Skepticism about the External World - In this course, students will engage with the skeptical problem - the radical, but tempting idea that we can't know anything about the world around us - and popular trends in addressing it that have arisen over the last 50 or so years. We will start with the resurgence of skepticism in the 70's, led by people like Barry Stroud and Peter Unger. Then we will investigate new perspectives on the traditional Moorean response. We'll look at some ways of rejecting the epistemic closure principle - a critical piece of the skeptical argument that originally went unchallenged by both Mooreans and skeptics. Finally, we will address a popular new direction of thinking, in which context affects knowledge. We will compare the relative merits of different ways of implementing this idea - in contextualist, relativist, and subject sensitive invariantist theories.
In this course, we will consider metaphysical and ethical issues related to collective agency. Some of the questions we will think about are: Is the sense in which collectives have beliefs, desires, and act the same as the sense in which individuals have them? Can there be a literal group mind? Can a group be morally responsible for something for which none of its members is responsible? We will start by looking at examples of small-scale collective actions-things like singing a duet, dancing, or having a conversation. To sing a duet is not merely to sing alongside each other, and we will think about how individual minds have to be related when they act together. We will then look at more complex cases of institutional agency in which collectives accomplish goals that would overwhelm the resources of any individual, and in which we seem pressed to acknowledge groups as seats of intelligence, agency, and responsibility. For example, we will look at cases in which it seems that a group, but no individual member, is responsible for a wrongdoing.
This course can be repeated for credit given sufficiently distinct topics: check with the department chair. (Fall, Spring)