Knowledge & Reality

Below are readings and essay questions for tutorials in Knowledge & Reality. Many of the readings are available online, and all are easily obtained from the college or other libraries in Oxford, but if you are struggling to get hold of anything, email me, as I have PDF copies of nearly everything.

I have (generally) divided the reading for each topic into CORE READING and FURTHER READING, with more introductory texts marked with a star (*). Focus on the Core Reading suggestions in writing tutorial essays, and use the Further Reading suggestions as starting points for exploring topics in more depth during vacations. You will find more suggestions in the Faculty Reading List.

The default plan is to cover the TUTORIAL TOPICS, with four weeks on topics in epistemology and three weeks on topics in metaphysics. I’ve left the last week open, so as to allow you to choose a topic yourself. Options include, but are not limited to, the OTHER TOPICS. (These are divided into topics in Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Self-Study, the latter being those you will most likely have looked at in first year for General Philosophy, and so might feel comfortable exploring on your own.)

The current version of this reading list was put together in light of my experience using previous incarnations in teaching Knowledge & Reality to undergraduates in Oxford over the years. I’m grateful to various friends and colleagues for advice and discussion of it, especially Alex Kaiserman, Brent Madison, and Nick Tasker. If you’re teaching a similar course, and want to make use of the list at all, as occasional emails suggest people sometimes do, please feel free.

TUTORIAL TOPICS

  1. Agrippa’s Trilemma
  2. Contextualism
  3. Williamson’s Knowledge and its Limits I
  4. Williamson’s Knowledge and its Limits II
  5. Modality
  6. Time
  7. Persistence
  8. TBA

OTHER TOPICS

Epistemology:

Metaphysics:

Self-Study:

ANTHOLOGIES, COLLECTIONS, and TEXTBOOKS

While most of the readings can be obtained online, it’s often useful to have good anthologies and collections of papers in epistemology and metaphysics, so as to be able to read around a bit more widely. The following are all recommended, containing many key readings and more besides, and are referenced below:

Jaegwon Kim, Daniel Korman, and Ernest Sosa, eds. (2009) Metaphysics: An Anthology, 2nd ed. (Blackwell). Referred to below as KK&S.

Ted Sider, John Hawthorne, and Dean W. Zimmerman, eds. (2008) Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics (Wiley Blackwell). Referred to below as SH&Z.

Ernest Sosa, Jaegwon Kim, Jeremy Fantl, and Matthew McGrath, eds. (2008) Epistemology: An Anthology, 2nd ed. (Blackwell). Referred to below as SKF&M.

Matthias Steup, John Turri, and Ernest Sosa, eds. (2014) Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, 2nd edition (Wiley Blackwell). Referred to below as ST&S.

There are no set textbooks, but it will be useful to have one or two to hand, for both preparation beforehand and consolidation afterwards. I recommend choosing from the following, depending on your focus:

*Jonathan Dancy (1986) A Contemporary Introduction to Epistemology (Blackwell).

*Alvin I. Goldman and Matthew McGrath (2015) Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction (OUP).

*Michael J. Loux and Thomas M. Crisp (2017) Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge).

*E. J. Lowe (2002) A Survey of Metaphysics (OUP).

*Alyssa Ney (2014) Metaphysics: An Introduction (Routledge).

*Duncan Pritchard (2016) Epistemology, 2nd ed. (OUP).

Dancy (1986) and Lowe (2002) are obviously a little older than the others, but are classic introductions to epistemology and metaphysics, respectively. You’ll also find lots of excellent overviews in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, starting with the following—there are more specific links at the end of each:

*Matthias Steup and Ram Neta (2005/20) ‘Epistemology’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 edition).

*Peter van Inwagen and Meghan Sullivan (2005/20) ‘Metaphysics’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2020 edition).

 

TUTORIAL TOPICS

 

EPISTEMOLOGY

 

1. AGRIPPA’S TRILEMMA

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is Agrippa’s trilemma, or the regress problem? Which responses to it, if any, are defensible?

CORE READING

*Michael Huemer (2010) ‘Foundations and Coherence’ in Jonathan Dancy, Ernest Sosa, and Matthias Steup, eds. A Companion to Epistemology, 2nd edition (Blackwell), pp. 22-33.

Laurence Bonjour (1978) ‘Can Empirical Knowledge Have a Foundation?’ in American Philosophical Quarterly 15(1), pp. 1–13. Reprinted in SKF&M.

Ernest Sosa (1980) ‘The Raft and the Pyramid: Coherence versus Foundations in the Theory of Knowledge’ in Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5(1), pp. 3–26. Reprinted in SKF&M.

Peter Klein (1999) ‘Human Knowledge and the Infinite Regress of Reasons’ in Philosophical Perspectives 13, pp. 297-325. Reprinted in SKF&M.

FURTHER READING

In exploring this topic in more depth, start with the relevant debates in ST&S, which could easily have served as Core Reading. James Pryor’s contribution is particularly important: his dogmatism is, alongside Michael Huemer’s phenomenal conservatism, one of the main foundationalist developments of recent years. You can look at the issues surrounding it in more detail in doing SCEPTICISM or PERCEPTION. Greco and Sosa, eds. (1999) contains a couple of useful discussions. Williams’s ‘Skepticism’, defending a non-standard position that he calls contextualism—though this is not the same as view as the one we look at in doing the CONTEXTUALISM topic—and Bonjour’s ‘The Dialectic of Foundationalism and Coherentism’, which sets out the sorts of considerations that led him to abandon the coherentism of his (1985) for a form of foundationalism.

For an important problem facing both internalist and externalist forms of foundationalism—the problem of easy knowledge—see Cohen (2002). For more on infinitism, see the papers in Turri and Klein, eds. (2014). Other good introductions include the two Stanford Encyclopedia entries, Hasan and Fumerton (2000/16) and Olsson (2003/17), and Fumerton (2018).

Laurence Bonjour (1985) The Structure of Empirical Knowledge (Harvard UP), Part Two.

Stewart Cohen (2002) ‘Basic Knowledge and the Problem of Easy KnowledgePhilosophy and Phenomenological Research 65(2), pp. 309–29.

Richard Fumerton (2018) ‘Regress Arguments and Skepticism’ in Diego Machuca and Baron Reed, eds. Skepticism: From Antiquity to the Present (Bloomsbury).

John Greco and Ernest Sosa, eds. (1999) The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology (Blackwell).

Ali Hasan and Richard Fumerton (2000/16) ‘Foundationalist Theories of Epistemic Justification’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-foundational/

Erik Olsson (2003/17) ‘Coherentist Theories of Epistemic Justification’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-coherence/

John Turri and Peter D Klein, eds. (2014) Ad Infinitum: New Essays on Epistemological Infinitism (OUP).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘A belief is justified only if it is justified by a mental state with propositional content. The only mental states with propositional content are beliefs. Therefore, immediate justification is impossible.’ Discuss. (2018)

Can one provide a foundationalist justification for foundationalism itself? (2017)

Should one try to ensure one’s beliefs rest on certain foundations? (2016)

‘One is justified in holding a belief B only if one has some reason to think it likely to be true. A reason to think B likely to be true cannot be anything other than some other belief or beliefs that indicate the truth of B. So there is no viable foundationalism that does not collapse into a form of coherentism.’ Discuss. (2015)

2. CONTEXTUALISM

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is epistemic contextualism? How does it differ from subject-sensitive invariantism, i.e. what Feldman calls subject contextualism? Is it correct? Does it offer a satisfactory response to scepticism?

