Members' Day, 4 September 2010
THEMES IN EPISTEMOLOGY
1) The yearning for unquestionable
knowledge, and the dream that we can attain it, may be due to a
misunderstanding. Peter Gibson argues that we should
make sure we are not ensnared by a grand word, but focus on the
epistemological issues that really matter. By examining each of
the necessary conditions for knowledge in turn, we find that 'truth'
and 'belief' deserve their lofty status, but that 'justification'
should be treated much less sympathetically.
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2) Perception is our means of contacting the world through our 5 (or
23?) senses. But so many theories. Frank Brierley
will outline four and make a case for the last one. They are
Naïve or Direct Realism, Sense Data Theory, Intentionalism and
Disjunctivism. Naïve Realism is the commonsense theory of 'the
vulgar' rejected by Hume. He outlined a version of The Argument from
Illusion which, along with the Argument from Hallucination, motivated
Indirect Realism. Sense data theories and Intentionalism are
versions of Indirect Realism. Then recently, full turn of the
wheel to Disjunctivism, a realist theory which says Naïve Realism
OR Misperception (i.e. hallucination and maybe illusion) explain
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3) Debates concerning Wittgenstein's elusive views on the epistemic
content of religious belief have grown in recent years. Does he
propound a 'fideism' that removes all 'cognitive' content from religious
belief, or does he maintain that religious belief involves the same
epistemic content we usually ascribe to it – e.g. belief in God,
a Last Judgment, etc. – but with these understood in a very
different way? Jonathan Beale argues that Wittgenstein offers an
enriched way of understanding religious belief, though not one that is
free from problems.
Presentation not available.
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4) Vagueness is ubiquitous in natural language. For vague
predicates, like 'red' or 'bald', there are borderline cases
that we cannot classify clearly. The so-called Sorites Paradox can be
used to argue that human minds inevitably suffer from a sort of
fundamental ignorance or have 'blind spots' in those cases.
Christian Michel will argue against such a view.
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On perception, including disjunctivism:
On Religious Epistemology:
http://www.iep.utm.edu/relig-ep/ (Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy)
ContemporaryDebates in Epistemology, ed. Matthias Steup and Ernest Sosa, Blackwell 2005
Epistemology: An Anthology, ed. Ernest Sosa and Jaegwon Kim, Blackwell 2000
Perceptual Knowledge, ed. Jonathan Dancy, OUP 1988. (An anthology of papers on Perception.)
Wittgenstein and Religion, D. Z. Phillips, (London: Macmillan, 1$
A Confusion of the Spheres: Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein on Philosophy and Religion, Genia Schönbaumsfeld, OUP 2007
Vagueness, Timothy Williamson, (Routledge), 1994.
Vagueness and Contradiction, Roy Sorensen, (Oxford, Clarendon Press),$
JonathanBeale is a Ph.D. philosophy student at the University of Reading. His doctoral thesis is a Wittgensteinian analysis of the central question of Heidegger's philosophy: the question of the meaning of being. He has published on Wittgenstein and Heidegger, and has given conference presentations all over the world, particularly on Wittgenstein.
Frank Brierley returned to philosophy ten years ago after 40 years post first degree in the commercial world. Attended numerous Oxford adult education philosophy classes. Joined Philsoc and found a welcome home at Rewley House. Twice winner of Chadwick Prize, Philsoc chairman 2007-2009. Currently struggling with philosophy MA at London University.
Peter Gibson originally graduated in English Literature, but ended up spending 24 years teaching Philosophy to sixth formers in High Wycombe. His main current interest is in metaphysics, which he is researching at Birkbeck in London. He is the Secretary of the Philosophical Society, and runs a website which catalogues philosophical ideas.
Christian Michel is German and holds a MS in Industrial Engineering from the University of Stuttgart and an MBA from Erasmus University (Netherlands). Currently he works in a general management position in industry. Christian's interests in analytical philosophy are broad, but he is especially attracted by problems arising from paradoxes and puzzles.