednesday.

Final draft of Analysis 2 due Sunday night!

Thought question for Tuesday
What do you think of the following claim? Although there are clearly times when people simply do not exercise rational control over irrational impulses, reason does have the power to take charge of impulsive behavior and redirect it according to its own light; it is just a matter of our choosing to do so. 
After you have written your answer to the above comment on the significance of your answer for this video.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Thought question for Thursday

Mika is a Christian. Her friend Aaron is an agnostic. Mika often tells Aaron that one of the wonderful things about being a Christian is the knowledge that when she and her loved ones die they will be going to a far better place. Hence there is no reason to fear death or to grieve for them when people you love die. God is infinitely wise and loving. He has a plan for all those who accept Jesus into their lives. One day Mika's mother, a school teacher and also a devout Christian, is killed in a school yard shooting along with many elementary school children. Months later Mika grieves her mother's death intensely and she tells Aaron that she is having a crisis of faith.
Did Mika believe the things she told Aaron prior to her mother's death? Explain.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

We will finish Schwitzgebel on Tuesday and move on to Cassam's "Knowing what you believe," which you will find on BB.  Study questions, quiz and discussion questions on the latter will be available by Sunday, but not due until Wednesday.

Remember rough draft for Analysis 2 is due Tuesday and final draft is due Sunday.

Thought question for Tuesday:
Jim sincerely expresses the following opinion: Jury duty is a huge pain in the rump and if people don’t feel like doing it they should just ignore the summons because the county can’t enforce it anyway. 
Marie sincerely find Jim's opinion repulsive and expresses strong disagreement, arguing that jury service is a very strong civic responsibility and Jim's view is positively shameful. 
Interestingly, Jim has served on many juries and has never failed to respond to a summons. On the other hand, the three times Marie has received a summons, she has not shown up. Once she called in sick when she thought she might be coming down with a cold, and once she just couldn’t because she got a last minute chance to go to Disneyland for free and once she just somehow, sort of, you know forgot. 
Does Jim know what he believes in this case? Does Marie? Explain.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Finish the following dialogue in light of your current thinking on the reliability of introspection. Does your completed dialogue tend to support or deny Schwitzgebel's views on the reliability of introspection?

Thought question for Thursday:

Sahar: Is that a sheep out there in the field?
Sherman: Uh...yep. Appears to be.
Sahar: Are you sure? Maybe it's just a rock that looks like a sheep.
Sherman: What? No. It appears to be moving.
Sahar: Hmmm, well it could be like a little motorized decoy sheep or something.
Sherman: Is there something wrong with you? Look, it could be a lot of things. But it appears to me to be a sheep. I am quite certain of that.
Sahar: Interesting. Why are you more sure that it appears to be a sheep than that it is a sheep?

Monday, October 24, 2016

I've moved the analysis due dates back a week. (See schedule) Sorry for the late notice. It is partly to accommodate my schedule but I think most of you wont' mind the extra time.  We've got room so that the last one won't be rushed.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

We'll finish up Sartwell the first 10 minutes of Tuesday, then move on to Schwitzgebel's "The unreliability of naive introspection." Study questions will be posted by Friday and test/discussion link by Sunday, due Monday night.

Thought question for Tuesday:

Can you be happy or unhappy without knowing about it?
If not, why not? If so, how?
Write an answer that shows a reflective awareness of whether you are answering as an internalist or as an externalist.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

We'll finish Sartwell's piece on Thursday. Don't forget to do the test and post a discussion question by Wednesday night.

Thought question for Thursday:
Most philosophers agree that it is possible to choose to do (or not do) something, such as get out of bed or order a pizza, and, as consequence, do that thing. This is not the claim that such actions are free as opposed to determined, but simply the claim that our actions do often arise from our choices.
Far fewer philosophers agree that it is possible to choose to believe (or not believe) something. We often say "I choose to believe ___," but this does not appear to be a realistic description of the phenomenology of belief. For example, if you currently believe that Guyana is in Africa, and then you notice on a map that it is actually in South America, you do not choose to change your previous belief. It just happens.
  • Question 1: Produce a counterexample to the claim that you cannot choose to believe something.
  • Question 2: Do you think it is possible to choose to have a particular thought? e.g., Can you choose to think about bacon?
  • Question 3: You will now perform a task. Your task is to choose not to think about bacon for as long as possible. Imagine that as soon as you think about bacon you will receive a very painful shock to a sensitive area. Clear your mind and begin in 15 seconds. Write down how long you lasted, and any subsequent thoughts that you have about your performance or bacon.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The target article for your next analysis is "Epistemic agency," by Catherine Elgin. It is available here, and there is also a link to it on the schedule page under week 6 supplementary readings. First draft due 10/25. Final draft due 10/30.