CORE READING

*Richard Feldman (2010) ‘Contextualism’ in Jonathan Dancy, Ernest Sosa, and Matthias Steup, eds. A Companion to Epistemology, 2nd edition (Blackwell), pp. 12-22.

*Keith DeRose (1999) ‘Contextualism: An Explanation and Defense’ in John Greco and Ernest Sosa, eds. The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology (Blackwell), pp. 187-205.

Ernest Sosa (2000) ‘Skepticism and Contextualism’ in Philosophical Issues 10, pp. 1–18.

John Hawthorne (2004) Knowledge and Lotteries (OUP), Ch. 4. Reprinted as ‘Sensitive Moderate Invariantism’ in SKF&M.

FURTHER READING

In working further on this topic, start by getting a good sense of what epistemic contextualism is. The best way to do this is to think about alternative views, including classical invariantism and subject-sensitive invariantism (SSI). Classical invariantism is defended in Brown (2006). SSI is defended by Hawthorne in the Core Reading. Think also about different ways in which contextualism can be developed. Lewis (1996) is important here. DeRose fleshes out his case for contextualism and replies to objections in his (2009). McKenna (2015) is a useful survey of recent work. The debate between contextualists and SSIs raises questions about the role of pragmatic factors, such as practical interests, in knowledge. Fantl and McGrath (2009) is a great discussion of this, and one of the best books in epistemology of the last wee while. Kim (2017) a survey of the recent debate. ST&S is also useful here, containing accessible debates between Fantl and McGrath and Baron Reed over whether pragmatic factors affect knowledge, as well as Conee and Cohen over contextualism itself. The latter includes, among other things, discussion of whether contextualism provides a satisfactory response to the sceptic. See also DeRose (2017), developing his contextualist treatment of sceptical and lottery puzzles.

Jessica Brown (2006) 'Contextualism and Warranted Assertibility Manoeuvres' in Philosophical Studies 130(3), pp. 407-435.

Keith DeRose (2009) The Case for Contextualism: Knowledge, Skepticism, and Context, Volume 1 (OUP).

— (2017) The Appearance of Ignorance: Knowledge, Skepticism, and Context, Volume 2 (OUP).

Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath (2009) Knowledge in an Uncertain World (OUP), Ch. 2.

Brian Kim (2017) 'Pragmatic Encroachment in Epistemology' in Philosophy Compass 12(5), pp. 1–14.

David Lewis (1996) 'Elusive Knowledge' in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74(4), pp. 549–567. Reprinted in SKF&M.

Robin McKenna (2015) 'Recent Work: Contextualism in Epistemology' in Analysis 75(3), pp. 489–503.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Might whether S knows that p depend on the moral considerations against S’s believing that p? (2019)

EITHER
(a) Is epistemology a pastime which destroys its own subject matter?
OR
(b) In what sense, if any, does knowledge depend on practical interests? (2018)

Does the context-sensitivity of the word ‘know’ tell us anything about knowledge itself? (2017)

Is there any reason to think that ‘knows’ is context sensitive? What significance would it have for epistemology if this were so? (2016)

3. WILLIAMSON I

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is the connection between Williamson’s claim that knowledge is a mental state and his claim that knowledge is unanalysable? Are these claims defensible?

CORE READING

Timothy Williamson (2000) Knowledge and its Limits (OUP), Introduction and Ch. 1 and 2.

The following aren’t mandatory, and you should prioritise reading Knowledge and its Limits itself, but they’ll help you get a sense of what’s innovative and controversial about Williamson’s approach:

Gilbert Harman (2002) ‘Reflections on Knowledge and Its Limits’ in The Philosophical Review 111(3), pp. 417–28.

Frank Jackson (2002) ‘Critical Notice of Knowledge and Its Limits by Timothy Williamson’ in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 80(4), pp. 516–21.

E. J. Lowe (2002) ‘Critical Notice: Is Knowing a State of Mind?’ in International Journal of Philosophical Studies 10(4), pp. 483–503.

FURTHER READING

Our topic for this week and next is Tim Williamson’s knowledge-first epistemology, set out in his Knowledge and its Limits. This is the most influential book of the past 40 or so years in epistemology, and arguably in analytic philosophy more generally, so it is well worth studying in depth. (I’ve assumed you’re familiar from first year work in General Philosophy with the Gettier problem and various responses to it. If you’re not familiar with these, let me know before the start of term so that I can suggest a slightly different set of topics in epistemology.) In thinking about the main themes, you’d do well to look at some of the critical responses in Greenough and Pritchard, eds. (2009), together with Williamson’s replies. Particularly recommended are the pieces by Quassim Cassam and Elizabeth Fricker. See also the debate between Williamson and Trent Dougherty and Patrick Rysiew in ST&S, Nagel (2013), Hyman (2014), and the papers in the Carter, Gordon, and Jarvis, eds. (2017)—especially the editors’ Introduction, and the papers by Smith and by Ichikawa and Jenkins. But perhaps the main thing to look at is Ch. 3 of Knowledge and its Limits, which, as Williamson says, deepens the critique of internalism. It’s usefully read in combination with Yablo (2003). McGlynn (2014) is a nice monograph on the topic, and will be usefully read in connection with whatever you choose to focus on next week too.

J. Adam Carter, Emma C. Gordon, and Benjamin Jarvis, eds. (2017) Knowledge First: Approaches in Epistemology and Mind (OUP).

Patrick Greenough and Duncan Pritchard, eds. (2009) Williamson on Knowledge (OUP).

John Hyman (2014) '“The most general factive stative attitude”' in Analysis 74(4), pp. 561–565.

Aidan McGlynn (2014) Knowledge First? (Palgrave Macmillan).

Jennifer Nagel (2013) ‘Knowledge as a Mental State’ in Tamara Szabó Gendler and John Hawthorne, eds. Oxford Studies in Epistemology Vol. 4 (OUP).

Stephen Yablo (2003) ‘Causal Relevance’ in Philosophical Issues 13, pp. 316–328.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Are there unanalysable factive mental states? (2017)

EITHER
(a) How important is the concept of luck in epistemology?
OR
(b) Is knowledge prior to belief? (2016)

EITHER
(a) What, if anything, is wrong with the view that knowledge is rationally held reliably true belief?
OR
(b) Is knowledge the most general factive mental state? (2015)

‘It’s too easy to come up with counterexamples to putative analyses of knowledge in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions, so we should abandon the attempt to construct such analyses.’ Is this a compelling argument? And should we give up the project of analysing knowledge? (2014)

4. WILLIAMSON II

TOP

This week is an opportunity to get a deeper grasp of Knowledge and its Limits. Skim through the book and select one of the following topics, writing an essay that critically assesses Williamson’s views on it. Working through some of the other topics in subsequent vacations will give you a good grasp of a range of issues in contemporary epistemology.

A. Luminosity

Timothy Williamson (2000) Knowledge and its Limits (OUP), Ch. 4.

Selim Berker (2008) ‘Luminosity Regained’ in The Philosopher’s Imprint 8(2), pp. 1–22.

Amia Srinivasan (2015) ‘Are We Luminous?’ in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 90(2), pp. 294–319.

B. The KK Principle

Timothy Williamson (2000) Knowledge and its Limits (OUP), Ch. 5.

