Fall 2009


Your Second Paper is due on Friday 12/18.

Course Description

This course will be a survey of central issues in contemporary epistemology.

We will start by considering skeptical arguments that we can't really know whether the world is the way it appears to us. Perhaps things only appear the way they do because we're wired up to computers which are force-feeding us the experiences we have. If so, then all we can really know about are our own private thoughts and experiences.

Considering these skeptical arguments will take us into questions like the following: Does knowledge always have to be based on secure foundations? If you know something, will you always know that you know it? Will you always be able to prove that you know it? Does "knowledge" mean the same in the philosophy classroom as it does in ordinary settings? What are the connections between knowledge and evidence? and so on.


The course meets on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 11-12:15, in Kimmel 808.

In addition, you will meet in 1 smaller discussion section each week. The section meetings will be:


Handouts, Readings, and Lecture Notes

Who Should Take This Course?

This course is not intended as an introduction to philosophy. It's intended as a survey of contemporary work in epistemology for students with some philosophical background.

I will assume that you have prior experience writing philosophical papers, reading philosophical texts critically, analyzing and criticizing philosophical arguments, and so on. If you've already taken some courses in the philosophy department, that should be adequate preparation. If you've just "read and thought a lot" about the issues this course covers, that tends not to be adequate preparation. It won't have given you practice and feedback on writing philosophical papers; and it won't have given you experience analyzing arguments in the way we'll be doing in this class.

If you are unsure whether you're prepared to take this course, come speak to me about it. You can also take a look at the handouts on Reading a Philosophy Paper, Writing a Philosophy Paper, and Philosophers' Vocabulary, to see how much of it seems strange to you, and how much familiar.

If you're looking for a more introductory-level philosophy course, the best options offered in this department are:

Contact Info

The course is taught by Prof. Jim Pryor. You can reach me as follows:
Email: jim.pryor@nyu.edu
Office: 5 Washington Place #403
Office hours: Wednesdays after class

Feel free to drop in for any reason any time during my office hours. (If I'm already speaking with someone, let me know that you're waiting.) I am happy to talk about paper ideas, continue class discussion, and so on. If these hours are inconvenient, we can arrange to meet by appointment. Or you can email me. I read my email several times each day and usually respond right away.

The teaching assistant for the course is Eli Alshanetsky. You can reach him as follows:
Email: ea779@nyu.edu
Office: 5 Washington Place #315
Office hours: Mondays after class