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.