David W. Agler


This course is designed to introduce students to some of the major topics, problems, and arguments concerning the nature of knowledge and the rational justification of belief. The course begins by investigating different senses or uses of the word "knowledge", "to know", "knowing", discusses problems with the traditional concept of knowledge as "justified true belief", investigates theories of justification (foundationalism, coherentism, reliabilism), and closes with an inquiry into the factors that make beliefs justified (internalism and externalism). Various ideas, problems, and arguments concerning knowledge are initially presented through the course of reading an introductory textbook that offers a clear explanation, concrete examples, and a schematic presentation of arguments. This reading is supplemented by primary texts that aim to give a historically textured account of theories of knowledge. In particular, 17th century French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy is read as an account of foundationalism, 19th century American scientist and philosopher Charles S. Peirce's anti-Cartesian essays are read as a critique of foundationalism ,and a number of short, contemporary articles are made available to assess other themes (the Gettier problem, internalism, externalism, coherentism, etc.). This course does not presuppose any previous philosophical training, but since this course has a writing emphasis, it does assume a basic level of competence in formatting, writing, and editing essays and research papers. A number of intermediate writing and research exercises are interspersed throughout the course. These activities are designed to teach students how to organize, write, and respond to philosophical essays.

Spring 2010 Syllabus

Handouts & Lecture Notes

This course drew heavily on Noah Lemos's An Introduction to Theories of Knowledge.

Modules 1-9: Introduction to Theories of Knowledge

Module 1: Introduction to the Concept of Knowledge
Handout 1: Introduction to the Concept of Knowledge
Module 2: The Concept of Knowledge
Handout 2: The Gettier Objection
Handout 3: Replies to the Gettier Objection
Module 3: Foundationalism & Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy
Handout 4: Foundationalism & Meditations 1 & 2
Handout 5: Foundationalism & Meditations 3 & 4
Handout 7: Foundationalism & Meditation 5 & 6
Handout 8: Questions Concerning Faculties Claimed for Man
Handout 9: Some Consequences of Four Incapacities
Handout 10: Fixation of Belief
Handout 11: How to Make Our Ideas Clear
Module 5: Coherentism
Module 6: Reliabilism
Module 7: Virtue Epistemology
Module 8: Internalism & Externalism
Module 9: Skepticism

Writing Workshop Assignments

Writing Workshop #1: Basics in Peer-Evaluation
Writing Workshop #2: Metadiscourse
Writing Workshop #3: Using Quotations
Writing Workshop #4: Arguments

Paper #1: Knowledge as JTB & Foundationalism
Paper #2 & Blog #2, Peirce's Criticisms of Cartesianism
Paper #3 & Blog #3: Peirce's Criticisms of Foundationalism Developed