Philosophy 306: “Knowledge and Reality.” Skeptical hypotheses such as the idea that you might now be dreaming generate interesting questions about the limits of our knowledge. But we don’t need to entertain such radical notions to raise deep and (some would say) more perplexing concerns about what we can know. This course explores some of these issues by considering the nature and limits of scientific knowledge. We set the stage by surveying different accounts of knowledge and then turn to problems that arise in science but often extend beyond it. Here are the kinds of questions that are our focus: What is an observation, and should we care that observations are “theory-laden”? What are explanations, hypothesis, theories, and laws, and how are they related? How should we understand change in science, especially given that history contains many abandoned scientific theories? The course also considers several “hot button” issues, such as the place of science in a democracy, whether science is a religion, and biological determinism.
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