Loyola University Chicago

Department of Philosophy

PHIL 330: Theory of Knowledge

PHIL 330: Theory of Knowledge

The Generic Catalog Description

This course covers major epistemological positions; analysis of knowledge; truth; error; probability; different ways of knowing; influence of history and culture.

PHIL 330: Theory of Knowledge

James Blachowicz

Since no course on the "theory of knowledge" can hope to provide a complete account of so vast an area, most teachers adopt a particular perspective from which to develop some very basic issues. My own perspective is that we will never understand the nature of knowledge without understanding the nature of our search for knowledge. That is, a theory of knowledge is only possible within the context of a theory of inquiry.

Traditional philosophy has not sufficiently addressed this problem. Socrates and Plato both realized its importance, but not Aristotle. Among later classical philosophers, perhaps only Kant and Hegel made substantial contributions to its development. Like Socrates, Kant realized that, even if we cannot claim knowledge in certain areas, we can provide regulative principles which guarantee the rationality of our search for knowledge. And like Plato, Hegel attempted to formulate a method whereby new knowledge could be (dialectically) generated.

But it is that microcosm of epistemology, the philosophy of science, that has since Plato addressed this problem most directly--in terms of the possibility of what it has traditionally called a "logic of discovery." Unfortunately, the prevailing point of view among traditional philosophers of science is that such a logic is impossible--or, anyway, unnecessary. So-called "evolutionary epistemologists" like Karl Popper have modeled their denial of a "logical method for generating new ideas" on the Darwinian principle that novelties can be generated only through "blind" (non-rational) procedures.
   We shall explore this entire problem in detail. Along the way we shall also encounter a number of classical issues which are commonly found in general courses on epistemology:

   • the nature of justification
   • foundationalism vs. the coherence theory
   • the possibility of ampliative inference (induction? abduction?)
   • the nature of representation (the analog/digital distinction)
   • the nature of meaning
   • the heuristic function of models and metaphors
   • Platonic and Hegelian dialectic
   • Kantian analysis and the regulative principles of reason
   • inner speech ("talking to ourselves")
   • the role of inquiry in the constitution of reflective consciousness

Required Reading:
James Blachowicz, OF TWO MINDS (SUNY Press).

PHIL 330: Theory of Knowledge

This course will study various topics regarding knowledge and the mind, including types of knowledge, belief, truth, certainty, evidence, perception, reason, skepticism, the nature of thought and consciousness, their relation to language, their relation to external reality, and major theories regarding these topics. This course is based on the view that epistemological issues cannot be studied independently of theories regarding the nature of mind and of the external world.  

Course materials include an epistemology textbook and miscellaneous handouts.  Students will be asked to complete a number of small writing assignments, on assigned topics, spaced throughout the semester.

PHIL 330: Theory of Knowledge

James G. Murphy, S.J.

This course addresses a range of issues: (1) The different kinds of knowledge, including propositional knowledge, skill, moral knowledge, interpersonal knowledge, and religious knowledge.  (2) The difference between knowing (process) and knowledge (content).  (3) Truth and relativism. (4) Skepticism, the demand for certainty, and epistemic luck. (5) The sources of knowledge and kinds of inference. (7) Probability. (8) Internalist and externalist views of what turns true belief into knowledge. (9) The value of knowledge. (10) Epistemic virtues: the personal traits that are conducive to and those that hinder acquiring knowledge. (11) What it is to be a knower, and the metaphysics of knowledge.

The work of significant historical figures, including Plato, Aristotle, Sextus Empiricus, Descartes, Hume, Reid, Kant, Peirce, Moore and Quine will be deployed at relevant points during the course.