PHIL 140.001 – Knowledge and Society

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Instructor: Conner Schultz. This course meets TR 8:00 – 9:15 a.m. in DE 307.

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy dealing primarily with knowledge, rational belief, evidence, and the like. With an unprecedented level of technological development, issues in epistemology are more important than ever.

For example: when there is so much contradictory information out there, how can we know who to trust? Should we be worried about the ways that our upbringings and social characteristics (e.g. gender, race, class, etc) shape and bias our beliefs, and if so, what should we do about it? Should we even have beliefs about complex policy questions about which we are not experts? Should the existence of widespread disagreement about politics, morality and religion make us less confident in our own views? Is it ever really “beyond reasonable doubt” that someone is guilty of a crime, and why should that be the standard that matters anyway? Is there a rational fault involved in believing conspiracy theories, such as flat-earth, anti-vaccination, and Qanon?

Through investigating these specific, applied questions, we’ll learn about the nature of knowledge, rationality, and evidence, and develop tools for helping us figure out what to do when faced with these situations in our own lives.