Daniel Greco (2015a) ‘Iteration Principles in Epistemology I: Arguments For’ in Philosophy Compass 10(11), pp. 754–764.

— (2015b) ‘Iteration Principles in Epistemology II: Arguments Against’ in Philosophy Compass 10(11), pp. 765–771.

Sebastian Liu (2020) ‘(Un)Knowability and Knowledge Iteration’ in Analysis 80(3), pp. 474–86.

C. Sensitivity and Safety

Timothy Williamson (2000) Knowledge and its Limits (OUP), Ch. 7.

John Hawthorne and Maria Lasonen-Aarnio (2009) ‘Knowledge and Objective Chance’ in Patrick Greenough and Duncan Pritchard, eds. Williamson on Knowledge (OUP). See also Williamson's reply.

Timothy Williamson (2009) ‘Probability and Danger’ in The Amherst Lecture in Philosophy 4, pp. 1-37.

D. Scepticism

Timothy Williamson (2000) Knowledge and its Limits (OUP), Ch. 8.

Stephen Schiffer (2009) ‘Evidence = Knowledge: Williamson’s Solution to Skepticism’ in Patrick Greenough and Duncan Pritchard, eds. Williamson on Knowledge (OUP). See also Williamson's reply.

Ofra Magidor (2018) ‘How Both You and the Brain in a Vat Can Know Whether or Not You Are Envatted’ in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supp. Vol. 92, pp. 151–181.

E. Evidence

Timothy Williamson (2000) Knowledge and its Limits (OUP), Ch. 9.

Juan Comesaña and Holly Kantin (2010) ‘Is Evidence Knowledge?’ in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 80(2), pp. 447–54.

Clayton Littlejohn (2017) ‘How and Why Knowledge is First’ in J. Adam Carter, Emma C. Gordon, and Benjamin Jarvis, eds. Knowledge First: Approaches in Epistemology and Mind (OUP).

F. Assertion

Timothy Williamson (2000) Knowledge and its Limits (OUP), Ch. 11.

Matthew Weiner (2005) ‘Must We Know What We Say?’ in The Philosophical Review 114(2), pp. 227–51.

Jennifer Lackey (2007) ‘Norms of Assertion’ in Noûs 41(4), pp. 594–626.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

In order to know that p, must one’s evidence rule out all possibilities in which not-p? (2019)

Can we rely on deductive reasoning to extend our knowledge? (2019)

What, if anything, is the difference between the way I come to know about my own mind and the way I come to know about the minds of others? (2019)

EITHER
(a) Are there any mental states such that one is always in a position to know whether one is in them?
OR
(b) Do you have the same evidence as your brain-in-a-vat counterpart? (2018)

5. MODALITY

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Should modality be explained in terms of possible worlds? If so, how are possible worlds themselves to be explained? If not, how, if at all, is modality to be explained?

CORE READING

*Ross Cameron (2010) ‘The Grounds of Necessity’ in Philosophy Compass 5(4), pp. 348–58.

David Lewis (1986) On the Plurality of Worlds (Blackwell), Ch. 1. Reprinted in KK&S as ‘A Philosopher's Paradise: The Plurality of Worlds’.

Kit Fine (1994) ‘Essence and Modality’ in Philosophical Perspectives 8, pp. 1–16. Reprinted in KK&S.

Robert Stalnaker (2009) ‘Modality and Possible Worlds’ in Jaegwon Kim, Ernest Sosa, and Gary S Rosenkrantz, eds. A Companion to Metaphysics, 2nd edition (Blackwell).

FURTHER READING

If you’re working on this topic in more depth, the rest of Lewis (1986) is essential. The second chapter defends Lewis’s extreme realism from various objections, and the third presents objections to various rival views. The fourth and final chapter defends counterpart theory, his alternative to the view that there are transworld identities. Loux, ed. (1979) is also very useful, collecting together various classic papers. Many of them defend what Vetter (2011) calls classical actualism, agreeing with Lewis that modality is to be explained in terms of possible worlds, but disagreeing with him in holding that possible worlds themselves may be explained in terms of actual entities—propositions (Adams), states of affairs (Plantinga), or properties (Stalnaker), for example. Sider (2003) is an accessible survey of some of the main issues, as is Melia (2003), an introduction for advanced undergraduates, discussing, among other things, Quinean scepticism about modality and modalism, the view that modality is to be understood, not in terms of quantification over possible worlds, but in terms of primitive modal operators, ‘necessarily’ and ‘possibly’. See also the debate in SH&Z between Bricker, defending extreme realism, and Melia, defending actualism. Recent years have seen a proliferation of alternative approaches, and you’ll want to think about some of these too. Rosen (1990) defends fictionalism, the view that possible worlds are a useful fiction. Sider (2011) elaborates on the quasi-conventionalism that he sketches towards the end of his (2003) paper. Thomasson (2007) defends a form of non-cognitivism about modality—similar to the non-cognitivism you might already be familiar with from metaethics. Think also about the approaches of new actualists, who seek to explain modality in terms of actual entities, but without appeal to possible worlds. See Vetter (2011), discussing Fine’s essentialist approach as well as her own dispositionalism, for a discussion of some of the issues.

Michael J. Loux, ed. (1979) The Possible and the Actual: Readings in the Metaphysics of Modality (Cornell UP).

*Joseph Melia (2003) Modality (Acumen).

Gideon Rosen (1990) ‘Modal Fictionalism’ in Mind 99(395), pp. 327–354. Reprinted in KK&S.

*Ted Sider (2003) ‘Reductive Theories of Modality’ in Michael J. Loux and Dean W. Zimmerman, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics (OUP).

— (2011) Writing the Book of the World (OUP), Ch. 12.

Amie Thomasson (2007) ‘Modal Normativism and the Methods of Metaphysics’ in Philosophical Topics 35(1), pp. 135–60.

Barbara Vetter (2011) ‘Recent Work: Modality without Possible Worlds’ in Analysis 71(4), pp. 742–54.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Are there impossible worlds? (2019)

‘There could have been no concrete objects. Therefore, possible worlds are not concrete objects.’ Discuss. (2018)

Can modality be understood in terms of possible worlds, or does the notion of a possible world presuppose a prior understanding of modality? (2017)

‘If possible worlds are needed to explain modality, it is better not to explain modality.’ Do you agree? (2016)

6. TIME

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is McTaggart’s paradox? What, if anything, does it tell us about the nature of time?

CORE READING

*Robin Le Poidevin (2003) Travels in Four Dimensions: The Enigmas of Space and Time, (OUP), Ch. 8.

J. M. E. McTaggart (1908) ‘The Unreality of Time’ in Mind 17(68), pp. 457-74.

Arthur Prior (1967) Past, Present, and Future (OUP), Ch. 1.

D. H. Mellor (1998) Real Time II (Routledge), Ch. 7.

FURTHER READING

For a general guide to the various issues in the philosophy of time, Dainton (2010) is hard to beat. If you’re working on the topic in more depth, I recommend you keep it to hand as you work through the main debates. Inspired by McTaggart, these are usually posed in terms of a distinction between A-theorists, like Prior, and B-theorists, like Mellor. Zimmerman, ed. (2004) contains some now-classic discussions of the main A-theory, presentism, while Prosser (2017) is a recent book-length defence of the B-theory, focused on explaining various aspects of our experience of time that seem to tell against the view. You’ll also find an accessible debate between Dean Zimmerman and Jack Smart in SH&Z, with Zimmerman defending presentism and Smart defending the B-theory. Think also about other A-theories, however, particularly the so-called growing block and moving spotlight views. There is some relatively recent discussion of the former in Bennett and Zimmerman, eds. (2014); the latter has long been regarded the poor relation among A-theories, but see Cameron (2015) for a recent and influential attempt to revive it. In thinking more about McTaggart, start with Dummett (1960), an influential discussion and partial defence of the argument for the unreality of time. Then try Fine (2006), a fantastic paper, offering an interesting interpretation of Dummett’s position. Be warned, however: the Fine’s hard going—and the Dummett’s harder than it might initially seem. Lastly, to think more about issues in the philosophy of time, you might also think about TIME TRAVEL.

