PHILOSOPHY 570: PROBABILITY AND EPISTEMOLOGY
Spring, 2009 Instructors: K. Easwaran
J. Van Cleve
Description of Seminar
In this seminar, we will spend
several weeks learning about the probability calculus and its interpretations
and then turn to the application of probability theory to epistemological
issues. Concern with epistemological issues will be with us from
the beginning, but will become explicit starting with the session on
Williamson. Issues to be explored include the following:
how evidence confirms theories; how evidence we already know to be true
can confirm a hypothesis that is discovered to entail it (the problem
of old evidence); whether a theory, method, or source may be used to
confirm itself (the problem of epistemic bootstrapping); how probability
theory can be used to articulate, motivate, or criticize coherence theories
of knowledge; the prospects for reducing all questions of epistemology
to issues within the theory of probability.
There are no required books;
all the readings will be articles or book chapters available on-line
or through the instructors.
Each student is required to
submit a term paper at the end and six two-page discussion notes along
the way. Both instructors will read your term paper. You
should submit three of your notes during weeks when Easwaran is presiding
and three during weeks when Van Cleve is presiding; please get them
in the day before we meet.
In addition, each student will
be asked to make a brief presentation (which may be based on your discussion
note) to initiate discussion during one of our meetings.
Schedule of Topics and Readings
Items marked with an asterisk
are supplemental or optional.
Jan. 14: Introduction
Readings to be selected on frequentist, propensity, or objective chance theories of probability
Timothy Williamson, Knowledge
and its Limits, Chapters 9 and 10
*Eells and Fitelson, "Measuring
Confirmation and Evidence"
We will use this session to
get caught up or to address a topic yet to be selected.
Mar. 18: SPRING BREAK
Article to be chosen, by Weatherson or Hawthorne and/or selections from Christensen,
Putting Logic in
its Place, or Richard Jeffrey, Subjective
Probability: The Real Thing
April 1: In defense of traditional epistemology (JVC)
Roderick Chisholm, Theory of Knowledge (2nd ed.), Chapters 1 and 4
Alvin Plantinga, Warrant
and Proper Function, Chapters 8 and 9
Stewart Cohen, “The Problem of Easy Knowledge”
James Van Cleve, “Is Knowledge Easy or Impossible? Externalism as the Only
Alternative to Skepticism”
Jonathan Vogel, “Epistemic
Bootstrapping” (2008 Pacific APA)
Matthew Kotzen, “Dragging and Confirmation”
Article to be chosen, perhaps by Roger White or Crispin Wright
Van Cleve, “Can Coherence Generate Warrant Ex Nihilo? Probability and the Logic of
To be decided.