How do we know what we know? How do we know that what we know is knowledge? Far from being topics of abstract philosophical debate, these questions shape fundamental aspects of our existence. Epistemology, the study of knowledge, gives us a view into why we choose and judge as we do. It reveals to us the limits of our thinking and allows us to defend our ideas to our most formidable opponents … and to ourselves.
The role epistemology plays in how we view the world comes to the fore whenever we read a book, watch a movie, or look at a painting. With these actions, we enter into a tentative, unspoken agreement with the artist and the work. Sometimes, we are oblivious to the conditions being set; and in other cases, we recognize how the work and artist are trying to trick us into believing.
This seminar will be an opportunity to untangle the relationships between knowledge, opinion, fact, truth, illusion, and reality. After becoming familiar with classic short works by Plato, Hume, and Kant, we will turn our attention to 20th-century works that challenge many of the assumptions—such as the presence of an objective reality—that are central to Western thought about the nature of knowledge.
Learn more in John’s blog post Fear and Knowing in San Francisco.
“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance,
it is the illusion of knowledge.”
– Stephen Hawking