Karen Bennett and Dean Zimmerman, eds. (2014) Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol. 8 (OUP), Ch. 9-11.

Ross Cameron (2015) The Moving Spotlight: An Essay on Time and Ontology (OUP).

*Barry Dainton (2010) Time and Space, 2nd edition (Acumen), Ch. 1 to 7.

Michael Dummett (1960) ‘A Defense of McTaggart's Proof of the Unreality of Time’ in The Philosophical Review 69(4), pp. 497–504.

Kit Fine (2006) ‘The Reality of Tense’ in Synthese 150(3), pp. 399-414. A longer version appears as ‘Tense and Reality’ in his (2005) Modality and Tense: Philosophical Papers (OUP).

Simon Prosser (2017) Experiencing Time (OUP).

Dean Zimmerman, ed. (2001) Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol. 1. (OUP), Part I.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) ‘If time travel were possible, I could kill my own grandfather. I can’t kill my own grandfather. So time travel is impossible.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) Can any sense be made of the question of how quickly time passes? What are the consequences of your answer for the metaphysics of time? (2019)

‘While the past seems settled, the future seems open.’ What is the best explanation of this apparent asymmetry? (2018)

EITHER
(a) Is backward time travel possible if, and only if, time is circular?
OR
(b) Why does time, but not space, seem to pass? (2017)

‘It is manifest in our experience that time passes.’ Is this so? What follows for how we should understand the nature of time? (2016)

7. PERSISTENCE

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Is there a genuine problem of change? If so, how, if at all, is it to be solved?

CORE READING

*Roxanne Marie Kurtz (2006) ‘What’s the Problem?’ in Sally Haslanger and Roxanne Marie Kurtz, eds. (2006) Persistence: Contemporary Readings (MIT Press). Referred to below as H&K.

David Lewis (1986) On the Plurality of Worlds (Blackwell), pp. 202-204. Reprinted in KK&S and in H&K.

Ted Sider (2001) Four Dimensionalism (OUP), Ch. 4, esp. §§6 and 9.

Sally Haslanger (2003) ‘Persistence through Time’ in Michael J. Loux and Dean W. Zimmerman, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics (OUP).

FURTHER READING

To at least a first approximation, the problem of change arises out of the fact that we understand persistence through change to be a matter of one and the same object having incompatible properties. Yet no object can have incompatible properties. Isn’t persistence through change, as we understand it, therefore impossible? Standard responses to the problem accept that no object can have incompatible properties, but insist that this can be reconciled with a correct understanding of persistence through change. Different theorists attempt the reconciliation in different ways, however, offering more or less revisionary accounts of persistence through change: perdurantists, like Lewis, argue that it is a matter of one and the same object having different temporal parts with incompatible properties; exdurantists (also known as stage theorists), like Sider, argue that it is a matter of different temporal counterparts having incompatible properties; while endurantists, like Haslanger, argue (roughly) that it is a matter of one and the same object having incompatible properties itself but at different times. H&K contains many classic papers on the issues, usefully arranged into thematic groups. SH&Z is also useful, containing a paper by Sider defending exdurantism and a paper by Hawthorne attacking the idea that the debate should be regarded as one about whether or not temporal parts (or counterparts) exist. See also Macbride (2001), arguing that the debate overlooks various alternative accounts of change; Koslicki (2003), on Sider’s argument from vagueness; and Magidor (2016), arguing that a host of argument offered in the literature are strictly orthogonal to the debate between endurantists and perdurantists. You might also want to think about overlap between this topic and OBJECTS. See, e.g., McGrath (2007) on the argument from coincidence or co-location. Lastly, you might want to think about some non-standard responses to the problem. Priest (2006) argues there are good reasons for thinking change produces dialethias, or true contradictions, while Hofweber (2009) and Einheuser (2012) argue there’s no real problem of change in the first place, only a meta-problem.

Iris Einheuser (2012) ‘Is There a (Meta-)Problem of Change?’ in Analytic Philosophy 53(4), pp. 344-51.

Thomas Hofweber (2009) ‘The Meta-Problem of ChangeNoûs 43(2), pp. 286-314.

Kathrin Koslicki (2003) ‘The Crooked Path from Vagueness to Four-Dimensionalism’ in Philosophical Studies 114(1/2), pp. 107–134.

Fraser Macbride (2001) ‘Four New Ways to Change Your Shape’ in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79(1), pp. 81–89.

Matthew McGrath (2007) ‘Four-Dimensionalism and the Puzzles of Coincidence’ in Dean W. Zimmerman, ed. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 3 (OUP).

Ofra Magidor (2016) ‘Endurantism vs. Perdurantism: A Debate Reconsidered’ in Noûs 50(3), pp. 509-532.

Graham Priest (2006) In Contradiction, 2nd edition (OUP), Ch. 12.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) ‘If there’s a problem of temporary intrinsics, then there’s also a problem of contingent intrinsics.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) ‘Let O1 and O2 be any two spatially separated objects. Consider the fusion of O1’s temporal part between t1 and t2 and O2’s temporal part between t2 and t3. If there is such an object, it travels faster than the speed of light. So perdurantism ought to be rejected on the grounds that it is incompatible with the laws of physics.’ Is this a fair objection to perdurantism? (2019)

Is it ever true to say of two atoms that they once were, or will be, numerically identical? (2018)

Is the property of being-F-at-t a relational property? How does this affect the argument from temporary intrinsics? (2017)

‘The following two claims are in tension: (1) There can be change over time; (2) At least some non-essential properties of objects are intrinsic.’ Explain how this tension might most plausibly be thought to arise. How would you propose to resolve it? (2016)

8. TBA

 

OTHER TOPICS

 

EPISTEMOLOGY

 

THE A PRIORI

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is a priori knowledge? Do we have any? If so, how do we acquire it? Are there any contingent truths that can be known a priori?

CORE READING

*Carrie Jenkins (2008) 'A Priori Knowledge: Debates and Developments' in Philosophy Compass 3(3), pp. 436–450.

Philip Kitcher (1980) 'A Priori Knowledge' in The Philosophical Review, 89(1), pp. 3–23.

Laurence Bonjour and Michael Devitt (2014) 'Is There a Priori Knowledge?' in Matthias Steup, John Turri, and Ernest Sosa, eds. (2014) Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, 2nd edition (Wiley Blackwell).

Saul Kripke (1980) Naming and Necessity (Blackwell), pp. 34–39, 48-50, 53–58, 99-105, and 108-109. The relevant extracts are reprinted in Paul Moser, ed. (1987) A Priori Knowledge (OUP).

