What's Up in Philosophy 180 Spring 2011

Final assignment(s) have been posted.

If you haven't already, please take a few minutes to fill out the class evaluation (you received an invitation to do so by e-mail.) You will get 1 point of extra quiz credit for doing so even if you have accumulated the 100 max possible.


Questions below are based on "Why do Humans Reason?" by Sperber and Mercier.

Journal Entry for May 9, 2011

1. How do S&M distinguish 'reasoning proper' from inference? (p. 5-6)

2. How does their view of reasoning proper differ from the traditional view? (p.6-7)

3. How, according to S & M, do we judge the relative strength of arguments?

4. What are the three levels of reasoning identified by S&M? (p.9)

5. Why, according to S&M, has reasoning proper been traditionally seen as such a special human attribute (p.9-10).

6. S&M claim that reasoning "is best adapted for its role in argumentation." (p.10).  This does not sound very interesting on the surface.  Explain why it is interestingly different from the traditional view. 


This is a video of Hugo Mercier discussing our last paper: Why do Humans Reason? I'll post a few more questions on the confirmation bias paper (from the sections on explanations of confirmation bias and the utility of confirmation bias) for Monday, and we'll start talking about the Sperber Mercier piece.  We don't have time for "Scientific Explanation and the Sense of Understanding," sorry.

Journal Entry for May 9, 2011

1. How might the requirement of logical consistency in our beliefs help to explain confirmation bias in cognitive terms, i.e., without presupposing that we are simply motivated to confirm what we find it desirable to believe? (p. 197-8)

2. How might the relative salience of the occurrence vs. the nonoccurence of events help to explain confirmation bias?  Apply it to the following hypothesis:  People who work hard are eventually rewarded for their efforts.

3. What is a positive-test strategy and how does the view that people are inclined to engage in a positive-test strategy provide an alternative to the view that people engage in practices that tend to confirm their own hypotheses?

4. In what way does Nickerson suggest that confirmation-bias could be functional within scientific inquiry? (206-208)

5. Does Nickerson think that, for the individual, belief persistence in the face of contrary evidence is ever rational? Why or why not?


Read:  Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises.  Some journal questions will be posted by 5/3 afternoon.


Journal Entry for May 4, 2011

1.  How does Nickerson delineate his subject matter in "Deliberate vs. Spontaneous Case Building?"

2.  On the basis of the datum that In-n-out Burger is very crowded, Bud hypothesizes that they must be having a special.  Make up a fact that would exemplify Nickerson's point about the likelihood ratio between a hypothesis and it's complement and explain how your fact exemplifies this point. 

3. How is memory implicated in our tendency to treat existing beliefs preferentially?

4. You have been given the following sequence of numbers:  2, 8, 16.  You are asked to formulate a hypothesis about what rule the sequence is following. You hypothesize that the sequence is following the rule n3. You are then instructed to produce other sequences of 3 numbers to test your hypothesis.  Which of the following sequences would it make most sense to propose as a test and why?  1, 2, 3  or 3, 9, 27

5.  Based on what Nickerson says about sensitivity to symptoms of illness in the section "Seeing What One is Looking For," what would you predict to be the effect on the percentage of GDP spent on health care on people becoming more and more educated about symptoms of disease? 

6.  You like clothes from Urban Outfitters quite a bit better than clothes from Target.  You also like stores with a social conscience.  You find out that both Urban Outfitters and Gap provide excellent benefits to their employees, which you consider to be evidence of conscience.  How, if you are normal, do you now feel about Urban Outfitters vs. Target, according to Nickerson?

7.  You believe that terrorism is an overstated threat and the presence of the U.S. military in Afghanistan is unwarranted.  What factors are you most likely to find significant about the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. Navy Seals?  Why?

8.  Your friend Bud tells you the two men, Tim and Ted, you are about to meet and have lunch with are a gay couple. He is incorrect.  They are neither gay nor a couple, though they do share an apartment. You meet and have dinner with them. It is a business meeting, and little personal information is communicated. Do you think you will be doubting Bud by the end of the meeting or will your observations tend confirm what he has told you? 



