PHIL 383 - Knowledge and Reality
Winter 2021, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  Online (see other Sections below)
Subject: Philosophy (PHIL)
Department: LSA Philosophy
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Requirements & Distribution:
Enforced Prerequisites:
One Philosophy course (completed with a minimum grade of C- or better).
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


Maybe by now you’ve grown accustomed to or disappointed by philosophers’ approaching issues via their “intuitions” or via various “isms” assumed for argument’s sake. Here we’ll try to work out instead how things go if we start thinking about epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics from scratch. None of the familiar intuitions or competing isms allowed as assumptions. I hope that quest strikes you as a fun and refreshing challenge, poised to help find common ground even among extremely distant disputants.

I think we can get shockingly far from shockingly close to scratch. Maybe you’ll decide not to go where starting from scratch would lead. Even if so, imaginatively proceeding from scratch enables you better to locate the nature and operation of your countervailing presuppositions, and of their alternatives. It is very worth trying, once in your busy and short life. This may be your best chance to declutter and refurnish your mind.

Here are the main questions we’ll try to answer, from as close to scratch as possible. (Compare with this term’s Phil 450. It has ~25% overlap, but it may usefully be taken jointly.)

  • Why pursue true theories rather than useful ones, if those are different? Is anything known with complete certainty?
  • If you start out without a method for testing theories, how can you best reach an initial method? What method? Can it outcompete skepticism, e.g. about the external world or the distant past?
  • Why is there something rather than nothing? What even is it for something to be? What is it for something to have a function?
  • What is it for something to be ethically good, or bad? Which things (if any) are which?

    Class Format:

    The lecture will meet synchronously online.


PHIL 383 - Knowledge and Reality
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM
002 (DIS)
F 10:00AM - 11:00AM
003 (DIS)
F 11:00AM - 12:00PM

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