FURTHER READING

In getting a better grasp of this topic, I think it’s particularly helpful to understand how the notion of the a priori has figured in the history of philosophy. At the very least, you’ll want to look at Quine (1953). Though it doesn’t actually contain the expression “a priori”, it’s a renowned attack on what Bonjour calls moderate empiricism, and attempts to put a form of radical empiricism in its place. You’ll find good discussion of the issues in the first few chapters of Bonjour (1998), and a recent attempt to resuscitate moderate empiricism in the face of Quine’s attack in Boghossian (2003). In exploring contemporary work by other philosophers on the a priori, you should follow up the relevant references in Jenkins (2008). You’ll want to think, in the first place, about accounts of the a priori from the likes of Field and Peacocke, as well as Jenkins herself. Boghossian and Peacocke (2000) contains many key contributions to recent debate, including a paper by Kitcher reflecting on critical reaction to his (1980) paper. You’ll also want to think about Kripke, and alleged instances of contingent a priori truths. To that end, try Hawthorne (2002) and Chalmers (2008). (This is an issue that you’ll most likely encounter again if you do Philosophy of Mind, and certainly if you do Philosophical Logic.) Lastly, have a think a bit about whether the distinction between the a priori and the a posteriori is significant. Williamson (2013) is a recent paper arguing that it isn’t; Casullo (2015) is a response.

Laurence Bonjour (1998) In Defense of Pure Reason (Cambridge UP).

Paul Boghossian and Christopher Peacocke, eds. (2000) New Essays on the A Priori (OUP).

Paul Boghossian (2003) 'Epistemic Analyticity: A Defense' in Grazer Philosophische Studien 66, pp. 15-35. Reprinted in his (2008) Content and Justification: Philosophical Papers (OUP).

Alberto Casullo (2015) 'Four Challenges to the A Priori: A Posteriori Distinction' in Synthese 192(9), pp. 2701–2724.

David J. Chalmers (2008) 'Two‐Dimensional Semantics' in Ernie Lepore and Barry C. Smith, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language (OUP).

John Hawthorne (2002) 'Deeply Contingent A Priori Knowledge' in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65(2), pp. 247–269.

W. V. O. Quine (1951) 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism' in The Philosophical Review 60(1), pp. 20–43. Reprinted in his (1961) From a Logical Point of View, revised edition (Harvard).

Tim Williamson (2013) 'How Deep is the Distinction between A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge?' in Albert Casullo and Joshua C. Thurow, ed. The A Priori in Philosophy (OUP).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

If I call to mind an equilateral triangle, and by manipulating the image in my imagination come to believe that equilateral triangles have three lines of symmetry, is my belief justified a priori or a posteriori? (2019)

In what sense, if any, is a priori knowledge justified ‘independently of experience’? (2018)

Are all the propositions knowable by humans either ‘matters of fact’, or ‘relations of ideas’, as Hume maintained? (2016)

EITHER
(a) Are there any contingent truths that are knowable a priori?
OR
(b) Does an appeal to intellectual intuition play a role in explaining how we are able to have a priori knowledge? (2015)

TESTIMONY

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Can one know that something is the case simply because one has been told that it is? If not, does it follow that we know far less than we ordinarily take ourselves to know?

CORE READING

*John Greco (2012) 'Recent Work on Testimonial Knowledge' in American Philosophical Quarterly 49(1), pp. 15–28.

Elizabeth Fricker (1994) 'Against Gullibility' in Bimal Krishna Matilal and Arindam Chakrabarti, eds. Knowing From Words (Kluwer Academic Publishers), pp. 125-61. Reprinted in SKF&M.

Tyler Burge (1993) 'Content Preservation' in The Philosophical Review 102(4), pp. 457-88. Reprinted with a Postscript in Tyler Burge (2013) Cognition Through Understanding (OUP), and in SKF&M.

Jennifer Lackey (2006) 'It Takes Two to Tango: Beyond Reductionism and Non-Reductionism in the Epistemology of Testimony' in Jennifer Lackey and Ernest Sosa, eds. The Epistemology of Testimony (OUP), pp. 160-89.

NOTE: You’ll find abridged versions of Fricker (1994) and Burge (1993) reprinted, alongside useful commentary, in Sven Bernecker, ed. (2006) Reading Epistemology (Blackwell). I recommend that you read these in the first instance rather than the original, unabridged versions.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Must S know that p for T to know that p on S’s say-so? (2018)

Can one acquire a priori justification by means of testimony? (2017)

How readily should one believe what others tell one? (2016)

EITHER
(a) ‘Understanding other people’s eye-witness accounts affords one epistemic access to states of affairs they have observed and now report, in much the same way that one’s memory affords one present access to past states of affairs which one oneself once observed.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) To what extent does one’s dependence on others for much of what one knows compromise one’s ability to take responsibility for one’s own beliefs? (2015)

DISAGREEMENT

TOP

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Can two epistemic peers with the same evidence rationally disagree? (2018)

EPISTEMIC INJUSTICE

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

How should the notions of testimonial and hermeneutical injustice be defined? Are they distinctively epistemic forms of injustice?

CORE READING

*Axel Gelfert (2014) A Critical Introduction to Testimony (Bloomsbury), Ch. 10, pp. 193-214.

Miranda Fricker (2007) Epistemic Injustice (OUP), Ch. 1 and 7.

Ishani Maitra (2010) ‘The Nature of Epistemic Injustice’ in Philosophical Books 51, pp. 195-211.

David Coady (2017) ‘Epistemic Injustice as Distributive Injustice’ in Ian James Kidd, José Medina, and Gaile Pohlhaus, Jr., eds. The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice (Routledge).

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘Epistemic injustice is just the unjust distribution of epistemic goods. Therefore, there is no distinctive phenomenon of epistemic injustice.’ Discuss. (2018)

Is someone who is committing an epistemic injustice epistemically irresponsible? (2017)

What is epistemic injustice? (2016)

Is there a distinct phenomenon of epistemic injustice? (2015)

OTHER MINDS

TOP

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

What, if anything, is the difference between the way I come to know about my own mind and the way I come to know about the minds of others? (2019)

Is scepticism about other minds fundamentally different from skepticism about the external world? (2017)

‘One’s knowledge that other conscious persons exist broadly similar to oneself is based on an inference to the best explanation.’ Do you agree? (2016)

‘There are no reasons to be sceptical about the existence of other conscious persons that are not equally reasons to be sceptical about the existence of mind-independent solid objects with size, shape and location.’ Do you agree? (2015)

METAPHYSICS

CAUSATION

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is the most promising philosophical account of the relation between causes and their effects?

CORE READING

*Michael Loux and Thomas Crisp (2017) Metaphysics, 4th edition (Routledge), Ch. 6.

J. L. Mackie (1965) ‘Causes and Conditions’ in American Philosophical Quarterly 2(4), pp. 245–264 (skip §§5-7). Reprinted Sosa and Tooley, eds. (1993) Causation (OUP), referred to below as S&T, and in KK&S.

Elisabeth Anscombe (1971) ‘Causation and Determination’ in her (1981) Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind: Collected Philosophical Papers, Volume 2 (Blackwell). Reprinted in S&T and KK&S.

David Lewis (1973) ‘Causation’ in The Journal of Philosophy 70(17), pp. 556–567. Reprinted in his (1986) Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2 (OUP), with additional postscripts, S&T, and KK&S.

