Spring Semester 2006



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PHL 321 Epistemology

Dr. Kevin Graham, Instructor

Spring Semester 2006




Class Meetings:

M W F 1:30-2:20 pm in Humanities Center, Room 302







Office Hours:

M W F 2:30-3:20 pm

T R 1:30-3:20 pm

Or by appointment








Office:

Humanities Center, Room 113

Telephone:

280-1219

Email address:

kgraham@creighton.edu


Course Description

This course is an advanced study of the nature, sources, structure, and scope of human knowledge. We will discuss questions such as the following: Is justified true belief knowledge, or must something more be added to such a belief in order for it to count as knowledge? What does it mean for someone to be justified in holding a belief? What does it mean for a belief to be true? What does it mean for a person to be rational? Are standards of rationality socially variable? If so, do different standards of rationality generate different forms of knowledge?


We will examine these questions from the viewpoints of two dominant traditions in recent Anglo-American philosophy, namely, analytic philosophy (represented by the authors of our textbook, Moser, Mulder, and Trout) and pragmatism (represented by one of the leading exponents of this approach to philosophy, William James (1842-1910)). We will also explore these questions through the works of four contemporary philosophers influenced by both of these approaches: Donald Davidson (1917-2003), Ian Hacking (University Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto), W. V. Quine (1908-2000), and Charles Taylor (Board of Trustees Professor of Law and Philosophy, Northwestern University). Finally, we will apply these philosophers’ ideas to the questions of knowledge, rationality, and cultural relativity that arise in the context of a recent work of medical anthropology, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman.


Learning Objectives





By the end of the semester, you will be able to:

1.

Identify and define some of the major concepts and problems of contemporary epistemology.

2.

Analyze and evaluate philosophers’ arguments in support of their views about knowledge and rationality.

3.

Analyze and evaluate one or more philosophers’ views about some topic in epistemology and formulate and defend a thesis of your own about that topic.

4.

Explain and defend your understanding of the concept of rationality and whether rationality is culturally relative.


Required Texts
Donald Davidson, “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme,” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 47 (1974), pp. 5-20. (E-Reserve)
Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997).
Ian Hacking, “Language, Truth, and Reason,” in Rationality and Relativism, ed. M. Hollis & S. Lukes (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1982), pp. 48-66. (E-Reserve)
William James, Essays in Pragmatism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970).
Paul K. Moser, Dwayne H. Mulder, and J. D. Trout, The Theory of Knowledge: A Thematic Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).
W. V. Quine, “Ontological Relativity,” Journal of Philosophy 65 (1968), pp. 185-212. (E-Reserve)
Charles Taylor, “Rationality,” in Taylor, Philosophy and the Human Sciences: Philosophical Papers, Volume 2 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 134-51 (E-Reserve)
Recommended Text
A. P. Martinich, Philosophical Writing, third ed. (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2005)
Course Fee
Prior to 2004, students enrolled in PHL 321 obtained the articles by Davidson, Hacking, Quine, and Taylor by purchasing a book ($24) and a photocopy packet ($12). Reinert Alumni Library now enables students to obtain these articles for the cost of royalties due to the publishers, which come to $5 per student, a savings of $31 per student. In order to obtain the instructions you need to access the articles through the E-Reserve system at Reinert Library, you will need to pay a fee of $5.00. This fee is payable in cash or by check to “Creighton Philosophy Dept.”, and is due in class on Friday, January 13, 2006. If you do not pay the fee on time, then I will not assign you to an analytic essay group, and you will not be able to write your analytic essays, which are worth 20% of your grade.
Grading Scheme


1.

Two analytic essays (500 words). Each is on one assigned reading and is worth 10% (20%)

  • Schedule of due dates to be determined after surveying students’ preferences

2.

One major essay (2000 words) on a topic related to the issues covered in the course (30%)

  • Topic statement due Wed., Mar. 15, 2006

  • Outline due Wed., Mar. 29, 2006

  • Essay due Mon., Apr. 19, 2006

3.

Two examinations (30%)

  • One midterm examination, to be administered in class on Fri., Mar. 3, 2006, worth 15%

  • One final examination, to be administered on Fri., May 5, 2006, 10:00-11:40 am, worth 15%

4.

