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180229 SE Seeing and Knowing (2019W)

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 18 - Philosophie
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 30 participants
Language: German


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Wednesday 09.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 16.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 23.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 30.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 06.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 13.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 20.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 27.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 04.12. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 11.12. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 08.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 15.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 22.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 29.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock


Aims, contents and method of the course

This seminar will explore what it means to know something. Does "knowing" mean having a belief that is not just true, but also justified? Or is knowledge subject to different standards depending on the situation ? How does knowledge differ from beliefs, opinions or convictions? What does it mean to be certain? How is such certainty compatible with fallibility? What role do our senses and what role does our mind play? How does "knowing that X" relate to " knowing of or about X" and "knowing X"? Is knowledge even possible or can we always be mistaken or deceived?

As we look for answers to these questions, we will take guidance from a new book that is currently changing the game in the debate: Michael Ayers's 'Knowing and Seeing' (OUP 2019). We shall start by looking at a notorious paper by Gettier and some immediate reactions to it, which attempted to define knowledge as justified, true belief, with various patches. These attempts to analyze or reduce the concept of knowledge to " belief " plus some additions were rejected by opponents of the venture for a variety of reasons. Ayers and Antognazza begin with a historical introduction to the concept of knowledge. We will follow them in looking to some of the historical foundations in Plato and Aristotle as well as Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Leibniz and Hume. These will also help us to understand today's debates.

In the next step we will deal with the so-called "KK principle", the principle that we know that we know something. This principle, which plays an important role among the opponents of "Gettierology", is advocated by many internalists, but rejected by many externalists. By way of example, we will pick out the views of Goldman, Nozick and Williamson. Then we will look at Ayers's empiricist answer from perception and his distinction between primary and secondary knowledge.

There are other approaches that also explain knowledge with reference to perception. The debate between McDowell and Travis is especially prominent here, and we will also look at Ginsborg's and Miguens's contributions to it. Ayers discusses both McDowell's original and his modified view and presents an alternative.

Ayers's theory of knowledge also has direct impact on his position on language. We will compare his object-centered view with the mainstream representation of that-clauses as embedded propositions.

The last part of the seminar will be dedicated to skepticism, its different forms and reactions to it (fallibilism, contextualism and reliabilism). Ayers's distinction between primary and secondary knowledge and between being certain and being infallible offers another possibility for dealing with sceptical arguments.

Texts from the literature will be prepared for each unit. They will be allocated to the participants who will then briefly summarize these texts in writing or in oral presentations in the seminar. As a seminar paper, the participants will write a review of Ayers’s book.

Assessment and permitted materials

Short written or oral contributions, seminar paper, participation in class.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

StEOP; M-02 attendance required;
Short written or oral contributions: 30%, seminar paper 60%, participation in class 10%.

Examination topics

Reading list

Ayers, Michael, Knowing and Seeing, OUP 2019
Further reading will be announced in the seminar.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:21