First paper topics

First paper topics
Write answers to two of the questions below, choosing from each of the first two main clusters, e.g., 1.x and 2.2. Each answer is worth 10% of your final mark, and it should require 3-4 pages of written text. A solid response to the (more difficult) bonus question #3 is rewarded with 7-10 extra points. Clearly indicate on your title page which topics you have selected, and kindly consider the remaining ones as study questions for the final exam. Rules concerning academic conduct introduced on the course outline are in force. The assignment is due in class January 21, 2015.

1.x Pick one of the questions from study questions 2, 3, 5 or 6 from B&S Chapter 1. We will discuss one of them in class so you have an example of answer to this type of questions.

2.1. In the first chapter of his textbook, Martin introduces the distinction between knowledge-that, knowing-him/her/it and knowledge how. Present and illustrate the distinction with 2-3 examples and comment on its usefulness while answering the following questions. Some of your examples can be from the movie we discussed in class Slumdog Millionaire by Danny Boyle. Which of your examples can also be labeled empirical beliefs/knowings? Which of your examples, if any, are usefully put in the category we introduced as ‘self knowledge’? What is the (so-called) object of a claim to knowing-that in contrast with other types of knowing? Does that special type of object may help clarify the (almost obsessive) focus on this type of knowledge, in your view? For instance, may this object help identify what beliefs are supported by what type of evidence, or what beliefs are grounded in what type of justification (M’s Chapters 2-3)?

2.2. In his discussion on the strength of beliefs, Martin analyzes Ayer’s view that knowledge claims can only be made by the subject if/when he/she feels there is no doubt, or there is no practical likelihood he/she might be wrong. Do you agree with Ayer that both feeling secure and being entitled to so feeling are necessary conditions for knowledge? If so/not, why (not)? More broadly, in your view, what are the lessons you might want us to draw from the list of examples on p.14 (e.g., about the necessary ingredients of knowledge, about the justification of knowledge that p by the subject S herself and/or by someone else, if/when S entertains p)? Note that you can also use examples from the movie we discussed in class.

3. Below are some of the arguments in epistemology we will be discussing throughout the term. Select one on a theme that interests you, and do your best to complete their premises and/or conclusion. Evaluate the completed argument as best you can, e.g., identify an implausible or unclear premise or assumption, an invalid argument, etc., and compare your choice of strategy for argument analysis with those introduced by B&S in Chapter 1. If you can, identify elements in your strategy which you share with B&S (and/or Martin) and other(s) which you think define your personal view on the matter/theme. We will analyze (b) in class, so you can use it as a model.

(a) (i) The subject matter of logic is thought as explained by the laws of valid inference.
(iii) Hence, the subject matter of logic cannot be perceived by the senses.

(iv) Psychology, as any other natural science, accesses its subject matter through the senses.

Thus, ….
(b) (i) Our belief B1 that external objects exist is justifiable on the basis on another
belief B2.
(ii) The belief B2 justifies B1 only if it is itself warranted, say by another belief B3.
(iii) But the same request for justifying B3 can be made.

Therefore, our belief that external objects exist ….
(c) (i) To characterize someone’s claim as an expression, or not, of knowledge is
to pass judgment on it.
Hence, epistemic judgments are a particular kind of value-judgments.
Thus, epistemology cannot be fully naturalized.
(d) One version of Plato’s argument for the existence of untaught/innate knowledge (eg., in his Meno)

(i) Learning through teaching is understood as based on explicitly conveying the information to the subject, e.g., explicitly stating what counts as a correct answer and what not.

(ii) The slave in Meno has not been formally educated, and thus has not had any teaching/learning of geometry before the test begins.

(iii) Socrates does not deliver such information to the slave, rather only prompts him to answer yes/no questions.

(iv) The slave has a demonstrated capacity to answer correctly questions of geometry (or to correct his erroneous answers to such questions). To put it slightly differently, the slave is able to discern between a correct and a mistaken answer to such questions. When prompted with the final geometrical construction, he can also identify the square with the relevant properties.


(vi) But we assume that such knowledge has not been taught (in the above sense) to him either during the test, or during his young life (see (i)).

(vii) Hence, the slave has untaught knowledge of geometry and/or of the laws of reasoning.


Thus, any layperson has some untaught knowledge (of geometry).