So, we'll try to finish up Reason and Rationality.  No journal questions since most of you are working on Essay 4.


Important correction:  Paige just pointed out that the first couple of questions don't seem to be answered in the assigned essay.  This is correct, and it is because there are two similar essay by these authors, and the one I originally linked to leaves the competence/performance issue out.  I have changed the link to the correct paper.  Sorry for the confusion.

Didn't get to Samuels and Stich last time, so we'll start it on Monday. In addition to questions below I'll give you some like the ones this article begins with to  demonstrate human reasoning incompetence. (Yes, they will count.)

Don't forget, 4th Analysis assignment here is due on May 1st. 

Journal Entry for April 25, 2011

1. Summarize Chomsky's competence/performance distinction.

2. What is the significant difference between this distinction at applies to linguistic performance and as it applies to rationality.

3. What does the standard picture say about the nature of rationality?

4. What is the pessimistic interpretation of the data on human reasoning competence?

5.  How do the frequentist and cheater-detection hypotheses cast doubt on the pessimistic interpretation?


We'll finish Bishop and Trout and try to start "Rationality and Psychology," by Samuels and Stich.  Journal questions below are on B&T only.

Journal Entry for April 20, 2011

1.  What, according to Bishop and Trout, is the descriptive core of SAE?

2.  Why do they claim that SAE is a form of naturalized epistemology?

3.  Why do they claim that SAE is a poor approach to arriving at normative conclusions about the nature of knowledge and justification?

4.  What is the main argumentative strategy in the section: Throwing Stones in Glass Houses? What conclusion do B&T draw?

5.  How do B&T deal with the argument in defense of SAE's method that epistemic judgments are a priori?

6.  How do they deal with the attempt to defend SAE on the basis that it's practitioners have a kind of expertise in this area?

7.  Why do B&T think Ameliorative Psychology stands a better chance of bridging the is-ought divide than SAE?



We will get started on Bishop and Trout, "The Pathologies of Standard Analytic Epistemology."  Journal questions below.  

Those who wrote on the forgiveness article should have some feedback by today and tomorrow.  Be sure to submit your final version according to the instructions given on the contest webpage by Monday.

Your 4th Analysis assignment is here.

Note:  I originally wrote question 1 incorrectly, referring to Kornblith's book rather than the articel we read.

Journal Entry for April 18, 2011

1. At the end of Kornblith's article "Knowledge in Humans and Other Animals," Kornblith deals with the question whether his characterization of knowledge as a natural kind undermines the normative aspirations of epistemology.  Compare Kornblith's response to this question to the views of Bishop and Trout as stated at the beginning of the paper.

2. What do B&T mean by Ameliorative Psychology? 

3. What is an SPR and how do B&T use them to advance the case for AP?  Does it seem to you that a particular account of knowledge (JTB vs. RTB) is implicit in their view?  Explain.

4. What is the stasis requirement in SAE?

5. How do Bishop and Trout use the Gettier problem to show what is problematic about the stasis requirement?

6.  Is the conservatism implied by the stasis inherently problematic, according to B&T, or are there times when it is appropriate?  Explain. 


We'll finish Kornblith's article.

Journal Entry for April 13, 2011

1. Why does Kornblith think that the concept of knowledge is required when explaining the origin of cognitive traits in a species but not their effect in an individual? 

2. What is Kornblith's response to Bonjour's argument that knowledge requires reflection.

3.  What is Kornblith's response to the argument that human knowledge as manifested in science is of a distinctly different kind that that attributed to non human animals?

4. Although Kornblith doesn't deal with it directly here, a common objection to attributing intentional and knowledge states to nonhumans is that it presupposes linguistic ability. This short video addresses linguistic capacities in dolphins.  Do you think it strengthens or weakens the intuitive case that knowledge requires language?  Explain.

5.  What is Kornblith's response to those who would reject the suggestion that philosophers should be interested in knowledge as a natural kind based on the claim that such a kind has no normative significance?