FURTHER READING

The literature for this topic is huge. For discussion of Mackie, see the first paper by Jaegwon Kim in S&T and Scriven (2007). For discussion of Lewis, see the second paper by Kim in S&T, as well as the papers by Horwich and Bennett. In order to overcome difficulties with his (1973) view, Lewis developed a different counterfactual theory, which is presented in his paper ‘Causation as Influence’ in Collins, Hall, and Paul, eds. (2004). Menzies (2001/14) provides a great overview of the issues surrounding these and other counterfactual approaches. You should also have a look at other approaches to causation. Perhaps the main one is the interventionist approach, a non-reductionist counterfactual approach that draws on the work of the computer scientist Judea Pearl. Woodward (2001/16) is a good introduction. If you’re interested in probablistic approaches, see in the first instance Hitchcock (1997/2018). Another approach worth looking at is the physical process acccount defended by Wesley Salmon. See his paper in S&T, though the best introduction is his (2002). His view has fallen out of favour somewhat recently, however. Part of its appeal was the promise of an account of preemption cases, but on further examination, it’s not so clear. There’s some nice discussion in Hall (2009). The other pieces in S&T are recommended; the editors’ introduction and the papers by Davidson and Tooley are all essential reading. See also the debate between Carroll and Schaffer in SH&Z over whether or not there’s anything more to causal necessity than mere regularity. Lastly, try Psillos (2003) for a good overview of the issues. It’s too advanced to count as introductory, but provides detailed discussion of the Core Reading and other important approaches, including interventionism.

John Collins, Ned Hall, and Laurie Paul, eds. (2004) Causation and Counterfactuals (MIT Press).

*Ned Hall (2009) ‘Causation’ in Frank Jackson and Michael Smith, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy (OUP).

Christopher Hitchcock (1997/2018) ‘Probabilistic Causation’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-probabilistic/.

Peter Menzies (2001/14) ‘Counterfactual Theories of Causation’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-counterfactual/.

Stathos Psillos (2003) Causation & Explanation (Acumen), Part I.

Wesley Salmon (2002) ‘Causation’ in Richard Gale, ed. The Blackwell Guide to Metaphysics (Blackwell).

Michael Strevens (2007) ‘Mackie Remixed’ in J. K. Campbell, M. O'Rourke, and H. S. Silverstein, eds. Causation and Explanation (MIT Press).

James Woodward (2001/8) ‘Causation and Manipulability’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-mani/.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

In what sense, if any, do causes necessitate their effects? (2019)

If a short-circuit starts a house fire, which triggers a sprinkler system that puts out the fire, did the short-circuit cause the failure of the house to burn down? (2018)

If x prevents y from preventing c from causing e, does this make x a cause of e? (2017)

Should we explain causation in terms of counterfactuals, counterfactuals in terms of causation, or neither? (2016)

PROPERTIES

TOP

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

In what sense, if any, is the property of being red more natural than the property of being red-or-green? (2019)

Are necessarily co-extensive properties identical? (2018)

When x instantiates F, is there a relation of instantiation that is instantiated by x and F? (2017)

EITHER
(a) ‘The best explanation for the similarity of various metals is that they all contain free electrons. The best explanation for the similarity of various cubic things is that they all instantiate the universal cubicity.’ Are these claims on a par? Does the latter give us good reason to believe that the universal cubicity exists?
OR
(b) ‘All categorisation of things into kinds depends upon the interests, purposes, and technological ability of those doing the categorising. So there is at best only a difference of degree between social kinds and natural kinds.’ What, if anything, is correct about this claim? What significance does your answer have for the debate over the reality of race? (2016)

RACE

TOP

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘Race… is something to be rid of.’ (HASLANGER) Is it? (2019)

What might it mean to say that a kind is ‘socially constructed’? Are racial kinds socially constructed in this sense? (2018)

Are races social kinds or natural kinds? (2017)

EITHER
(a) ‘The best explanation for the similarity of various metals is that they all contain free electrons. The best explanation for the similarity of various cubic things is that they all instantiate the universal cubicity.’ Are these claims on a par? Does the latter give us good reason to believe that the universal cubicity exists?
OR
(b) ‘All categorisation of things into kinds depends upon the interests, purposes, and technological ability of those doing the categorising. So there is at best only a difference of degree between social kinds and natural kinds.’ What, if anything, is correct about this claim? What significance does your answer have for the debate over the reality of race? (2016)

OBJECTS

TOP

Coming soon.

 PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘Either every class of objects has a fusion, or none do; anything else is metaphysically arbitrary.’ Discuss. (2019)

EITHER
(a) Are there tables or only atoms arranged table-wise?
OR
(b) Is it possible for objects of the same kind to coincide? (2018)

‘It is not vague how many things exist. Therefore, it cannot be vague whether composition occurs.’ Does this establish that composition cannot be vague? (2017)

‘There are at least as many distinct sets of conditions under which objects compose to form another as there are distinct kinds of composite object.’ What can be said in favour of this view? Is it correct? (2016)

DISPOSITIONS

TOP

Coming soon.

 PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Are any dispositions extrinsic? (2018)

Is it possible that an object that is disposed to M when S does not in fact M when S? If so, does this refute counterfactual analyses of dispositions? (2017)

Can the claim that an object is disposed to M when C be explained in counterfactual terms? (2015)

TIME TRAVEL

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Is time travel possible?

CORE READING

*Barry Dainton (2010) Time and Space, 2nd edition (Acumen), Ch. 8.

David Lewis (1976) ‘The Paradoxes of Time Travel’ in American Philosophical Quarterly, 13(2), pp. 145–152. Reprinted in his (1987) Philosophical Papers, Volume II (OUP).

Kadri Vihvelin (1996) ‘What Time Travelers Cannot Do’ in Philosophical Studies 81(2-3), pp. 315–330.

Theodore Sider (2002) ‘Time Travel, Coincidences and Counterfactuals’ in Philosophical Studies 110(2), pp. 115–38.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) ‘If time travel were possible, I could kill my own grandfather. I can’t kill my own grandfather. So time travel is impossible.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) Can any sense be made of the question of how quickly time passes? What are the consequences of your answer for the metaphysics of time? (2019)

EITHER
(a) Is backward time travel possible if, and only if, time is circular?
OR
(b) Why does time, but not space, seem to pass? (2017)

Is time travel possible? What does this tell us about the nature of time? (2015)

META-ONTOLOGY

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What do we mean when we ask ‘what is there?’ and how should such questions be investigated?

CORE READING

*Francesco Berto and Matteo Plebani (2015) Ontology and Metaontology: A Contemporary Guide (Bloomsbury), esp. Part 1—though if you have time, Part 2 is well worth reading too.

W. V. O. Quine (1948) 'On What There Is' in The Review of Metaphysics 2(5), pp. 21-38. Reprinted in his (1980) From a Logical Point of View, 2nd edition, revised (Harvard UP) and in KK&S.

Rudolf Carnap (1950) 'Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology' in Revue Internationale de Philosophie 4, pp. 20-40. Reprinted in his (1956) Meaning and Necessity, 2nd edition (University of Chicago Press) and in KK&S.

Peter van Inwagen (1998) 'Meta-Ontology' in Erkenntnis 48(2/3), pp. 233–250. Reprinted in his (2001) Ontology, Identity, and Modality (CUP).

Stephen Yablo (1998) 'Does Ontology Rest on a Mistake?' in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supp. Vol. 72, pp. 229–261. Reprinted in his (2010) Things (OUP) and in KK&S.

