What's Up in Philosophy 180

Thursday 5/13

Finishing "Evolution of Misbelief," and doing course evaluations.  Questions to follow. 

Tuesday 5/11

Finish reading "Evolution of Misbelief."  Questions to follow.

What is the basis for the suggestion that misbeliefs concerning supernatural agency may be adaptive
2. What is the basis for 
continued skepticism regarding the evolutionary value of misbeliefs regarding supernatural agency?
What is the basis of the suggestion that self-deception may be adaptive?
4. What is the basis for continued skepticism regarding the evolutionary value of self-deception?
5. Which specific class of misbeliefs do the authors think are most likely to have conferred an evolutionary advantage?
6. Should you tell your kids that they are intelligent?

Thursday 5/6

Instructions for fifth assignment have been posted.

Read "The Evolution of Misbelief " through page 14 (section 6).   

1.  Why do the authors discuss manufactured objects at the beginning of the essay?
2.  What is the point of the example of DVD restriction code regions?
3.  What manufactured items provide a clear model for adaptive misbelief?
4.  What problem is Millikan's criterion of normal functioning intended to solve?

(Again, these aren't the exact questions you will be asked.)

Tuesday 5/4

Finish reading Pollock's "Irrationality and Cognition."  

1.  How does Pollock understand practical irrationality?
2.  How does Pollock understand epistemic irrationality?
3.  How does Pollock understand rationality, especially with regard to the normative/descriptive distinction?

(These aren't the actual questions, just what you will need to know to get the answers to the actual questions right.)

Thursday 4/29

We'll read two more articles this semester.  The first is "Irrationality and Cognition," by John Pollock.  The second is "The Evolution of Misbelief," by Dennett and McKay.  These represent two different approaches to developing a functional account of cognitive error.  They both in their own ways complement the Gigerenzer article "I Think, Therefore I Err."  Both articles are online, links on the schedule page. 

1. What is the puzzle of irrationality?
2. On page 2 is Pollock considering irrationality in terms of performance errors or in terms of a fundamental human incompetence with respect to rules of rationality, or both?
3. How does Pollock illustrate the difference between epistemic and practical cognition?
4. Which form of cognition is more basic, according to Pollock?
5. Is Pollock developing an internalist or an externalist account of irrationality?

Tuesday  4/27

Assignment 4 has been posted.  Read it and study the Instructions for Analyzing a Philosophical Essay.  The clicker quiz will cover these instructions.  Finish reading Reason and Rationality if you haven't already and get started on reading the target article for this assignment if you haven't already.  I will not be summarizing this article in class as I did for the Bermudez article.  You might want to get together and discuss it among yourselves.

All but a few late submitted essay 3's have been returned as of Monday noon. 

Thursday 4/22

Finish reading Reason and Rationality

1. What is Gigerenzer's pragmatic objection to the pessimistic interptetation.
2. What problems do the authors note regarding Gigerenzer's pragmatic objection?
3. What is Adler's reason for skepticism concerning evidence concerning the conjunction fallacy?
4. What is the derivation problem?
5. How does the consequentialist account of rationality relate to the Standard Picture?

Essay 4 will be to write an analysis of the article, I Think Therefore I Err, by Gerd Gigerenzer. I will provide specific instructions for it soon. (The link takes you to a page of publications.  A link to the article is on that page.)

Tuesday 4/20

Click on Nammour 2010 on the sidebar to see the schedule of events. In order to receive credit for a quiz on 4/20 you will need to attend some session of the Nammour Symposium and send me a summary of the event by Sunday 4/25. You may attend additional sessions for
 class credit according to the rules stated in the syllaus.  Please remember that you can get credit for a maximum of 3 extra credit summaries during the semester.  Summaries must be well composed in an essay style, about one page in length.  Send all summaries to mayesgr@csus.edu as an e-mail, not as an attachment to an e-mail. 

Also, remember that your essays are due this Sunday, 4/18.  I should have essay 4 posted by Monday.

Thursday 4/15

Read through section 4.1.2 of "Reason and Rationality," by Samuels, Stich, and Faucher.

1. What is Chomsky's competence/performance distinction?
2. What is an important difference between the c/p distinction as it applies to grammar and as it applies to rationality?
3. What is the Standard Picture?
4. What is the Pessimistic Interpretation of empirical research on human reasoning?
5. What branch of research provides grounds for skepticism about the pessimistic interpretation?