6.  Why does Brandom think that the kind of reliabilist conception of human knowledge advocated by Kornblith can not be a natural kind?



Since analysis 3 is due, no journal questions.  We will continue with Kornblith's article "Knowledge in Humans and Other Animals."  Note errata below on van Fraassen article.

There are a couple of confusing typos in the van Fraassen article on page 74 and 75.  Toward the bottom of page 74, in the sentence:  "Does what it says belong to the range of Y?" 'Y' should be 'X'. On the top of page 75, "It would not do to find an example in which certain experience gives X no information about Y," X and Y are reversed.  The sentence can make sense on its own, but it isn't consistent with (*XY) and (**) on page 74.

Also, notes on two Maddy articles are located on the bottom of the schedule page as attachments. 


We'll wrap up our discussion of Friends and Foes and move on to Kornblith's paper "Knowledge in Humans and Other Animals," which you can get through the library website here using JSTOR. Type in 'Kornblith' and the article will show up on the first or second page.  

Journal Entry for April 6, 2011

1. What does Kornblith mean when he claims that knowledge is a natural kind?

2. What kind of evidence for this claim does he produce?

3. According to Kornblith, what explanatory aim requires us to make essential use of 
the concept of knowledge rather than just the concept of belief? 

4. What is meant by the phrase 'crude adaptationism' and why might Kornblith's argument be accused of it? 


Continuing with Friends and Foes.

Journal Entry for April 4, 2011

1.  What is Quine's criticism of Carnap's distinction between internal and external questions?

2.  So here is where you should be so far.  Rationalists believe that if knowledge is possible, then we can and, in fact, must have some a priori knowledge of the external world. Empiricists who believe we have knowledge of an external world, but deny that we have a priori knowledge, end up pretty badly.  Either they subscribe to a Lockean account, which seems to be based on an arbitrary distinction between primary and secondary qualities, or we end up with Berkelian idealism which makes for a wretched interpretation of the success of physics.  

Kant tried to fix this by providing a more sophisticated account of a priori knowledge. Specifically, he claimed that our a priori knowledge is not of a completely external world (Kant's noumenon) but of the structure of thought and experience itself. In other words, we can know a priori how the world must appear to us, and our a priori knowledge concerns our most fundamental categories: space, time, causation, etc. 

The critical move for Kant was to distinguish between two different levels of inquiry. Science was done at the empirical level and it discovered contingent truths about the empirical world.  From the empirical perspective of science, these are objective truths, because they result in discoveries that can be confirmed by anyone with the same basic categories.  Scientific objectivity, in other words, is not a matter (as it was for Locke) of correspondence to an unconceptualized reality.  It is a matter of a community of inquirers seeing the world in the same way.  Philosophy, on the other hand, was done at the transcendental level. It discovered necessary truths about the structure of thought and experience. Again, our a priori knowledge did not (as it did for Descartes) correspond to a unconceptualized reality.

Maddy is here telling the story of the problems associated with Kant's distinction between these two perspectives.  The main problem is that what Kant claimed to be a priori knowledge about our fundamental categories turned out not even to be true.  Kant, e.g., would have regarded non-Euclidean geometry and non deterministic causation as inconceivable.  At a minimum, this means that claims about our fundamental categories are highly defeasible. Reichenbach concluded from this that the transcendental level of inquiry is still subject to revision by findings of science, and hence Kant's distinction collapses. 

Carnap, however, tried to reinstate a version of the level-based Kantian a priori by distinguishing between internal questions asked from within a particular linguistic system and external questions asked about it.  For Carnap, when you are working within a system, then the rules of the system have the status of necessary truths. However, you can also stand outside the system and ask whether these rules should be changed, or whether an entirely different system should be adopted.  For Carnap, the criteria we use to answer these questions are pragmatic, and not dictated by any rules.  (This is what he means by The Principle of Tolerance.) Carnap did not, like Kant, see philosophy as the discovery of a priori truths about the structure of human thought and experience, but he did see it as unique form of inquiry in which we could think about the limitations and relative benefits of various linguistic systems and decide which ones would best server our interests.

