PHIL 550 A: Seminar In Epistemology

Meeting Time: 
W 3:30pm - 5:50pm
SAV 408
William Talbott
William J. Talbott

Additional Details:

Topic: Experimental Philosophy and the Epistemology of Particular Normative Judgments

In philosophy, one way that we test normative theories is to consider their implications for particular cases (both actual and hypothetical).  For example, in evaluating a normative moral theory that implies that lying is always wrong, we must reject that theory if we judge that it would not have been wrong to lie to the Gestapo to save the lives of Anne Frank and her family; or, in evaluating a theory of knowledge that implies that a justified true belief cannot fail to be knowledge, we must reject the theory if we judge that at least some Gettier-type cases are not cases of knowledge.  Call this philosophical method the bottom-up method.  For this bottom-up philosophical method to be sound, our normative judgments about particular cases (both actual and hypothetical) must be reliable—at the very least, more reliable than chance.  But a recent movement in philosophy, experimental philosophy, has raised serious challenges to the reliability of those judgments.  In this seminar, we will read some of the most important and influential critiques of the use of normative judgments about particular cases (sometimes called intuitions)in normative ethics and in epistemology and we will read some of the most compelling responses.  Each student in the seminar will write a short (2-3 page) reading response paper in preparation for the discussion in weeks 2 through 9 of the seminar; will lead a 45-minute discussion in one session of the seminar; and will write a (12-15 page) term paper on one of the topics discussed in the seminar. 

No freshmen.  No prerequisites for philosophy graduate students.  Prerequisites for undergraduates:  PHIL 450 or the permission of the instructor. 

TEXT: Readings will be available in PDF format on the PHIL 550 Canvas site.

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Last updated: 
April 29, 2016 - 9:40pm