Tuesday 4/13

Essay 3 now due 4/18.  Read chapter 6 of KPN.  

1. Kornblith first defends his empirical approach to the study of knowledge by comparing it to an empirical approach in the study of __________.
2. According to Richard Boyd, how is moral knowledge achieved?
3. What basic point does Kornblith seek to establish in his discussion of the philosophy of mind?
4. What does Fumerton think that naturalism implies about philosophers?
5. How does Kornblith respond to Fumerton?

Thursday 4/8

Finish reading chapter 5.  Clicker questions from 4/6 as well as the following.

1.  Why does Kornblith think that Stich's view of the basis of epistemic  normativity is better than Goldman's view?
2.  What reasons does Kornblith give for being dissatisfied with Stich's view of epistemic normativity?
3.  How does Kornblith argue for truth-conduciveness as the basis of epistemic normativity?

Tuesday 4/6

Been a busy week and my internet has been down, so am lagging on getting your essays graded. Will get them back to you by early this week. 

Clicker questions from Chapter 5.

1. What, for Goldman, is the source of epistemic normativity and what does Kornblith have to say about Goldman's view?
2. What according to Stich, is the basis of epistemic normativity?
3. What, according to Kornblith, is the advantage of Stich's account of epistemic normativity over Goldman's?

Thursday 3/25

We will finish chapter 4.  Clicker questions:

1. How does Kornblith respond to the claim that the reliability of introspection is not relevant to whether it produces justified beliefs?
2. How does Christopher Cherniak contribute to Kornblith's case against introspection?
3. Why does Kornblith think foundationalism is subject to the same criticisms as coherentism?

Tuesday 3/23

Finish reading chapter 4 and watch Dan Ariely on Decision Making.  Questions to follow.

1. According to Ariely, why do some countries have a much higher rate of organ donation than others?
2. Why, according to Ariely, do people exhibit the behavior noted in question 1?
3. What is a dominated option?
4. According to Ariely, how well do people know their own preferences?
5. On what basis does Kornblith criticize Bonjour's coherence theory?
6. How does Kornblith reply to Bonjour's criticism of reliabilism?
7. According to Kornblith, what basic assumption makes it difficult to use introspection as a means of epistemic self-improvement?
8. What cogntive bias does Kornblith believe is built into our introspective methods?

Thursday 3/18

A brief review of the Bermudez article, then continuing with Chapter 4 through section 4.5.


1. What reasons does Bermudez give for doubting Kornblith's reliance on cognitive ethology?  (See, especially, p.303-304.)
2. What reasons does Bermudez give for thinking that Kornblith's naturalized epistemology is very different than Quine's?
3. How does Bermudez treat Kornblith's arguments against the view that the capacity for reflection is essential to knowledge?
4. What thesis does Bermudez say is critical to Kornblith's argument that our paradigm of knowledge should come from animal knowledge rather than reflective knowledge?
5. What, according to Bermudez, is an important difference between reflective and unreflective beliefs?

Tuesday 3/16

Chapter 4 through 4.3

1.  Between what two forms of knowledge does Sosa distinguish and what property distinguishes them?
2.  What, beyond the actual coherence of ones beliefs, does Bonjour's coherence theory require for a person to be justified in her beliefs?
3.  What does an Impatient Cartesian endorse in Cartesian method?
4.  What does an Impatient Cartesian not endorse about Cartesian method?
5.  What does Kornblith have to say about the value of the method of epistemic justification prescribed by Bonjour and Chisholm?

Thursday 3/11

Finish reading Chapter 3.  Check out this video on dolphin linguistic ability sent by Jared, very interesting. Also, here is the link to the WNYC Radio Lab on Animal Minds.  (These aren't assigned, but if it has to be an assignment for you to be interested, then you should seriously consider changing your major.)

1. What point does Kornblith make with his Superyankee? (3.1)
2. According to Williams, what requirement of knowledge do children and non human animals not meet?
3. According to Williams, what is the basis of epistemic normativity?
4. What reasons does Kornblith give for doubting Willams' view of the basis of epistemic normativity in 3.3?
5. What is Kornblith's main point in his discussion of epistemic practices in section 3.4?