Also, you will find this week's reading "Why knowledge is merely true belief," on Blackboard at the very bottom of the supplementary readings. The schedule originally looked like it linked to the article, but this was an error.

Friday, October 14, 2016

We will finish Pritchard's article fairly quickly on Tuesday. Please read Sartwell's "Why knowledge is merely true belief."  I will have study questions, quiz and discussion thread available by Sunday, but they will not be due until Wednesday night.

For your thought question, please read this post. 
  • What is the strongest reason for rejecting the view advanced there?
  • Do you reject the view for this reason?  Why or why not?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

We will finish Hannon's article on Thursday and get started on Pritchard's "Anti-Luck Virtue Epistemology."

Thought question for Thursday

Virtue epistemology holds that one knows that P only if ones true belief that P is produced by the exercise of a cognitive virtue.
  1. What do you think is the strongest objection to this view?
  2. What do you think is the strongest reply to this objection? 
  3. Do you think this reply is adequate? Why or why not?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

We're going to skip "Elusive Knowledge," and read Pritchard's "Anti-luck Virtue Epistemology" for next week.  However, we will start on that article on Thursday and questions and quiz won't be due until Wednesday night.

For Tuesday we will finish Hannon's article.

Thought question for Tuesday:

There are hundreds of religions in your world, all fervently believed by millions of people. However, you are lucky enough to have been born into the correct one: Önism. Everything in your holy book, The Önid, is in fact the word of the Supreme Being, Ön, dictated by Ön through a perfectly reliable process. You learned the precepts of Önism as a child and have never seriously questioned them. 
Everything in the holy books of the other religions relating to creation and the afterlife is false. But the Önid is no more convincing to members of other religions than the holy books of other religions are to Önists. Atheists exist in large numbers, and they find the Önid to be puerile nonsense, just like all the other religions. 
Do your Önist beliefs count as knowledge? Explain. Does your explanation incline you to internalism or externalism?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

For Thursday we will be starting on the Michael Hannon article "Fallibilism and the value of knowledge." Quiz and discussion question are due tomorrow night.

Thought question for Thursday"

Watch this TED talk by Rebecca Saxe on the false belief task. Explain how it might be brought to bear on questions about the nature of knowledge. If you don't think it raises any such questions, explain why.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Thought question for Tuesday is on previous post. Study questions, quiz and discussion question thread covering the next article have all been posted. Quiz and discussion question are due Wednesday night.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Thought question for Tuesday:

You study hard for your psychology exam and you go to class confident that you are going to do well. When you sit down to the test, you begin to read the questions. They sound familiar, but for some reason you are just drawing a blank. You begin to get nervous, and this makes it even worse. As the time passes, nothing improves. You almost get up and leave, but you realize that's stupid and you at least need to try. So you just start guessing. You turn the test in at the end of the period sure that you have done poorly. But when the test is returned it turns out you got an A: 94%.
Question: Did you know the answers to the test? Explain why or why not in a way that shows what your answer implies about your views concerning the nature of knowledge itself.  
In consideration of the fact that you do not have extra reading or a quiz to take for Tuesday I have postponed the Analysis due date until Monday.

I will post a thought question for Monday shortly, however.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thought question for Thursday

Nagel distinguishes between believing and accepting. Identify a real life example in which you noticed yourself believing something without having accepted it (in Nagel's sense) and which you subsequently rejected after considering it more carefully (in other words, after having put it through an acceptance process).

Be prepared to present it in class.

A truly interesting example would be one that you rejected on the basis of an acceptance process but then either (a) later decided had been correct after all, or (b) demonstrably kept believing after having consciously rejected it.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Please read Nagel's "Knowledge and reliability," for Monday.  The study questions, quiz, and discussion thread have been posted.

