Philosophy 220: Theory of Knowledge
Mahar Hall 201, MWF 9:10 am - 10:05 pm
Professor: Craig DeLancey
Office: Piez Hall 225
Office Hours: MWF 10:15 -- 11:15 a.m. in my office; W 3:00 - 4:00 in Lake Effect; and by appt.
This class is an introduction to epistemology. This fundamental
branch of philosophy is concerned with three key questions:
The course will give students an opportunity to become familiar with
some of the problems of epistemology and also with some influential
and important works. We will approach these topics by reading a
number of works by philosophers from Descartes to the present day.
- What is knowledge?
- How do we get knowledge?
- What justifies our knowledge?
A significant portion of our readings will be on e-reserves, but most readings will
come from the 4 texts:
The advantage to have some of our readings on e-reserves is that we
can change the class as we go. We can drop from or add to the
readings on e-reserves without cost, and will surely do so as we
discover what we find easy, what difficult, what interesting, and what
Hume, Enquiry into the Nature of Human Understanding
Quine and Ullian, The Web of Belief
Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition
Assignments and exams
You will have two exams, and periodic (nearly weekly) reading quizes.
The exams will be a midterm and a final. I post most of the questions
before the exam online. The quizes are to provide you with the
chance to grapple with the readings in a critical way. For each
reading I will post reading questions to consider while you read. The
questions on the quizes will be very similar to some of these posted
The raw grade will be determined in the following way:
Midterm exam: 25%
See my grading policy for a brief note
on how I turn the raw grade into a final grade.
Class quizes: 30%
Final exam: 45%
If you miss an exam and have an excused absence for the day you miss
the exam, you may make it up, by special appointment with me, when you
are able to come back to class. It is your responsibility to arrange
any make-up exams as soon as you know you are going to miss the
exam. Otherwise you may lose the opportunity to take the test, since I
cannot give make-up exams after the class has gone over the
Here is how you secure an excused absence: Only prior notification
with credibly documented or easily verifiable reasons (e.g., medical
visits to Mary Walker, documented participation in official sporting
events, etc.) will result in excused absences. You must notify in
writing, call, or email me prior to your absence from class. You must
notify the Philosophy Dept. secretary, Jane Santore, before you are
going to be absent, via email at email@example.com, or by phone at
x2249. However, you must make sure she knows your name, the number of
the course, the date, and your easily verifiable reason, along with a
request to forward the information to me. It is better to give your
information to me, except when you are unable to communicate with my
phone or email for some reason.
Please hold onto all of your assignments and exams. Sometime before
the end of the semester I recommend that you ask me to review the
grades that I have recorded to make sure that I have not made any
If you have a disabling condition which may interfere with your
ability to successfully complete this course, please contact the
Disability Services Office.
College Policy on Intellectual Integrity
Intellectual integrity on the part of all students is basic to
individual growth and development through college course work. When
academic dishonesty occurs, the teaching/learning climate is seriously
undermined and student growth and development are impeded. For these
reasons, any form of intellectual dishonesty is a serious concern and
is therefore prohibited.
The full intellectual integrity policy can be found at
In addition to my formal office hours, I will be in the Lake Effect
Cafe from 3:00 - 4:00ish most Wednesdays just to talk informally about
knowledge or anything else philosophy related.
In addition to the listed office hours, I encourage you to make
appointments. I am available quite a bit. Please try to come to
office hours with specific questions in mind. You can of course come
with a general request for help, but it is always helpful if you spend
a little time thinking about how I can best help you out.
By the end of this class, you should know:
- what some of the basic problems of epistemology are
(including for example the search for certainty and the
related radical doubt, the problem of induction, the problem
of the existence of objects for radical empiricists);
- what rationalism and empiricism are, and how
- what idealism and ontological realism are, and how they
- what foundationalism is;
- some of the classic arguments for the existence of
God, and their difficulties;
- what a priori , a posteriori, synthetic,
and analytic knowledge are (for some philosophers), and how to
clearly distinguish some cases of each;
- a proper definition of "skepticism", and also a proper
description of what it means to hold skepticism;
- what epistemic realism and anti-realism are, and how
- a proper definition of "relativism";
- the difference between global and domain-specific
skepticism, realism, relativism, and anti-realism;
- what the deductive nomological method is, and what a
sophisticated revised scientific epistemology is (according
- what (according to Lyotard) postmodernism is.
I will frequently update an online schedule of readings and
assignments. It is your responsibility to check the www pages for
the class at least every other day!