Thursday 3/4, Tuesday 3/9

We will not meet on Thursday 3/4 so that students can attend the rally from 11-1 at the Capitol. All Assignment 1's have been graded.  Assignment 2 is posted.

For 3/9, we will still be on the first half of Chapter 3.  

1.  Why, according to Brandom, do non human animals lack beliefs?
2.  Regarding question 1, how does Kornblith reply to Brandom?
3.  What is Davidson's underdetermination argument?
4.  How does Kornblith reply to 3?
5.  According to Davidson, something can not have a belief unless it grasps what possibility?

Tuesday 3/2

I have finished grading all essays that were submitted on time.  I'm still working on some of the late ones.

Read first half of chapter 3 of KPN and watch Alison Gopnik on baby cognition.

1. What scientific methods does Gopnik identify as the basis of her research on child learning and cognition?
2. What, according to Gopnik, is the purpose of human childhood?
3. What evidence does Gopnik give that babies have an innate understanding of statistics?
4. In what sense, according to Gopnik, are babies' brains superior to adult brains?
5. According to Gopnik, what human capacity, rooted in childhood, allows humans to escape the constraints of evolution?
6. How does Colin McGinn understand the relationship of knowledge, belief, and reason?
7. Why, according to Davidson, do non human animals lack knowledge?

Thursday 2/25

This is a review of a recent book called What Darwin Got Wrong, which was written by a very well known philosopher named Jerry Fodor and a cognitive psychologist named Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini.  The review is written by two other very well known philosophers named Philip Kitcher and Ned Block. The review is very critical of Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini.  Essentially the reviewers argue that the authors make illegitimate demands on evolutionary theory.  What is interesting is that the criticisms are almost identical to those that we have been discussing with respect to the disagreement between naturalists and non naturalists on appeals to intuition and the intensional vs. extensional specification of subject matter.  The article also exemplifies how philosophers of science attempt to contribute to the advancement of science by dealing with conceptual problems that arise in the course of inquiry.  I am not assigning you to read this article, only recommending it. 

Finish Chapter 2.  Watch the NOVA episode  Ape Genius.  I've got it linked to the PBS website in week 4 of the schedule.  You can also watch it in parts on YouTube.

Ape Genius questions:

I'll ask you several questions about the video which you should be able to answer if you pay attention to it.

Book questions:

1. How does Kornblilth understand the concept of knowledge?
2. Can justification have any role in producing knowledge on Kornblith's definition?
3. What is Brandom's criticism of Kornblith's reliabilist account of knowledge?

Tuesday 2/23

First essays due Sunday 2/21 by midnight.  To avoid unnecessary suffering, please carefully follow all instructions on top of schedule page.  Check your submission sometime on Monday to make sure I have initialed it.  

Also, I noticed that some of the submission terminology has changed since I wrote the submission instructions, so I recently updated that page. One thing I neglected to emphasize on Thursday is to be sure the "to edit" radio button is checked, otherwise I will not be able to write on your document.  This is on the submission instructions as well.  

On Tuesday, we will finish Chapter 1 and start Chapter 2 of KPN.  Questions:

1. For Kornblith, is it a sufficient condition of for a creature having beliefs that the creature's behavior require explanation by reference to information bearing states?
2. What is the point of Kornblith's discussion of camshafts?
3. What is the point of Kornblith's discussion of infant cognition?
4. What does Shettleworth think about the basic tendency to attribute conscious thoughts and awareness to animals? 
5. According to Kornblith, what is the significance of Eddy and Povinelli's research to Shettleworth's views concerning animal cognition?

Thursday 2/18

Finishing Chapter 1 of KPN.  We'll begin the period by reviewing the correct way to turn in your first assignment using Google Docs.  Initial clicker questions:

1. How does Kornblith use Descartes to motivate his view about the significance of our intuitions concerning knowledge?
2. How does Kornblith respond to Frank Jackson's defense of intuitions as defining the subject matter of interest?
3. What evidence in the actual practice of science does Kornblith give in support of his view about the significance of intuitions?
4. Kornblith says that our intuitions actually would be reliable if something were the case.  What?
5. How does Kornblith respond to Goldman's view that one of the first tasks of epistemology is to elucidate our epistemic folkways?

