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PHIL 373.00 Reptiles and Demons 6 credits

Open: Size: 15, Registered: 0, Waitlist: 0

Leighton 236

Synonym: 63951

Jason A Decker

Skeptical arguments—like Descartes' malignant demon argument—threaten to completely undermine our claim to have any knowledge of this world. Philosophers (and non-philosophers) have often met our apparent inability to answer these skeptical arguments with a shrug. The skeptical scenarios exert no gravitational pull on most minds and can be safely filed under "philosophical curiosities." Meanwhile, global conspiracy theories—like David Icke's theory that the world's governments are overrun with shapeshifting reptilians from the constellation Draco—also threaten to undermine our knowledge of the world.  Trying to answer them runs us into the very same cognitive and epistemic roadblocks that we run into with philosophical skepticism. We can't, however, meet these theories with a shrug. Conspiracy theories—even the wilder ones—do attract adherents and do have real-world (and sometimes devastating) consequences. Intensifying our predicament is the undeniable fact that we live in a world that is rife with conspiracies—some of them rather wild. In this seminar we will examine the cognitive architecture and evidential conditions that contribute to our predicament and then ask whether cognitive science or formal epistemology can offer any useful tools or strategies for confronting philosophical skepticism and conspiracy theories.

Prerequisite: A prior 200-level course in philosophy

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You must take 6 credits of each of these.
You must take 6 credits of each of these,
except Quantitative Reasoning, which requires 3 courses.
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