This module discusses two of the sources on which we rely for our knowledge, namely perception and inference. The first half is devoted to perception — how does it give us knowledge of the external world? We shall consider three theories: (1) the sense-datum theory, according to which what we are immediately aware of in perception are non-physical items or sense-data; (2) the intentional theory, which likens perception that P to acquisition of the belief that P; and (3) the disjunctive theory, according to which the term ‘sense experience’ covers two quite different kinds of thing, namely either veridical perception or illusion.
In the second half of the course we consider knowledge based on reasoning. Does all our knowledge rest ultimately on experience? Or do we have some knowledge a priori, without relying on experience? Rationalist philosophers suggest that we have a priori knowledge of some of at least of the following: logic, pure mathematics, metaphysics, and ethics. But opponents of rationalism have denied that we have such knowledge, or have sought to explain it away. We next consider the problem of induction, i.e. reasoning from the past to the future, from the observed to the unobserved. According to Hume, induction cannot be rationally justified, for it is merely belief induced by habituation. We consider Hume’s problem, and also Goodman’s ‘new riddle of induction’. In the last lecture we consider the theories of Quine, whose conformational holism attempts a unified discussion both of induction and of the propositions the rationalists had considered to be a priori.
Dancy, J (ed.), 1998. Perceptual Knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lectures:The lectures for this module will be held in **, on Tuesdays from 6-7pm in the Autumn Term. The lecturer is Dr. Keith Hossack (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Seminars:The seminarsfor this module will be held in **, on Tuesdays from 7-8pm in the Autumn Term. They will be led by the lecturer and by **.
Readings: Every week there is one key reading that is the focus of the seminar discussion. One of the purposes of the seminar is to help you to understand the reading, so do not worry if you have not fully understood it in advance. Nevertheless, it is essential that you attempt the seminar reading each week if you are to follow the lecture and to participate in the seminar discussion. In addition, there are further readings listed for each essay topic.
Assessment (BA): This module is assessed by a two-hour exam in the Summer Term. You may also write up to two essays during the course, taken from the titles below, and receive feedback on them from your seminar leader. These can be useful practice for the exam. You should submit the first such essay by the first seminar after reading week, and the second by one week after the last seminar of term. [Notes: 1) You are welcome to submit an essay earlier than these dates; 2) the seminar leader should not be expected to comment on the same essay more than once.]
Essay (MA): This module is assessed by two essays of a combined total of around 3,500 words. These must be written in response to two of the set questions listed below, except with permission from the module convenor. For details concerning submission of the essays, including deadlines, see the MA Handbook.
Moodle:Electronic copies of course materials are available through Moodle, at http://moodle.bbk.ac.uk. You will need your ITS login name and password to enter.
Horwich, P 2000. ‘Stipulation, Meaning and Apriority’. In New Essays on the A Priori, Boghossian P., and and Peacocke, C,. (eds.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. (Available on Oxford Scholarship Online)
Assess disjunctivism as a theory of perceptual experience.
McDowell, J: ‘Criteria, Defeasibility and Knowledge’, in his Mind, Value and Reality, reprinted in an abridged form in J Dancy (ed.), Perceptual Knowledge.
Martin, M 2002. ‘The transparency of experience’. Mind & Language 17, 4: 376–425.