Brown, Jessica, and . Anti-individualism and knowledge

2004, MIT Press.

Publisher’s note: Contemporary philosophy of mind is dominated by anti-individualism, which holds that a subject’s thoughts are determined not only by what is inside her head but also by aspects of her environment. Despite its dominance, anti-individualism is subject to a daunting array of epistemological objections: that it is incompatible with the privileged access each subject has to her thoughts, that it undermines rationality, and, absurdly, that it provides a new route to a priori knowledge of the world. In this rigorous and persuasive study, Jessica Brown defends anti-individualism from these epistemological objections. The discussion has important consequences for key epistemological issues such as skepticism, closure, transmission, and the nature of knowledge and warrant.

According to Brown’s analysis, one main reason for thinking that anti-individualism is incompatible with privileged access is that it undermines a subject’s introspective ability to distinguish types of thoughts. So diagnosed, the standard focus on a subject’s reliability about her thoughts provides no adequate reply. Brown defuses the objection by appeal to the epistemological notion of a relevant alternative. Further, she argues that, given a proper understanding of rationality, anti-individualism is compatible with the notion that we are rational subjects. However, the discussion of rationality provides a new argument that anti-individualism is in tension with Fregean sense. Finally, Brown shows that anti-individualism does not create a new route to a priori knowledge of the world. While rejecting solutions that restrict the transmission of warrant, she argues that anti-individualists should deny that we have the type of knowledge that would be required to use a priori knowledge of thought content to gain a priori knowledge of the world.

Comment: A very interesting defense of anti-individualism. Contains interesting discussion on the topics of semantic externalism and introspection. Sections of it could be taught in any epistemology course covering these topics.

Chang, Hasok, and . The Persistence of Epistemic Objects Through Scientific Change

2011, Erkenntnis 75(3): 413-429.

Abstract: Why do some epistemic objects persist despite undergoing serious changes, while others go extinct in similar situations? Scientists have often been careless in deciding which epistemic objects to retain and which ones to eliminate; historians and philosophers of science have been on the whole much too unreflective in accepting the scientists’ decisions in this regard. Through a re-examination of the history of oxygen and phlogiston, I will illustrate the benefits to be gained from challenging and disturbing the commonly accepted continuities and discontinuities in the lives of epistemic objects. I will also outline two key consequences of such re-thinking. First, a fresh view on the (dis)continuities in key epistemic objects is apt to lead to informative revisions in recognized periods and trends in the history of science. Second, recognizing sources of continuity leads to a sympathetic view on extinct objects, which in turn problematizes the common monistic tendency in science and philosophy; this epistemological reorientation allows room for more pluralism in scientific practice itself.

Comment: An interesting argument about ontology and scientific practice; would be useful in any philosophy of science course that engages with issues in scientific practice.

Chappell, Sophie-Grace, and . Intuition, Theory and Anti-Theory in Ethics

2015, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Publisher: What form, or forms, might ethical knowledge take? In particular, can ethical knowledge take the form either of moral theory, or of moral intuition? If it can, should it? These are central questions for ethics today, and they are the central questions for the philosophical essays collected in this volume. Intuition, Theory, and Anti-Theory in Ethicsdraws together new work by leading experts in the field, in order to represent as many different perspectives on the discussion as possible. The volume is not built upon any kind of tidy consensus about what ‘knowledge’, ‘theory’, and ‘intuition’ mean. Rather, the idea is to explore as many as possible of the different things that knowledge, theory, and intuition could be in ethics.

Comment: A collection of essays that discuss the different ways we can conceive of moral knowledge. It can be a useful source for learning about the merits of generalism versus particularism (theory versus anti-theory), and about how sceptical to be when it comes to our ethical intuitions. It is a good overview taken as a whole; each individual contribution is self-contained and makes specific arguments.

Churchland, Patricia, and . Epistemology in The Age of Neuroscience

1987, Journal of Philosophy 84 (1987): 546-83.

Comment: Churchland argues that advances in neuroscience should should bring about reform in a number of central areas of philosophy. Formal logic does not model human reasoning, formal semantics cannot account for how human language is meaningful, there are no foundations of knowledge, there is no a priori knowledge, and true belief is not a goal of human nervous systems.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on epistemology (in particular, a section on naturalised epistemology), the philosophy of cognitive science, the philosophy of biology or metaphilosophy. Though the paper touches on foundational issues in philosophy, it is a relatively straightforward read and an excellent conversation starter. Suitable for undergraduates of all levels, but also appropriate for graduate-level courses.

Dalmiya, Vrinda, and . Why should a knower care?

2002, Hypatia 17(1): 34--52.