FURTHER READING

In working further on this topic, you could do worse than work through the chapters of Part 2 of Berto and Plebani (2015), looking more closely at individual papers defending the views they discuss. Try the paper by Kris McDaniels in Chalmers, Manley, and Wasserman, eds. (2009) for an example of the Ontological Pluralism discussed in Ch. 4, and Linnebo (2012) for an example of Neo-Fregeanism. For the Neo-Carnapianism discussed in Ch. 5, try Hirsch (2002), Thomas Hofweber’s paper in Chalmers, Manley, and Wasserman, eds. (2009), and Thomasson (2008). Fictionalism, discussed in Ch. 8 of Berto and Plebani (2015), is defended by Stephen Yablo in the piece above. For Meinongianism, discussed in Ch. 7, start with Reicher (2006/19). Fine (2012) is an example of the Grounding Approach discussed in Ch. 8. You’ll find other various useful papers in Chalmers, Manley, and Wasserman, eds. (2009), along with a handy editors’ introduction. Two other recommendations: Lewis and Lewis (1970), a dialogue between two philosophers discussing whether there are holes, is a must-read, while Effingham (2013) is a fantastic introductory book, aimed at undergraduates and discussing issues of meta-ontology in relation to debates in specific areas of metaphysics. It can be profitably read in working further not just on meta-ontology, but also on topics such as POSSIBLE WORLDS, TIME, and PERSISTENCE.

David Chalmers, David Manley, and Ryan Wasserman, eds. (2009) Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology (OUP).

Tim Crane (2011) 'Existence and Quantification Reconsidered' in Tuomas Tahko, ed. Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics (CUP). Reprinted in his (2013) The Objects of Thought (OUP).

*Nikk Effingham (2013) An Introduction to Ontology (Polity).

Kit Fine (2012) 'Guide to Ground' in Fabrice Correia and Benjamin Schnieder, eds. (2012) Metaphysical Grounding (CUP).

Eli Hirsch (2002) 'Quantifier Variance and Realism' in Philosophical Issues 12(1), pp. 51–73. Reprinted in his (2010) Quantifier Variance and Realism (OUP).

David Lewis and Stephanie Lewis (1970) 'Holes' in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 48(2), pp. 206–212. Reprinted in KK&S.

Øystein Linnebo (2012) 'Metaontological Minimalism' in Philosophy Compass 7(2), pp. 139–151.

Maria Reicher (2006/19) 'Nonexistent Objects' in E. Zalta, ed. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nonexistent-objects/.

Amie Thomasson (2008) 'Existence Questions' in Philosophical Studies 141(1), pp. 63–78.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

What, if anything, ground truths about what grounds what? (2018)

What is the best methodology for resolving ontological disputes? (2015)

‘The standard of ontological commitment in metaphysics is the same as that in the sciences – one is committed to what one quantifies over in one’s best theory. Accordingly, it cannot be correct to castigate metaphysics as unscientific.’ Discuss. (2013)

Are ontological disputes merely verbal disputes over the choice of conventional linguistic framework? (2012)

FOR SELF-STUDY

THE ANALYSIS of KNOWLEDGE

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What philosophical account, if any, can be given of propositional knowledge?

CORE READING

*Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa and Mattheus Steup (2001/2017) ‘The Analysis of Knowledge’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2018/entries/knowledge-analysis/

Edward Craig (1987) ‘The Practical Explication of Knowledge’ in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 87, pp. 211–226.

Linda Zagzebski (1999) ‘What is Knowledge?’ in John Greco and Ernest Sosa, eds. The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology (Blackwell).

William Lycan (2006) ‘On the Gettier Problem Problem’ in Stephen Hetherington, ed. Epistemology Futures (OUP).

FURTHER READING

In setting the Core Reading for this topic, I’ve assumed you’re familiar with the Gettier problem from first year work on Knowledge for General Philosophy. If that’s not the case, let me know, and I’ll suggest some slightly different readings. If you haven’t already, you should also look at the readings for the WILLIAMSON I topic.

Rodrigo Borges, Claudio de Almeida, and Peter D Klein, eds (2017) Explaining Knowledge: New Essays on the Gettier Problem (OUP).

Edward Craig (1990) Knowledge and the State of Nature: An Essay in Conceptual Synthesis (OUP).

Stephen Hetherington, ed. (2018) The Gettier Problem (Cambridge UP).

Jennifer Nagel (2012) ‘Intuitions and Experiments: A Defense of the Case Method in Epistemology’ in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85(3), pp. 495–527.

Ernest Sosa (2007) A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Vol. I (OUP), Ch. 2.

Brian Weatherson (2003) ‘What Good are Counter-Examples?’ in Philosophical Studies 115(1), pp. 1–31.

Timothy Williamson (2013) ‘Gettier Cases in Epistemic Logic’ in Inquiry 56(1), pp. 1–14.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘Gettier cases force us to choose between (a) accepting that knowledge requires infallible justification of a kind we almost never have and (b) accepting that some beliefs amount to knowledge simply by luck.’ Do they? If so, which should we choose? (2020)

What philosophical problems, if any, would a successful analysis of knowledge help us solve? (2020)

EITHER
(a) Can knowledge be analysed as true belief arrived at through the exercise of epistemic virtue?
OR
(b) ‘Externalism in epistemology ought to be rejected on the grounds that it allows for knowledge to be acquired through the exercise of epistemic vice.’ Discuss. (2019)

EITHER
(a) What, if anything, is wrong with the view that knowledge is rationally held reliably true belief?
OR
(b) Is knowledge the most general factive mental state? (2015)

EPISTEMIC CLOSURE

TOP

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Can we rely on deductive reasoning to extend our knowledge? (2019)

EITHER
(a) How important is the concept of luck in epistemology?
OR
(b) Is knowledge prior to belief? (2016)

Can one know that one has hands while not being in a position to know that one is not a handless brain in a vat? Why might the issue seem important? (2013)

Suppose that I would still believe P, were P false. Does it follow that I do not in fact know that P? (2010)

INTERNALISM and EXTERNALISM

TOP

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) Can knowledge be analysed as true belief arrived at through the exercise of epistemic virtue?
OR
(b) ‘Externalism in epistemology ought to be rejected on the grounds that it allows for knowledge to be acquired through the exercise of epistemic vice.’ Discuss. (2019)

‘Sameness of normative standards is a transitive relation between cases; indistinguishability is not.’ Is this a problem for internalism? (2019)

Does externalism about justification imply that one can have knowledge despite disregarding available evidence? (2017)

‘Externalist accounts of knowledge implausibly imply that a subject can know that P even if they are being unreasonable in believing that P.’ Is this so? (2014)

SCEPTICISM

TOP

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

In order to know that p, must one’s evidence rule out all possibilities in which not-p? (2019)

EITHER
(a) Are there any mental states such that one is always in a position to know whether one is in them?
OR
(b) Do you have the same evidence as your brain-in-a-vat counterpart? (2018)

‘This sceptical doubt…with respect to…the senses, is a malady, which can never be radically cur’d, but must return upon us every moment.’ (HUME) Is it rational, or is it a pathology, constantly to doubt the veracity of one’s senses? (2016)

EITHER
(a) Are there any reasons to think that ‘know’ is context-sensitive, other than its potentially affording a response to scepticism?
OR
(b) ‘The best responses to the problem of external world scepticism ultimately concede a lot to the sceptic.’ Discuss. (2014)

INDUCTION

TOP

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) ‘A wise man proportions his beliefs to the evidence.’ (HUME) What truth, if any, is there in this claim?
OR
(b) ‘If the universe is uniform, inductive inferences are warranted. If the universe is not uniform, no non-deductive inferences are warranted. So we may as well make inductive inferences.’ Discuss. (2019)

Does the best explanation of observed regularities imply the existence of unobserved regularities? (2018)

EITHER
(a) Can induction inform us about the past?
OR
(b) Can it ever be the case that the observation of a non-raven confirms ‘All ravens are black’ to a greater extent than does the observation of a black raven? (2017)

‘To say that valid predictions are those based on past regularities, without being able to say which regularities, is…pointless.’ (GOODMAN) How does this remark bear on the problem of what justifies us in making inferences from a finite number of instances to a general law subsuming these instances? (2016)

PERCEPTION

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What, if anything, do illusions and hallucinations tell us about the nature of perception?

