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Philosophy: The Problem of Knowledge


Fall 2022

September 12 – December 16, 2022

Clayton Raithel

Friends Seminary





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Every time you take a test, write an essay, complete a homework assignment, or attend a class, you are concerned in some way with knowledge: getting more of it, proving you have it, challenging it, thinking differently about it. But where exactly does knowledge come from, how can we be sure we have it, and who decides what counts as knowledge? Is knowledge in mathematics the same as knowledge in politics? Is knowledge a social construct? Philosophers have been debating these questions for centuries. The aim of this course is to explore some of the key problems encountered by such philosophers, through a close reading of primary and secondary literature related to epistemology, the study of knowledge. We will read excerpts from key figures in the modern history of this study, including Descartes, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Dewey, Wittgenstein, Kuhn, DuBois, Fanon, and Foucault, along with more contemporary figures, like Richard Rorty, Judith Butler, Audre Lorde, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Along the way, we will ask how our quest for knowledge has changed, how that quest relates to our quest for truth, and what it means to make a knowledge claim. And we may even gain some knowledge ourselves!


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