Tuesday 2/16

Read Chapter 1 of Knowledge and its Place in Nature

1. What is the aim of the theory of knowledge (epistemology) according to Kornblith?
2. Why, according to Bealer, is Naturalism self defeating?
3. What kind of thing does Kornblith take knowledge to be?
4. How does Kornblith understand the proper use of intuitions?
5. How does Kornblith respond to Bealer's point that naturalism abandons the normative aims of philosophical inquiry?

Thursday 2/11

Finish reading "A priori Justification and Knowledge."  

1. What is synthetic a priori knowledge?
2. What is the basis of rational insight/intuition with respect to analytic truths according to the author?
What is the basis of rational insight/intuition with respect to synthetic a priori truths according to the author?
4. Does concept possession guarantee the reliability of our judgments for analytic or synthetic truths according to the author?
5. On what issue is Feldman represented as disagreeing with Kornblith and Kitcher?
6. What objection does the discussion of the trolley problem serve in this article?

Tuesday  2/9

Read "A priori Justification and Knowledge." First writing assignment will be posted by Monday morning.

1.  What is a priori knowledge and justification?
2.  Is a priori justification fallible?
2.  What does it mean to say that a priori justification is defeasible?
3.  What are the traditional reasons for thinking a priori justification is not defeasible?
5.  According to the author, can a priori justified beliefs be defeated by experience?
6.  Can we have a priori knowledge of truths that are not necessary truths?

Thursday 2/4

Finish reading "Naturalized Epistemology".  Also, listen to the following 15 minute interview of Barry Stroud on Scepticism.


1. What does Stroud identify as the faulty assumption underlying skepticism?
2. What is replacement naturalism?
3. What is Kim's objection to Quine's version of replacement naturalism?
4. What is cooperative naturalism? 
5. On what basis might a traditional epistemologist deny cooperative naturalism?
6. What is substantive naturalism?
7. What does 'supervene' mean?

Tuesday 2/2

Note:  Always check this space the evening before class meets for changes of plan.

Finish reading The Analysis of Knowledge and read sections 1-3 of "Naturalized Epistemology," by Richard Feldman.

Be prepared to answer the following clicker questions at the beginning of class.

1. What is difference between J-reliabilism and K-reliabilism?
2. What does it mean to say that two terms are extensionally equivalent?
3. What is Dretske's main reason for favoring K-reliabilism?
4. What is evidentialism?
5. What is the difference between an internalist and an externalist account of justification and knowledge?
6. What, according to Feldman, do naturalists reject about traditional philosophical attempts to grasp the concept of knowledge (section 1)?
7. What is replacement naturalism?

Thursday 1/28

  • Get your book and your clickers and register your clicker according to the instructions below.  
  • Read the syllabus for the class carefully.  Print it out and bring it to class if you want.  Also read the instructions for submitting essays on the top of the schedule page.
  • The first clicker quiz will be at the beginning of class and will cover the details of the syllabus/schedule.
  • Read the first article: The Analysis of Knowledge, by Mathias Steup. 

Tuesday 1/26

Welcome to Philosophy 180: Theory of Knowledge

For this course you'll need to acquire two things.
    • The textbook: Knowledge and Its Place in Nature, by Hilary Kornblith. 
    • A CPS RF response pad, also known as a "clicker".
 Both of these items are available at the Hornet bookstore.

Instructions concerning clickers

The clicker costs about 25 dollars new, and it will also cost about 15 dollars to register it for the semester. If more than one of your courses is using this clicker, the registration fee covers all of them.  Be sure you buy the clicker I have designated for this class.  It is made by eInstruction, and it is the one endorsed by Sacramento State. Other clickers will not work. The clickers are usually available used and they can also be rented through the bookstore. 

Registration instructions

To register your clicker simply go to www.einstruction.com and click on the link that says: Pay for and Register Your Clicker. Here are some things you need to know.

  • You will need a credit card to pay the registration fee.  
  • You will be asked for the class key.  It is N57459B387
  • Be sure to enter your first and last name correctly when you register your clicker.  Student ID is not required.
  • This course is NOT administered through WebCT or Blackboard.
  • This website is where your grades for the course will be posted, so remember your password.  

Other instructions

Read the syllabus before coming to the first day of class.  I will take questions about the syllabus, but we will not review it. Your first clicker quiz will be on Thursday.  It will cover the content of the syllabus, as well as course content.  

See you on January 26th!