Knowledge and Skeptical Puzzles

Seeing is believing. But is seeing knowing? Our senses are subject to trickery, illusion, and error. Do we really know that we are not in the Matrix? Can we be certain that our memories were not implanted moments ago by a computer? Skeptics argue both that we cannot answer these questions affirmatively and that our inability to do so undermines all (or many) of our claims to know. In this course we will explore arguments for and arguments against skepticism. In the process we will better understand the nature of knowledge. Arguments for skepticism span the history of philosophy: as early as the debates between the Skeptics and Stoics, through Descartes' Meditations, to the debate between Hume and Reid, and through contemporary philosophy. Drawing texts from this tradition, students will extract and critique arguments, discuss them critically, and learn to craft arguments of their own.
This course will focus on developing critical thinking and academic writing skills through assigned readings, class discussion, several short papers, and one 8-10 page research paper. This process will be supported by peer feedback, self-assessment, and revision.