The thought question for Monday is to choose a fellow student's discussion question for "1% skepticism" and answer it.

To make your schedules a wee bit more manageable, I have moved the due date for the first draft of your Analysis 1 to September 29th. The final draft remains due on October 2nd. As noted below, please make sure you are thoroughly acquainted with this assignment.  There is a full description as well as a video on the schedule page. Feel free to ask questions about it in class.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tomorrow we finish Schwitzgebel's "1% skepticism."

Thought question for tomorrow:

Watch this short but excellent explanation of Boltzmann brains
1. How is the argument for Boltzmann brains a skeptical argument?
2. How is it similar to the simulation hypothesis, but dissimilar to  the BIV and Cartesian Demon skeptical hypotheses? 
3. The Boltzmann Brain hypothesis implies that random fluctuations of the universe that produce conscious brains are far more likely than random fluctuations that produce the singularity required for the Big Bang. This suggests that if we are to accept the Big Bang hypothesis, we are required to believe that it was not a random fluctuation of the universe that produced this singularity. Discuss any implication of this you find interesting. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Your target article for your first analysis assignment is "The contextualist evasion of epistemology," by Hilary Kornblith. You will find it in the supplementary readings folder on BB. The due dates for the draft and the final submission are on the schedule page. You should start reading it right away.

Kornblith's article makes reference to the work of Keith DeRose and Ernest Sosa. The Sosa article is also on BB and there is a link to DeRose's contextualist reponse to skepticism in the supplementary readings on the schedule page.

During this week you should review the requirements for writing an analytical essay which are at the top of the schedule page. I also strongly recommend that you watch the associated video, which is me talking through the most important do's and don't's. It is boring, but it can save you from crashing and burning on your first analysis for this class. Whatever you do, you are held responsible for understanding this assignment completely from the get-go.

A couple of you still have not signed up for your journal. Please do so here right away, and I will share one with everyone shortly.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The thought question for Tuesday is to write a thoughtful response to this brief video summary of the simulation argument. Support the argument with further considerations, criticize it, or spell out some interesting consequence not discussed in the video or in Schwitzgebel's article.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The study questions and discussion question link for 1%Skepticism are now available. The quiz will be available Sunday morning.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

We will continue with the Greco article on Thursday.

Thought question for Thursday.

The skeptical argument we have been examining concludes that we do not know anything that would count as a basic observation statement about the external world. Consider this modal argument.
  1. If it is possible that I am a brain in a vat, it is possible that I do not have hands.
  2. It is possible that I am a brain in a vat.
  3. Therefore, it is possible that I do not have hands.
(1) Reconstruct this argument by changing the first premise so that this becomes a modus tollens argument.

(2) Compare this argument to the original skeptical argument, noticing in particular that it makes no reference to knowledge at all. What additional proposition will secure the conclusion of the skeptical argument?
(3) Do you think the resulting argument is stronger or weaker than the usual form of the skeptical argument. Explain.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

For Tuesday we will be reading John Greco's article "External World Skepticism," which you will find in Blackboard.

Study questions for this article will be posted on the study questions page, as will the quiz and discussion question post, which are due on Monday night.

For your thought question on Tuesday, choose a discussion question posed by someone other than yourself from Turri's article "In Gettier's Wake," and do your best to answer it. Be prepared to present your answer in class.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

On Thursday we will develop the responses to the Gettier problem discussed by Turri.

Here is the thought question for Thursday:

Slim is a racist and he is particularly prejudiced against Muslims. He regards all Muslim males as potential terrorists. One day on campus he sees a man, who is in fact a Muslim student, walk into the student union dining commons. Slim notices that the man is behaving nervously and also thinks that it is very odd that he is continuing to wear his bulky jacket even though it is warm indoors. When the man reaches inside his coat Slim is suddenly seized with the certainty that he is about to detonate an explosive device. (Slim has no training of any kind in recognizing terrorists or people carrying explosive devices.) Slim tackles the man from behind, knocking him unconscious. Slim was right. He saved hundreds of student lives that day and is heralded as a hero.
Bert lives in Alaska and is normal in most ways. One of his few peculiarities is that he believes himself to be deathly allergic to dragon fruit. He almost died after eating it many years ago while he was travelling alone in Vietnam. Bert is actually not allergic to dragon fruit at all. In fact, he has never even eaten dragon fruit. The fruit he ate that day was a melon served to tourists as dragon fruit. It had been washed in contaminated water. The local physician that treated Bert was probably aware of this, but told him that he was allergic to dragon fruit and Bert has believed it ever since. He has never even thought to tell his wife Midge about the episode, who as far as he knows has never heard of dragon fruit. One morning Midge makes them a smoothie for lunch, something she does often. Just before taking a sip Bert, who has not thought about the episode in years, suddenly recalls it and becomes seized with fear. Honey, he said, you didn't put something called dragon fruit in this did you? Midge's jaw dropped: Yes, I did. I saw some at the market this morning and decided it would be fun to try. My God, how did you know that?

(1) Did Slim know that the man was a terrorist? (2) Did Bert know that there was dragon fruit in the smoothie? Make your reasons explicit in each case. (Do not speculate about possibilities not stated in the examples.) (3) If you were forced to choose one as a case of knowing and the other as a case of not knowing, what would you say and why?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Here is the thought question for tomorrow. Sorry for the late posting.

At 10 AM your smartphone, using a highly reliable GPS network, tells you that there is a traffic jam on the way to work and advises another route, which you take.
You do not check your phone while driving, and do not see that at 10:01 AM your phone is now reporting normal traffic conditions along your usual route. In fact, however, the original information was totally accurate. There is a traffic jam. The subsequent revision is due to a very rare data processing error.

Evaluate the following assertion: In this case you do not know that there is a traffic jam. Even though the source is highly reliable, you are just lucky that you did not check it after 10:01 AM and end up with a false belief.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hi, please read all previous posts.

The study questions link on the top of the schedule page is now live. Study questions for the Turri article "In Gettier's Wake" are now posted.
Hi, please read the previous post before reading this one.

1. SacCT is now live.

2. On Thursday we will finish going over the slides "Introduction to epistemology," which you will find on the schedule page at the first link under the Notes column. We will also begin discussing the content of "In Gettier's Wake," by John Turri, so please start reading it as well.

3. On SacCT you will see a Quiz folder, and in that folder you will find a quiz covering the Turri article. It is due on Monday at 11:59 PM. That means it has to submitted by that point, or you won't get credit.

4. You will also see a Discussion link in the sidebar on the left. This is where you will find your first thought question, which is also due Monday at 11:59 PM.

5. Please go to this link and follow the instructions on the top of the page. You will need a gmail account, which is a Google email account, or an email account that you have registered with Google.

6. Here is the roll call question for Thursday. Copy and paste it into a word processing document, and then answer the question thoughtfully, intelligently and in college level English. Print it out and bring it with you to class. Do NOT give your answer to anyone to turn in for you, as this serves as an indication that you were present.

—At the very beginning of the semester, Zeke and Belinda are standing in line at Starbucks. Belinda is staring intently at a man buying coffee. She does not know him. 
—After a moment she says to Zeke, with absolute conviction “OMG, I am going to marry that guy.” 
—Zeke laughs, and Belinda says, “No Zeke, I mean it. That guy is my future husband. I can’t tell you how I know, but I do know.” 
—The Starbucks guy turns out to be in Belinda’s next class. They end up in a study group together, start going out and are married two years later. 
—Question: Did Belinda know on that day in Starbucks that she would marry the Starbucks guy? Explain.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hi everybody, this What's Up link is where you'll be coming on a daily basis to find out what's going on in class. I'll have the syllabus up pretty soon to be followed by the reading schedule. Hope you enjoyed your winter break and that you are looking forward to getting back to work.

You should already have received an email from me explaining the degree of preparation needed for success in this course. Specifically, it is essential that you have already taken 127 and 128 as well as other philosophy classes in which you have learned to write analytical essays.

This course is also a lot of work, requiring regular, active, deep engagement both in class and out. If you are ready for all this, great, you will more than likely enjoy the course a lot.

Stay tuned and see you soon.