Question:  Is there anything you don't get about the above?  Please state it as clearly as possible here and bring it up at the beginning of class.

3. What is Quine's criticism of Carnap's levels of inquiry?

4. How does van Fraassen try to reinstate the levels? 

5. What is Fine's criticism of van Fraassen's attempt in this regard?

6. According to Maddy, in what sense is Boyd, who is critical of van Fraassen, nevertheless agreeing with van Fraassen in a way that Maddy does not?  


From Naturalism: Friends and Foes.

1. What is the distinction between the transcendental and the empirical in Kant's epistemology?

2. How did this distinction make sense of the possibility of a priori knowledge?

3. What did the distinction imply about the nature of scientific inquiry?

4. On what basis was Reichenbach critical of the distinction? 

5. How does Carnap's distinction between internal and external questions attempt to ground the a priori?

6. How does Carnap use this distinction to produce an account of philosophical error?   


We'll finish Second Philosophy and get started on Naturalism: Friends and Foes.  Questions to follow.

Journal Entry for March 28, 2011

From Second Philosophy

1. What is empirical adequacy?

2. What is the epistemic stance?

3. What is the disagreement between Maddy and van Frassen concerning the nature of the epistemic stance?

4. Consider the following argument in light of anything we have talked about this semester:  

Most people would say that our hands are observable in a way that the theoretical entities of science are not.  But this is actually an illusion. Observing a hand is a fantastically complicated inferential procedure beginning with photons stimulating the retina and processed through multiple levels in the brain.  We infer the existence of objects like hands because our brain presupposes their existence and is constructed to filter information in accord with this assumption. Hence, van Fraassen is wrong to accord observation a special epistemic status. The argument that we should only accept scientific theories as empirically adequate applies with equal force to our perceptions.

Do you think this argument is sound?  Explain.


Be sure that you have hyperlinked your analysis as before.  Hyperlinks for all submitted analyses  must be at the top of the journal page.  Be sure, also, to record the submission date; otherwise I will assume you are not done with it. Read Pen Maddy's article, Second Philosophy.  

Journal Entry for March 16, 2011

1.  How does Stroud understand the problem raised by Descartes?
2.  How, according to Maddy, does Stroud understand the disagreement between the First and Second Philosopher?
3.  Why does Maddy not fully accept Stroud's view?
4.  How does the dispute between First and Second Philosophy arise within the philosophy of science?
5.  What is the precise disagreement between van Fraassen and Maddy?  


We'll finish Feldman's Naturalistic Epistemology and then get started on Pen Maddy's article,Second Philosophy.  No journal questions for Monday, but have clickers with you for questions about naturalism.


No new reading assignment.  I'll have some additional questions about Naturalized Epistemology, by Feldman shortly.  Read Kornblith's essay.  Analysis 2 is due on Sunday. 

Journal Entry for March 9, 2011

1. Feldman summarizes Kim's objection to replacement naturalism as follows:  "As Kim sees it, Quine has proposed ignoring these questions about epistemic support and investigating instead  the causal connections between our sensory evidence and our beliefs about the world." Given your understanding of the nature of epistemic justification, do you think it makes sense to distinguish between causal questions of this kind and questions of epistemic support?  Explain why or why not.

2. On what basis would so-called 'armchair epistemologists" object to cooperative naturalism?

3. Recall that we were recently discussing Hilary Putnam's assertion that "All cats are animals" is not a necessary truth because it is logically possible to discover that cats are actually robots. Many of you felt that this was not logically possible, and that in such a case we would simply infer that cats don't exist. This, as we saw, means that you would prefer to favor your intuitions about the meaning or intention of the term 'cat' rather than change the definition to preserve the previous extension.  The question that arises here is "What is the point of favoring our previous intuitions?  Why should we care about them?"  Show how this point is essentially raised again in Kitcher's criticism of the opponents of cooperative naturalism.