Regular quizzes on the assigned reading for each class meeting (5%)

5.

Regular in-class and take-home writing exercises (5%)

6.

Regular participation in class discussions (10%)


Course Requirements


1.

You will compose two analytic essays approximately 500 words in length, one on each of two readings taken from either William James’ Essays in Pragmatism or the articles by Davidson, Hacking, Quine, and Taylor held on E-Reserve at Reinert Alumni library (http://ereserves.creighton.edu). The analytic essay is designed to measure the extent to which you have fulfilled learning objective 2 for this course (see p. 1). An analytic essay should focus quite narrowly on some specific topic addressed in the assigned reading, state the author’s position and supporting argument about that topic clearly and succinctly, and evaluate the author’s argument for the position. You need not address the author’s entire argument and, indeed, most successful analytic essays do not attempt to do so. Further information about the analytic essays will be provided on a handout to be distributed in class in late January.







2.

The culmination of your work in this course will be the composition of a major essay approximately 2000 words in length concerning some topic related to epistemology. The major essay is designed to measure the extent to which you have fulfilled learning objective 3 for this course (see p. 1). The major essay requires you to select a specific philosophical topic related to knowledge or rationality, to analyze and evaluate one or more philosophers’ views and supporting arguments about the topic, and to develop and defend a thesis of your own about the topic. A handout describing the major essay in more detail, including suggested topics and a detailed bibliography for each topic, will be distributed in class in mid-February.







3.

You will write one midterm examination and one final examination. The exams are designed to measure the extent to which you have fulfilled learning objectives 1, 2, and 4 for this course (see p. 1). Each exam will involve five short answer questions about the issues and concepts covered in Moser, Mulder, & Trout. Each exam will also involve one essay question related to the assigned readings from James, Davidson, Hacking, Quine, and Taylor. The makeup of each exam, including the topics that may be covered by the short answer questions and the exact text of the essay questions, will be announced in class prior to each exam.







4.

At the beginning of class meetings for which the assigned reading is taken from Moser, Mulder, and Trout, James, or an E-Reserve reading, you will take a reading quiz. The reading quizzes are designed to measure the extent to which you have achieved learning objective 1 for this course (see p. 1). Each reading quiz will consist of four, multiple-choice questions covering the key terms, concepts, ideas, and theories presented in the reading assignment. The reading quizzes are intended to determine whether you are reading and understanding the daily reading assignments. In order to help you to read your assignments thoroughly enough to do well on the daily quizzes, I will publish study guides on each assigned reading on the Blackboard site for this course (see p. 5). The questions on the reading quizzes will address material covered in the study guides. Reading quizzes are also intended to serve as a deterrent to absenteeism and tardiness. For this reason, if you are absent from or tardy to a class meeting without excuse and you miss a reading quiz as a result, then you cannot make up the quiz and you will receive a grade of zero for the quiz.







5.

You will regularly be required to complete brief, informal writing exercises in class or as homework. These exercises may take the form of, for example, reactions to specified passages of the course readings or articulation of your own thoughts on some issue or question related to the course material. They are primarily designed to determine whether you are keeping up with the course readings and thinking about what you read. I will grade them with an eye for the effort you are putting into them, as opposed to the correctness of your answers. Regular completion of in-class writing exercises will also contribute to your class participation mark.







6.

You will be required to participate regularly in class discussions. While regular attendance at class meetings is necessary to do well on this component of the marking scheme, it is by no means sufficient. Both active listening to what others are saying and regular voicing of your own views, comments, and questions are expected. By the same token, activities that disrupt class discussions will count against this portion of your mark. Disruptive activities include, but are not limited to, whispering to your neighbor while someone else is talking, interrupting others, arriving late to class or leaving early without permission, allowing your cell phone to ring during class, and sleeping or eating in class.