CORE READING

*Tim Crane and Craig French (2005/15) ‘The Problem of Perception’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/perception-problem/

Howard Robinson (1994) Perception (Routledge), Ch. II and VI.

Tim Crane (2001) Elements of Mind (Cambridge UP), Ch. 1 and 5.

Michael G. F. Martin (2004) ‘The Limits of Self-Awareness’ in Philosophical Studies 120(1), pp. 37–89.

FURTHER READING

In thinking more about what Crane and French are calling the problem of perception—the problem, roughly speaking, of explaining how our common-sense conception of perception can be sustained in light of the existence of illusions and hallucinations—follow up their references, making sure to think about the main pros and cons of sense-datum theories, adverbialism, intentionalism, and naive realism. You’ll find many of the key readings in Noë and Thompson, eds. (2002) and in Byrne and Logue, eds. (2009), and introductory discussion of the main positions in Fish (2010). Soteriou (2016)—focused on naive realism and other forms of disjunctivism but discussing sense-datum and intentional theories along the way—is a bit more advanced, but strongly recommended. See also Nudds (2009), a useful survey of recent critical work on naive realism. You also ought to think a bit about certain other debates in the philosophy of perception. For discussion of how perception gives us knowledge or justified belief about the world, see Lyons (2016) and the entries for SCEPTICISM and for AGRIPPA’S TRILEMMA. For discussion of issues concerning the so-called contents of perception, see Siegel (2005/16). For discussion of so-called causal theories of perception, see the papers by Grice, Lewis, and Snowdon in Noë and Thompson, eds. (2002) and Ch. 7 of Fish (2010).

Alex Byrne and Heather Logue, eds. (2009) Disjunctivism: Contemporary Readings (MIT Press).

*William Fish (2010) Philosophy of Perception: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge).

Jack Lyons (2016) ‘The Epistemological Problems of Perception’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/perception-episprob/

Matthew Nudds (2009) ‘Recent Work in Perception: Naive Realism and its Opponents’ in Analysis 69(2), 334-346.

Alva Noë and Evan Thompson, eds. (2002) Vision and Mind: Selected Readings in the Philosophy of Perception (MIT Press).

Susanna Siegel (2005/16) ‘The Contents of Perception’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/perception-contents/

Matthew Soteriou (2016) Disjunctivism (Routledge).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Do perceptual experiences always give prima facie justification to believe their contents? (2019)

‘One sees if and only if the scene before one’s eyes causes matching visual experience.’ Discuss. (2018)

Given that light travels at a finite speed, does this imply that we do not visually perceive how things are now but how they were? (2017)

‘In perception one is directly aware of mind-independent objects with size, shape and other perceptible qualities.’ Is there compelling reason to abandon this common sense view? (2016)

PERSONAL IDENTITY

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What does it take for a person x identified at one time to be numerically identical to a person y identified at some other time? Why might the answer to this question be thought to matter? Does it?

CORE READING

*Eric T. Olson (2002/15) 'Personal Identity' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/

Bernard Williams (1970) 'The Self and the Future' in Philosophical Review 79(2), pp. 161–180. Reprinted in his (1973) Problems of the Self (CUP), and in KK&S.

Sydney Shoemaker (1984) 'Personal Identity: A Materialist Account' in Sydney Shoemaker and Richard Swinburne Personal Identity (Blackwell). Reprinted in Peter van Inwagen and Dean Zimmerman, eds. (1998) Metaphysics: The Big Questions (Blackwell).

Derek Parfit (1984) Reasons and Persons (OUP), Ch. 12: 'Why Our Identity is Not What Matters'.

Eric Olson (2003) 'An Argument for Animalism' in Raymond Martin and John Barresi, eds. (2003) Personal Identity (Blackwell), and in KK&S.

Note that Raymond Martin and John Barresi, eds. (2003) Personal Identity (Blackwell), besides Olson’s paper, also contains the papers by Williams and Parfit, a helpful editors’ introduction, and various other important papers on this topic. I refer to it below as M&B.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

If you’re working on this topic in more depth, Locke’s discussion in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Bk II, Ch. 27) is essential reading, as are the famous replies from Thomas Reid and Joseph Butler. These are usefully collected, along with various other pieces, in Perry, ed. (2008). You’ll also want to think a bit about Williams. For some discussion, see the piece by Nozick in M&B, Noonan (1982), and John Perry’s piece ‘Williams on The Self and the Future’ in Perry, ed. (2008). Otherwise, you should focus on Parfit and animalism. M&B contains a number of pieces discussing Parfit: those by Lewis, Korsgaard, Unger, Sosa, Martin, Schechtman, and Johnston, as well as Parfit’s own ‘The Unimportance of Identity’. Lewis’s response is particularly important, and will seem less ad hoc if you’ve encountered his views on persistence more generally. For discussion of animalism, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Snowdon (1990) is an important statement and defence of the position. For other discussions, see Olson (2004), Shoemaker (2008), Madden (2011), and the collection, Blatti and Snowdon, eds. (2016)—the last containing a piece by Parfit arguing against animalism. For a recent book on personal identity, aimed at undergraduates, try Kind (2015).

Stephan Blatti and Paul Snowdon, eds. (2016) Animalism (OUP).

*Amy Kind (2015) Persons and Personal Identity (Polity Press).

Rory Madden (2011) 'Externalism and Brain Transplants' in Karen Bennett and Dean Zimmerman, eds. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 6 (OUP).

Harold Noonan (1982) 'Williams on “The Self and the Future”' in Analysis 42(3), pp. 158–163.

Eric Olson (2004) 'Animalism and the Corpse Problem' in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82(2), pp. 265–274.

John Perry, ed. (2008) Personal Identity, 2nd edition (University of California Press).

Sydney Shoemaker (2008) 'Persons, Animals, and Identity' in Synthese 162(3), pp. 313–324.

Paul Snowdon (1990) 'Persons, Animals, and Ourselves' in Christopher Gill, ed. The Person and the Human Mind: Issues in Ancient and Modern Philosophy (OUP). Reprinted in Tim Crane and Kati Farkas, eds. (2004) Metaphysics: A Guide and Anthology (OUP).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS
‘Since the claim that S1 is psychologically connected with S2 presupposes that S1 and S2 are identical, the psychological-continuity account of personal identity is circular.’ Discuss. (2019)

Are you an animal? What, if anything, does your answer imply about the metaphysics of personal identity through time? (2018)

Is it easier to survive fission than to survive fusion? (2017)

What is involved in person A at time t1 being identical with person B at another time, t2? Is this a metaphysical question, a moral question, or something else? (2016)