Abstract: This paper argues that the concept of care is significant not only for ethics, but for epistemology as well. After elucidating caring as a five-step dyadic relation, I go on to show its epistemic significance within the general framework of virtue epistemology as developed by Ernest Sosa, Alvin Goldman, and Linda Zagzebski. The notions of “care-knowing” and “care-based epistemology” emerge from construing caring (respectively) as a reliabilist and responsibilist virtue.

Comment: This text is best used in epistemology classes when discussing virtue reliablist and responsibilist approaches, and epistemic success in general. It will also be useful in philosophy of science classes: Dalmiya argues for radical changes in our approach to scientific research, including a redefinition of the epistemic and moral constraints which guide it.

De Cruz, Helen, and . The Enduring Appeal of Natural Theological Arguments

2014, Philosophy Compass 9/2: 145-153.

Abstract: Natural theology is the branch of theology and philosophy that attempts to gain knowledge of God through non-revealed sources. In a narrower sense, natural theology is the discipline that presents rational arguments for the existence of God. Given that these arguments rarely directly persuade those who are not convinced by their conclusions, why do they enjoy an enduring appeal? This article examines two reasons for the continuing popularity of natural theological arguments: (i) they appeal to intuitions that humans robustly hold and that emerge early in cognitive development; (ii) they serve an argumen- tative function by presenting particular religious views as live options. I conclude with observations on the role of natural theology in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on philosophy or religion, metaphysics (where arguments for and against the existence of God are being considered), epistemology or religious epistemology. The paper is clear and non-technical. It does not provide arguments for or against the existence of God but considers the debate as a whole. It may then be useful for scene-setting, or for placing previously considered arguments in their context.

Douglas, Heather, and . Inductive Risk and Values in Science

2000, Philosophy of Science 67(4): 559-579.

Abstract: Although epistemic values have become widely accepted as part of scientific reasoning, non-epistemic values have been largely relegated to the “external” parts of science (the selection of hypotheses, restrictions on methodologies, and the use of scientific technologies). I argue that because of inductive risk, or the risk of error, non-epistemic values are required in science wherever non-epistemic consequences of error should be considered. I use examples from dioxin studies to illustrate how non-epistemic consequences of error can and should be considered in the internal stages of science: choice of methodology, characterization of data, and interpretation of results.

Comment: A good challenge to the "value-free" status of science, interrogating some of the assumptions about scientific methodology. Uses real-world examples effectively. Suitable for undergraduate teaching.

Egan, Frances, and . Wide Content

2009, In A. Beckerman, B. McLaughlin & S. Walter (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind. Oxford University Press.

Summary: The author presents an overview of the main argument in favour and against content externalism, namely, roughly put, the thesis that the content of our thought is partly individuated by feature of the external environment. After providing a good survey of the debate, the author argues that the content that individuates a subject’s thought in the explanation of her behavior is wide.

Comment: The first half of the paper is very useful as an introduction on the topic of semantic and content externalism in the philosophy of mind. The remainder is an interesting and well-presented argument in favour of wide content. The first part could be used on its own for an overview of the debate; the remainder could be used for a more in-depth discussion of the positions and the arguments for them, or could serve as an option for a student essay topic.

Hendricks, Vincent, and John Symons. Epistemic Logic

2006, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Abstract: Epistemic logic is the logic of knowledge and belief. It provides insight into the properties of individual knowers, has provided a means to model complicated scenarios involving groups of knowers and has improved our understanding of the dynamics of inquiry.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on epistemology, formal epistemology, philosophical logic or formal methods in philosophy. This is quite a compact entry for the Stanford Enclyclopedia of Philosophy. It is not hugely technical, but symbol-phobes will find it logic-heavy.

Hendricks, Vincent, and . Mainstream and Formal Epistemology

2006, Cambridge University Press

Publisher’s Note: Mainstream and Formal Epistemology provides the first easily accessible yet erudite and original analysis of the meeting point between mainstream and formal theories of knowledge. These two strands of thinking have traditionally proceeded in isolation from one another but in this book Vincent F. Hendricks brings them together for a systematic comparative treatment. He demonstrates how mainstream and formal epistemology may significantly benefit from one another, paving the way for a new unifying program of ‘plethoric’ epistemology. His book will both define and further the debate between philosophers from two very different sides of the epistemological spectrum.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on epistemology, formal epistemology, philosophical logic or formal methods in philosophy. Though the abstract describes the book as easily accessible, it is fairly technical in places (though remains a good introduction to the topic). Later chapters do rely, to some extent, on earlier ones; however, individual chapters from this book would provide very good introductions to topics such as the analysis of knowledge, modal epistemology, contextualism in epistemology etc.