Applied Epistemology

7.5 credits

Syllabus, Bachelor's level, 5FT183

Code
5FT183
Education cycle
First cycle
Main field(s) of study and in-depth level
Theoretical Philosophy G2F
Grading system
Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
Finalised by
The Department Board, 27 February 2023
Responsible department
Department of Philosophy

Entry requirements

57.5 credits in philosophy

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students should:

  • be able to apply the central epistemological concepts such as evidence, (internalist, externalist) justification, testimony, and (epistemic and Bayesian) rationality to psychological and social aspects of belief-formation
  • have a good grasp of the key psychological and social phenomena discussed in contemporary applied epistemology, such as bias, belief polarization, echo chambers, epistemic injustice, etc.
  • be able to describe and evaluate the main positions in contemporary applied epistemology (and epistemologically informed psychology) in relation to the above phenomena.

Content

In this course, we will discuss one of the principal ways in which the conceptual tools from contemporary epistemology can be applied to real-world situations. We will, namely, be discussing beliefs that have a significant impact on our social and political lives. These beliefs are formed by selectively gathering and evaluating evidence, influenced by our pre-existing beliefs and cultural identities. The stock examples of such sets of beliefs are climate skepticism and vaccine hesitancy. It is plausible, however, that each of us holds many beliefs formed in a biased and/or prejudiced manner that can result in attitude polarization, our gathering in echo chambers, and epistemic injustice. We will ask how these beliefs should be evaluated from an epistemological point of view. For example, is it the case that the biased or prejudiced believers fail to meet their epistemic obligations (e.g. to respect their evidence)? Is it that they have succumbed to epistemic vice? Are the polarized beliefs or the beliefs of the inhabitants of echo chambers irrational or unjustified? And if not, should we be looking for what's wrong with such beliefs on a societal and structural level (laying no blame on individuals)? The course will offer an overview of the present vigorous debates on the above questions. We will finish by discussing the options for improving the (supposedly) problematic beliefs and believers (both at the individual and social levels).

Instruction

Instruction will be provided by means of seminars and lectures.

Assessment

Class participation and a 3000-word essay at the end of the course on a topic approved by the teacher.

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the University's disability coordinator.

Other directives

The course may run jointly with the second cycle course 5FT182.

The course may also run jointly with a PhD course. The assessment of PhD students is based upon class participation and a 4500-word essay at the end of the course on a topic approved by the teacher.

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