Theory of Knowledge

PHIL 3300.001

Fall, 1999

Professor: Dr. Valerie E. Broin
Office: L195d Office Phone: 667-3527 or 667-3361
Office Hours: M/W 1:45-3:30, T 2:30-3:30, and by appointment

Course Description:

Every day we make knowledge claims, feeling fairly assured that what we think is true. We assess the veracity of our claims by referring to a variety of authorities, scientific discoveries, and our own direct experience.

Yet, what gets to count as knowledge (as opposed to, say, belief or opinion)? How can we know that what we claim is true or gives some sense of what is real? What counts as proof?

Philosophers call this domain of inquiry epistemology, the science of knowledge. Almost every philosopher provides some analysis of epistemology as they present their positions, and the discussions concerning knowledge are varied and complex.

This course will focus on a particular strand of questioning as we examine our relationship to that which we are trying to comprehend. How is it that we can claim to know that which we think we do? What kind of relationship do we have with that which we are trying to understand such that knowledge arises? Who are we, and what is it, such that we can say we know it? How does this relationship affect what we will call knowledge, how we might understand reality, and what truth might be?

We will begin our exploration by reading three thinkers who are representative of the modern period in the history of philosophy: Descartes, Hume, and Kant. Then we will examine how a variety of European authors, such as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Gadamer, and Foucault, address some of the concerns raised in the tradition of philosophy. In so doing, we will consider how contemporary "postmodernity" has emerged from and responded to modernity.

Required Texts:

Deconstruction in Context, Mark Taylor, ed. (DIC)

The Continental Philosophy Reader, Kearney, Rainwater, eds. (CPR)

Reader, a compilation of essays to be purchased in the Philosophy/English office


Essays: Two critical essays will be due, each of which will allow you to lay out and compare the philosophical positions of at least two philosophers. Each essay will be 6-7 pages (typed, double-spaced) long. One week before each is due you will receive a short list of questions from which you may choose one on which to write a thorough, well-developed essay. In these essays, I am particularly checking to see that you clearly understand the philosophers and are able to articulate the complexity of each thinker's position. 55%

Questions: Four 3-page extended questions will be due during the course of the semester. In these assignments, focus on a particular issue or problem that you identify in the readings and develop a long question concerning the issue that allows you to examine and explore (but not necessarily solve) a philosophical problem. Show why your question is important, what is at stake in addressing it, and how it might be addressed by either the philosopher or you. Keep your focus on the kinds of issues we are discussing in class so that you don't go too far afield on an unrelated point. These assignments should indicate that you are reading the texts closely, so I encourage interacting with (short) quotations that come from the texts themselves. 35%

Attendance and Participation 10%

Note: Papers must be turned in on the dates indicated in the syllabus. Late papers carry a grade reduction to be determined by the instructor and must be turned in no later than a week after the due date. After that point, there is no opportunity to turn in the essay. Attendance will only be counted if you are present for the entire class meeting and low attendance can significantly lower your grade. There are no opportunities for extra credit.


Week 0

9/2 Introduction to Epistemology

Begin Proof

Week 1 Continue film

9/7 Descartes, Meditation I and II, pp. 113-118 (Reader)

9/9 Descartes, excerpts from Meditation IV and VI (Reader)

Week 2

9/14 Hume, Sections II and III, pp. 163-166 (Reader)

9/16 Hume, Section IV, pp. 166-172 (Reader)

Week 3

9/21 Kant, selections from Prolegomena, pp. 178-183 (Reader)

9/23 Kant, pp. 183-190

Week 4

9/28 Kant, excerpt from Critique of Judgment, pp. 35-52 (DIC)

9/30 Question #1 Due

Nietzsche, "On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense," pp. 216- 219 (DIC)

Week 5

10/5-7 Nietzsche, selections from The Will to Power, pp. 191-215 (DIC)

Week 6

10/12 School Holiday - Columbus Day

10/14 Question #2 Due

Heidegger, selections from Being and Time, pp. 27-35 (CPR)

Week 7

10/19 Heidegger, pp. 35-42 (CPR)

10/21 Heidegger, Sections 31-34 from BT , pp. 214-239 (Reader)

Week 8

10/26 ESSAY #1 DUE

10/26-8 Heidegger, "The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking," pp. 242-255 (DIC)

Week 9

11/2 Gadamer, selections from Philosophical Hermeneutics, pp. 111- 121 (CPR)

11/4 Gadamer, selections from Truth and Method, pp. 261-273 (Reader)

Week 10

11/9 Joan Scott, "Experience," pp. 57-69 (Reader)

11/11 School Holiday, Veterans Day

Week 11

11/16 Question #3 Due

Foucault, "Two Lectures," Lecture One, pp. 78-92 (Reader)

11/18 Foucault, Lecture Two, pp. 92-108 (Reader)

Week 12

11/23 Foucault, "Nietzsche, Freud, Marx," pp. 59-67 (Reader)

11/25 Thanksgiving Holiday

Week 13

11/30 Foucault, "The Discourse on Language," pp. 339-360 (CPR)

12/2 Deleuze, "Introduction to What is Philosophy?" pp. 404-410 (CPR)

Week 14

12/7 ESSAY #2 DUE

12/7-9 Kristeva, "Women's Time," pp. 380-401 (CPR)

Question #4 due at the scheduled time of the final