4.  Is the concept of 'supervenience' represented by Feldman as a way of supporting substantive naturalism or as a basis for denying it?  Explain.


Finish reading Naturalized Epistemology by Feldman.

Journal Entry for March 7, 2011

1. What is replacement naturalism?

2. How does cooperative naturalism differ from replacement naturalism?

3. How does substantive naturalism differ from replacement naturalism and cooperative naturalism?

4. After having read this article, which version of naturalism strikes you as least defensible and why?



We'll finish the Coherentism article and get started on Naturalized Epistemology, by Feldman. We're going to skip the article on skepticism for now.  

Journal Entry for March 2, 2011

1.  How does the distinction between what is doxastically justified and what is propositionaly justified raise a problem for coherentism?

2.  Why can't a coherentist simply respond to the isolation objection by building in the requirement that to be justified an agent can not ignore input?

3.  Why is the problem of the truth connection just as much a problem for foundationalism as coherentism? 


Finish reading the coherentism article if you haven't already.  I'll get some journal questions up by Friday.  Your second analysis assignment is posted here

Journal Entry for February 28, 2011

1. What premise of the argument for foundationalism does coherentism deny?
2. What, according to Kvanvig, is the most significant reason that coherentists typically define coherence as a relation on (or between) beliefs?
3. Does Kvanvig think this is a decisive reason?  Why or why not?
4. What is meant by an objective specification of the coherence relation?
5. What reasons can be given for preferring an objective specification of the coherence relation?
6. What is meant by a subjective specification of the coherence relation?
7. What reasons can be given for preferring a subjective specification of the coherence relation? 


As mentioned in class, please go back to your completed analysis and write the date of submission to the right of the link that you created.  If you revise the essay after that date you must change the date of submission. Read articles on Foundationalism and Coherentism. 

These questions concern only the article on Foundationalism.

Journal Entry for February 23, 2011

1. Briefly explain why rejecting PIJ would appear to lead to skepticism.
2. Briefly summarize how foundationalism is related to the given.
3. Briefly summarize Bonjour's argument that a commitment to internalism undermines foundationalism.


No journal work. First analysis due midnight 2/20.  If I receive it one second after midnight, it is downgraded 10% (see syllabus). Deadline it if you want to, but if technology fails you in your moment of greatest need, you wear it.  Be sure you have your hyperlink working, because that's part of the assignment and it will be counted late until it is there.  As noted in class, zero credit for analyses not done precisely according to prescribed form.  See 2/14 for link to instructions.

On Monday we'll finish the Bonjour article on perception.   


Finish reading the Bonjour article on perception.  We'll briefly review the requirements for the first analysis, due Sunday night, and then finish the Bonjour article.

Journal Entry for February 16, 2011

1.  What is phenomenalism?

2.  What is representative realism?

3.  Briefly summarize the way in which the concept of explanation figures into a critique of phenomenalism.

4.  Briefly summarize why Bonjour claims that a defense of representative realism will have to be a priori in nature (also framed by appeal to the concept of explanation.) 


Here are the instructions for your first assignment. Be sure you do it.  Almost everyone who skips the first assignment because only 4 count toward the final grade end up doing poorly in the course. It's not hard to figure out why. 

For Monday, read Bonjour's article on perception. Journal questions will be posted shortly.

Journal Entry for February 14, 2011

1. What is the given and what reasons can be given for doubting that there is one?

2. How does Bonjour propose to characterize the given? 

3.  Briefly distinguish the sense datum theory from the adverbial theory.

4.  On what basis does Bonjour claim that the sense datum theory is in worse shape that the adverbial theory?


Finish reading "A Priori Knowledge and Justification."  Clicker questions will cover the ones from 2/7 as well as the following.

Journal Entry for February 9, 2011

1. What is an analytic proposition?

2. How does Russell make sense of the idea that our judgments about analytic propositions are guaranteed to be true?

3. Does this account imply that our judgments made on the basis of rational intuition are guaranteed to be true? 

4.  What is synthetic a priori knowledge?  Give a couple of examples and distinguish it clearly from synthetic a posteriori knowledge and analytic a priori knowledge.

