DOMUNI UNIVERSITAS

Issues In Epistemology and Philosophy of Science

Issues In Epistemology and Philosophy of Science

The history of the debate about the possibility, nature and validity of knowledge is one of the very oldest, and one about which virtually every great philosopher has had something to say. "Is knowledge possible?" is a very broad question.

Course code: PHEN18

ECTS Credits: 6

Professor: Dr. Joseph Thomas Ekong

COURSE DESCRIPTION:

The history of the debate about the possibility, nature and validity of knowledge is one of the very oldest, and one about which virtually every great philosopher has had something to say. "Is knowledge possible?" is a very broad question. Many books have been written for and against scepticism, and the reputations of at least three of the greatest philosophers — Socrates, Descartes, and Hume — rest largely on their formulations of, and attempts to overcome, skepticism: the view that knowledge is impossible. Particular attention will be given to the analysis of knowledge by exploring some basic concepts and schools of thought in epistemology. One’s epistemic claims could arise from a variety of conceptual frameworks. But, irrespective of the framework of discourse, the central issue here is whether or not knowledge can be acquired with certainty.

In other words, are there sure foundations for knowledge, or is knowledge simply a collection of conjectures, which may be discarded if falsified? What is it that the skeptic and the non-skeptic are arguing about? Knowledge, of course. But what is knowledge? Justified true belief? So was it supposed by many, until Gettier's article argued to the contrary. Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? As the study of justified belief, epistemology aims to answer questions such as: How we are to understand the concept of justification? What makes justified beliefs justified? Is justification internal or external to one's own mind? Understood more broadly, epistemology is about issues having to do with the creation and dissemination of knowledge in particular areas of inquiry.

The philosophy of science refers to a logical and/or epistemological analysis of propositions within science, to unravel their meanings; it is an analysis of the basic concepts of science, such as time, causation, continuity, and probability. Sometimes it overlaps with metaphysics and epistemology, by exploring whether scientific results are actually a study of the Truth. The Philosophy of Science is concerned with how science operates, what the goals of science should be, what relationship the scientific community should have with the rest of society; the differences between science and non-science etc. Major disagreements about the nature of science, have arisen from premature commitments by the philosopher (that is unfamiliar with science), or by the scientist (that operates within the ambience of a homespun philosophy). Human knowledge is fundamentally inductive; it begins in experience. This principle of pedagogy must be applied in our effort to define both science and philosophy, and thus construct a philosophy of science. Science is defined by the method the scientists use to make discoveries, and produce knowledge. Scientific theories allow scientists to organize and understand earlier observations, then predict and create future observations. Scientific theories must be consistent, parsimonious, falsifiable, correctable, empirically testable/verifiable, useful, and progressive.

COURSE REQUIRMENTS:

Apart from quizzes and examination for the course, students are required to write a thought-paper, on the thought-question asked. This is for the students’ self-study, and may not be submitted for grading. The thought-paper should not simply be a summary of the assigned texts, but an opportunity for the students to explore their thoughts, ideas and insights regarding the moral issue under consideration. Students should conclude their thought-papers with questions or recommendations for future research. Please, note that the thought-papers are essentially for self-study of the students, and will not be submitted for grading. But, in addition to the thought papers, students shall submit a final research paper. The final research paper should be approximately 12-15 pages, double-spaced, about 4,500-6,000 words in length, in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the course. This requirement is for the Master’s level students. But, for the bachelor’s level students, a 5-6 page construction paper suffices. The paper should be consistent with an academic manual of reference (Chicago; MLA; Humanities style), using footnotes or endnotes and bibliography. Topics and approaches may vary according to one’s personal interests and research goals. Essay topics could be based on any of the questions presented made in the thought-papers, or on any other moral theme consistent with the contents and objectives of the course.  As the major single assignment in the course, the final research paper allows students to appropriate the course to their interests, even while applying what they are learning through regular readings and discussions. Hence, unified paragraphs, judicious use of headings and sub-headings, as well as clear thesis statements, are encouraged. Also, a conclusion that reiterates one’s established thesis, can facilitate the clarity of one’s stance on the subject of discussion, and serve as a common-sense way of ensuring that the paper actually achieves what the thesis statement promised to achieve. This will be submitted for grading, at the end of the course.

Academic integrity:

The requirements of academic integrity preclude the un-acknowledged use of other people’s words and ideas in one’s own writing. Such use is known as “plagiarism” and should be avoided. Academic integrity does not preclude discussions on readings, brainstorming, or mutual assistance in formulating approaches to assignments. However, collaboration must end, when each student begins writing. One’s written work, must be really one’s own.

COURSE OBJECTIVES:

  1. To provide a systematic overview of the problems that the questions above raise and focus in some depth on issues relating to the foundations, structure, conditions and limits of knowledge and justification.
  2. To offer the students a platform for evaluating their knowledge claims, and typologies of knowledge, as distinguished from matters of probable opinion.
  3. To show how ‘’propositional attitudes” (i.e the beliefs, subjective convictions, opinions and assumptions we entertain) can have significant implications for our various epistemic commitments.
  4. To make clear the relationship and differences amongst the key concepts and theories of truth and justification.
  5. To make it clear that the Philosophy of Science focuses on the assumptions, foundations, methods and implications of science. It is the systematic application of the principles of philosophical discourse to issues in science and technology. It is also concerned with empirical observations, dialectics, as well as hypotheses, theories and laws, arising from the search for definitions and explanations of a multiplicity of heterogeneous phenomena.

Course plan:

CHAPTER ONE: THE SCEPTICAL CHALLENGE
CHAPTER TWO:  THE NOTION OF CERTAINTY IN EPISTEMIC JUSTIFICATION
CHAPTER THREE. THE FUNDAMENTALS OF RENE DESCARTES’ EPISTEMOLOGY
CHAPTER FOUR: THE FUNDAMENTALS OF KARL POPPER’S EPISTEMOLOGY
CHAPTER FIVE  KANT’S THEORY OF THE SYNTHETIC A PRIORI JUGMENTS: TOWARDS A RECONCILIATION OF CARTESIAN FOUNDATIONALISM AND POPPERIAN FALLIBILISM
CHAPTER SIX : FALLIBILIST FOUNDATIONALISM AND SCIENCE EDUCATION IN NIGERIA