345-101-MQ, Limits of Knowledge
When are we justified in saying that we know something? This course will reflect on this question and will attempt to examine the relationship between doubt and the acquisition of knowledge. We will begin by considering skeptical arguments that question the possibility of genuine knowledge, taking as a starting point some representative reflections on this topic (including selections from the Greek sceptics, Rene Descartes, David Hume, Thomas Nagel). The main point at issue here will be whether, and in what sense, knowledge as opposed to true belief is possible. We will then move on to consider the various ways that beliefs support or fail to support other beliefs. This will involve examining deductive and inductive modes of argument, considering the strength and weakness of these kinds of inferences. Finally, we will apply the ideas discussed above to the following question: How is knowledge arrived at in different subject areas? For example, at various times people have claimed to know that the earth revolves around the sun, stealing is wrong and that an all-powerful god created the universe. We will see that different areas of knowledge (scientific, ethical, religious) have, in different ways, been motivated by and have had to develop different responses to skeptical concerns.