5. How does Russell make sense of the possibility of synthetic a priori knowledge? 
6. Philosophers once widely held the view that knowledge could be defined as 'justified true belief'. Then Edmund Gettier provided a now widely accepted counterexample. Think about this in the context of the article.  When we propose an analysis of the concept of knowledge, what sort of claim are we making?  Is it analytic a priori, synthetic a priori, or synthetic a posteriori?  Explain.


Journal Entry for February 7, 2011

From "Rationalism and Empiricism"

1. Summarize Locke's objection to the innate knowledge thesis and how Carruthers attempts to meet it.

2. Explain why reliabilism may be more attractive than internalism to those who believe in innate knowledge.

3. The theory of evolution is obviously an empirical theory, yet Carruthers appeals to it in an attempt to justify a rationalist thesis.  Does this make sense?  Explain.

From "A Priori Justification and Knowledge"

4. Why is it classically assumed that a priori justification can not be defeated by experience?

5. Summarize how Russell provides an alternative to that view.


Read Rationalism vs. Empiricism by P. Markie.

Journal Entry for February 2, 2011

From Analysis of Knowledge 

1.  Explain why an internalist would reject the following.

"If Bob knows that P and also knows that If P, then Q, then it follows that Bob knows that Q." 

From Rationalism vs. Empiricism

2. Can an empiricist accept the rationalist thesis that some truths are known a priori? Explain.

3. After reading this article what do you take to be the strongest argument in favor of a rationalist thesis?  Summarize it (don't quote it) and the empiricist objection to it.

4. Listen to this interview with Barry Stroud.  I'll ask you a few questions about it at the beginning of the period.


Finish reading "The Analysis of Knowledge," if you haven't already.  We'll have our clicker quiz on the syllabus as well as some questions on the reading on Monday.  

Copy the questions below, including the heading, into your journal, then answer each question. (Because this type is white, you will need to change the color to black after you do this.)  Remember, doing well on your journal depends on writing well.  If your entries are typically just notes, or poorly composed sentences, or incomplete answers, you will get very little credit.  It is also important to do your journal work prior to the date for which it is assigned.  

Copy the following into your journal, including the boldfaced heading with date. Type your answers directly below the corresponding questions.

Journal Entry for January 31, 2011

1. Distinguish between internalism and externalism and explain how this distinction bears on the reliabilist analysis of knowledge.

2. If you are a J-internalist and a K-externalist, would that tend to incline you to a reliabilist or an evidentialist conception of knowledge?  Explain.

3. Do you think Bonjour's clairvoyant Norman works best as a reason for accepting internalism or rejecting it?  Explain.


Here are the instructions for making and sharing your Google Doc journal with me.  You should have this document created by Friday at the latest.  Be sure to follow every step very carefully. When you have shared the document with me correctly I will put a comment on the page.  If you do not get a comment within 24 hours, it means you have done something wrong.


Today we began talking about the article: The Analysis of Knowledge, by Mathias Steup, from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  You should read this article and the syllabus for Wednesday.  We'll have our first clicker quiz over the syllabus on Wednesday.  Below are instructions for registering your clicker online.  The full reading schedule will be available by the end of the week.  

Here are the materials you will need for class.
1.  No textbook.  All materials will be available online.
2.  Clicker

Clickers are available at the Hornet bookstore. Note: You may purchase or rent either the CPS GEN 2 RF Response Pad or the CPS Pulse Clicker, but no other clicker will work.

Instructions for registering your clicker.

You will need to register your clicker for this class.  Register it online according to the instructions on the box, or do one of the following.

1.  If you just acquired this clicker, then click here to register it.  You'll need a credit card and a class key (a number) from me in order to do so.  That number is

  • L66775D746
If you are taking other classes using this clicker, you will only have to pay the registration fee once.  

2.  If you are using a clicker that you have previously registered, click here and log in.  Then follow the instructions given in 1 above.

That's it for now!