Academic Policies
Criteria for the Evaluation of Written Work. The large majority (65%) of your grade for this course will be determined by your performance on five essays that you will write: two analytic essays, one major essay, and two essay answers to questions on the midterm and final examinations. In grading your essays, I will evaluate how clearly you state the thesis of your essay, how clearly, thoroughly, and accurately you analyze the arguments of the philosophers you are discussing, how well you support your evaluation of the philosophers’ arguments, how rigorously you argue in support of your thesis, how good the grammar and style of your writing are, how well you document the sources to which you refer, and how closely you follow my guidelines for the format of each essay. Detailed standards for applying these evaluative criteria to each assignment will be explained in the handout concerning the assignment.
Academic Honesty. If you present the words or thoughts of another person as if they were your own, then you are guilty of plagiarism. This is true whether or not you intended to pass off the words or thoughts in question as your own. You are also guilty of plagiarism if you present the same work for credit in two different university courses.
Plagiarism is an extremely serious academic offense. Penalties for plagiarism can range from getting a zero on the assignment in question through getting an F in the course to being expelled from the university. Generally speaking, my policy is to penalize acts of academic dishonesty by assigning a grade of F for the course, although I reserve the right to assign a lesser penalty (such as assigning a grade of zero for the assignment) or to appeal to the Dean to assign a greater penalty (such as expulsion from the university) at my discretion. Whatever penalty I assign, you should know that every act of academic dishonesty, however small or large, is recorded in a letter placed in the student’s permanent academic file in the College of Arts & Sciences.
Plagiarism is also relatively easy for the experienced instructor to spot, so it is difficult to get away with. Given the severe penalties you may incur as a result of plagiarism and the high risk of getting caught, it is wise to do all in your power to avoid committing plagiarism knowingly or unknowingly. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to be as thorough as possible in documenting the sources you rely on for the claims you make in your papers. Detailed guidelines for documenting your sources will be supplied on the assignment sheets for each of the essays in this course.
The most common reasons for plagiarism are (1) carelessness or laziness in providing page references to sources, (2) confusion about just when documentation is and is not required, and (3) feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by the difficulty of an assignment. If you feel prone to any of these feelings, reflect for a minute on the fact that I am highly likely to see right through your attempt to get by without documentation, and consider what the consequences may be if you are caught. And remember, I am always happy to talk to you about any and all issues related to plagiarism, and especially about concerns (2) and (3) listed above.
Blackboard Site. Copies of several important documents related to this course, including the course syllabus, the analytic essay handout, and the major essay handout, will be made available on the Blackboard site for this course (http://courses.creighton.edu/). Some course handouts, including the study guides that will help you prepare for the quizzes on the assigned readings, will be made available exclusively on this site. To access the Blackboard site for PHL 321, go to http://courses.creighton.edu. Enter your NetID from your university identity card as your userid and enter the password from your university email account as your password. Then select this course by name and course number from the list that appears.
Absence Policy. It is not my policy formally to take attendance at each class meeting. The reading quiz and writing exercise requirements are, however, partly intended to ensure your regular attendance. In accordance with University policy, “conscientious attendance of classes” is considered a necessary condition of successful completion of this course (Creighton University Bulletin: Undergraduate Issue, 2006-2007, p. 87). Consequently, if you receive a grade of F on either the reading quiz or the informal writing exercise component of your grade due to excessive absences, then you will receive a grade of AF for the course.
Petitions for Deadline Extensions and Make-up Tests. All deadlines for submission of course work are firm. Late papers will not be accepted unless you have successfully petitioned for an extension of the deadline before the deadline arrives. Petitions for extensions of essay deadlines will be considered IF AND ONLY IF (1) you give a compelling reason why circumstances beyond your control prevent you from submitting the paper on time AND (2) you request an extension in writing by the deadline specified in the essay handout. After that date, no requests for extensions will be considered. If you submit your essay late without previously having obtained an extension, your essay will not be accepted and you will receive a grade of zero for the assignment.
If you miss an exam due to reasons beyond your control, then you can arrange to take a make-up exam by contacting me as soon as possible, and no more than 24 hours after the scheduled time of the exam. In order to obtain permission to take a make-up exam, you need to provide documentary proof of the circumstances that prevented you from writing the exam at the scheduled time within 5 business days of the scheduled time. If you fail to contact me within 24 hours or to provide evidence of what prevented you from taking the exam within 5 business days, then you will receive a grade of zero for that exam.
Requests to Take Examinations Early. University policy forbids instructors to cancel the last class before a University recess, such as Spring Break (Creighton University Bulletin: Undergraduate Issue, 2006-2007, p. 87). The midterm exam in this course is scheduled for Fri., Mar. 3, 2006 partly to ensure that you will attend the last class meeting before Spring Break. In addition, permitting students to write the midterm exam at various times during the week before Spring Break requires me to create different but equivalent versions of the exam for each administration of the exam, which is both difficult and time-consuming. For these reasons, no student will be permitted to write the midterm exam early. The sole exception to this policy is for students whose participation in university-sponsored activities, such as varsity athletics or debate, requires their absence from campus at the time of the exam. In such cases, requests for an alternate exam time must be accompanied by a letter from the appropriate University office.
The final exam for this course will take place in the very last exam period on the very last day of final exam week, Fri., May 5, 2006, 10:00-11:40 am. Experience suggests that some students may wish to take the final exam at an earlier time for the sake of convenience. However, university policy forbids instructors to administer final examinations at any time other than the time scheduled by the University Registrar (http://www.creighton.edu/Registrar/finlexa7.html). In addition, permitting students to write the final exam at various times during the final exam week requires me to create different but equivalent versions of the exam for each administration of the exam, which is both difficult and time-consuming. For these reasons, no student will be permitted to write the final exam early. The sole exception to this policy is for students whose participation in university-sponsored activities, such as varsity athletics or debate, requires their absence from campus at the time of the exam. In such cases, requests for an alternate exam time must be accompanied by a letter from the appropriate University office.
Final Examinations for Graduating Seniors. University policy permits instructors to release graduating seniors who have an overall grade of B or better in a course from the obligation of taking the final exam in the course (Creighton University Bulletin: Undergraduate Issue, 2006-2007, p. 89). In accordance with this policy, if (1) you are a senior, (2) you expect to receive your degree (not just to walk through the commencement ceremony with your graduating class) in May 2006, (3) you turn in your Major Essay on time, and (4) you have achieved an overall grade of B or better in this course once I have evaluated all of your work apart from the final exam, then I will give you the option to accept your current grade in the course as your final grade in the course without taking the final exam. If the option of not taking the final exam is available to you, then I will inform you of this option at our last regular class meeting on Wed., Apr. 26, 2006. If I do not inform you in writing by Apr. 26, 2006 that this option is available to you, then you are responsible to take the final exam at the regularly scheduled time. Failure to do so will result in your receiving a grade of zero for the final exam and a grade of X for the course.
Cancellation of Class Meetings. In the event that the university closes for the day and cancels all class meetings due to inclement weather, this action will be announced on the university’s weather hotline (280-5800). In the event that inclement weather or a family emergency prevents me from making it to campus to meet with your class, I will announce this on the voice mail greeting of my office phone (280-1219).



