Epistemology

Opening Bookend 1a: Epistemology

General guidelines: 

Bookends are two-part journal reflections required for each unit.  The purpose of this assignment is to interrogate your own assumptions about “big questions” and evaluate if or how your beliefs have changed over the course of the unit.  These are low-stakes assignments, and I encourage you to be honest and self-reflective. This assignment will help prepare you for your final paper, as well as improve your ability to interrogate your own beliefs.  At the beginning the unit, you will complete this opening bookend (1a), where you will post your thoughts on a few “big questions.” At the end of the unit, you will reflect on those same questions.

Epistemology bookend questions:

Please reflect on and respond to at least two of the following questions in some detail.  Don’t try to answer all of them. No previous knowledge about these topics is required, and there are no wrong answers.

  • Can we know anything for certain?
  • What is something you think you know for sure (or something you are most confident that you know for sure)?
  • How do we gain knowledge?
  • What is the difference between knowledge and belief?
  • Do all people equal ability to gain knowledge?  In other words, are some people better positioned to gain knowledge than others?

Length: 200 words. Attach in a word doc.

Grading: Pass/Fail

Note:

The only way to fail this assignment is to not meet the word requirement, or not address any of these questions.  Don’t worry about a grade here—instead, focus on articulating what you already believe, even if you haven’t thought about it much before.

 

 

 

Closing Bookend 1b: Epistemology

General guidelines:

Bookends are two-part journal reflections required for each unit.  The purpose of this assignment is to interrogate your own assumptions about “big questions” and evaluate if or how your beliefs have changed over the course of the unit.  These are low-stakes assignments, and I encourage you to be honest and self-reflective. This assignment will help prepare you for your final paper, as well as improve your ability to interrogate your own beliefs.  At the beginning of the unit, you posted your thoughts on a few “big questions.” Now that we’ve explored the subject, you will reflect on those same questions.

Epistemology bookend questions:

Go back and read your Opening Bookend 1a.  Now reflect on and respond to the same questions you previously answered.  Answer the following questions:

  • Did your beliefs change?  If so, how?
  • What arguments changed or solidified your beliefs?
  • Are you more or less confident in your answers to these questions?
  • After answering these questions, feel free to include other thoughts or general reflections on the unit.

Length: 300 word minimum

Grading: Pass/Fail.  Attach in a word document.

Note:

It is more than okay if you don’t have answers to the original questions.  Focus on identifying the process of your beliefs as they either changed or stayed the same.  This is a meta-epistemological exercise: what is your knowledge about knowledge?

 

 

 

 

Unit 1 Assignment: Epistemology in Media

We have spent 4 weeks discussing topics in epistemology, including skepticism, rationalism and empiricism, the “Justified True Belief” analysis of knowledge, and the social dimensions of knowledge. One way of thinking about philosophical issues outside of the classroom is to connect them to other forms of “content” you consume in media. For this unit assignment, you will identify one of these epistemic issues in media and analyze what is being said about knowledge.

Instructions:

  • Reflect on media you have engaged with that speaks to any of the epistemic topics mentioned above.  “Media” can include (but is not limited to): movies, tv shows, music, visual art, performance art, poetry, literature, video games, and potentially memes (if there enough to them).
  • Identify a piece of media that involves one of the above epistemic topics.  The topics can be explicitly mentioned, implicitly referenced, or merely suggested.
  • Write a 500 word mini essay in which you do the following:
    • Briefly explain the piece of media.
    • Link to the piece of media, if at all possible.  This will be easier for music, poetry, some visual art, and literature. If you are referencing a movie, tv show, or something that can’t be linked to, describe how other could find it if they are interested (e.g. “you can watch The Good Place on Hulu).
    • Explain how the media piece is about, mentions, or speaks to the relevant epistemic topic.  Make sure to briefly include an explanation of the epistemic topic.  For example, do not simply state that a movie is about skepticism without explaining what the problem of skepticism is.
    • Analyze what this piece of media is saying about the epistemic topic.  Is it critical of a certain view? Is it endorsing a position? Is it asking us to think about knowledge in a certain way?

 

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