Loyola University Chicago

Department of Philosophy

PHIL 450: Epistemology

Catalog Description

Prepares students for advanced work on philosophical issues concerning the nature of belief and knowledge.

PHIL 450: Epistemology                

Dr. Paul Moser

This seminar will examine the nature of human knowledge, with special attention to whether, and if so how, knowledge of God’s existence is available to humans. The topics of skepticism, evidence, authority, and volitional struggle will occupy us, and we will relate these topics to the question of God’s existence. The course will function as a seminar that gives a central role to student presentations and discussions.

We will use the term “God” as a maximally exalted title (rather than a proper name) connoting a being worthy of worship (even if such a being does not exist). We will focus on some writings of Kierkegaard (particularly his Concluding Unscientific Postscript) and of others as sources for our discussions. In particular, we will examine a distinction between spectator evidence and authoritative evidence regarding God’s reality. This will lead us to examine the roles of human reason, the human will, and unselfish love in available human knowledge of God’s reality. We will consider whether our own will-based likes and dislikes are centrally important in our appropriating (or obscuring) available evidence of God's reality. This will lead to an exploration of whether Gethsemane offers an Archimedean point for humans in search of divine reality.

The course will acknowledge four main approaches to knowledge of divine reality: naturalism (represented by most contemporary Anglo-American philosophers and scientists), fideism (inspired by some of Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms), natural theology (represented by Aquinas and many others), and volitional evidentialism (represented by Moser, with influence from Pascal and Kierkegaard). The course will not presuppose any significant familiarity with the central problems of epistemology or the philosophy of religion.