List of Important Dates


Date


Event

Jan. 13

Personal Information Forms and course fee ($5) due in class

Mar. 1

Midterm Exam Review

Mar. 3

Midterm Exam

Mar. 6-10

Spring Break – no class meetings

Mar. 15

Major Essay topic statements due in class

Mar. 20-24

Individual consultations on Major Essay

Mar. 29

Major Essay outline due in class

Apr. 10-18

Individual consultations on Major Essay

Apr. 19

Major Essay due in class

Apr. 26

Final Exam Review

Apr. 28

Instructor away at APA Central Division Meeting – no class meeting

May 5

Final Exam (10:00-11:40 am)



Standards of Evaluation for

Participation in Class Discussions


F

extremely infrequent class attendance

little or no participation in class discussions









D

infrequent class attendance

limited participation in class discussions









C

regular class attendance

limited participation in class discussions









B

regular class attendance

regular participation in class discussions









A

regular class attendance

regular participation in class discussions

frequent thoughtful, insightful, or provocative contributions to class discussions









Standards of Evaluation for

Informal Writing Exercises


F

completion of very few of the informal writing exercises







D

completion of less than half of the informal writing exercises







C

completion of most of the informal writing exercises







B

completion of all or most of the informal writing exercises

most of those completed are of good () quality









A

completion of all or practically all of the informal writing exercises

all or practically all of those completed are of good quality ()










Percentile Equivalents of Letter Grades


A = 93-100

C+ = 77-81

B+ = 88-92

C = 70-76

B = 82-87

D = 60-69

F = 0-59


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