Required Reading: Warburton. (2013): Chapter 6.
Warburton. (2014): Chapter 25 (Read only: “The verification principle”, “Strongand weak senses of `verifiability’”, and “The problem of induction”.), and Chapter 31.
Read “Situated Knowers” and “Feminist Standpoint Theory” from HYPERLINK “http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-epistemology/”http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-epistemology/
Theology and Falsification HYPERLINK “http://homepage.usask.ca/~ebd038/THEOLOGY%20AND%20FALSIFICATION.pdf”http://homepage.usask.ca/~ebd038/THEOLOGY%20AND%20FALSIFICATION.pdf
The Will to Believe
Suggested Learning Activities:
Small Group Discussion on the following: Shortly after 9/11 there was an interview with an FBI agent who said that had he been armed and on one of the planes he would not immediately have taken action. This sounds somewhat odd, but there was reasoned thought behind his statement. In the past hijackers had always wanted something—someone released from prison, or some amount of money, or sometimes just a statement to be released to the press; based on thirty years of experience with hijackers a doctrine had been very carefully developed and tested. First, get the plane on the ground by any means necessary. Second, once the plane was on the ground, continue negotiations and prepare an armed response (specially trained units were in place around the world); as a last resort, storm the plane and attempt to kill the hijackers and free the hostages. Honed over many years and taught to all aircrew, air traffic controllers, and others, these tactics had proven effective. But, on 9/11 all of this past knowledge—all of this inductive reasoning—was useless. What does this example tell us about the strengths and weaknesses of inductive reasoning?
Class Discussion — In a famous and much discussed essay Anthony Flew applied the method of hypothesis falsification to the discussion of the existence of God. Could we, he asked, treat the hypothesis “God exists” as a meaningful one? His answer is “no” because those who believe in the existence of God would accept no evidence that would falsify such a belief; hence the hypothesis “God exists” is not a valid hypothesis. What critical response could be made to Flew’s argument?
William James argues that if we are faced with an important decision and if that decision involves two options and if science gives us evidence in favor of and in opposition to both options, then we should make a choice based on passion (emotion). For William James, choosing to believe or not to believe in the existence of God is just such a decision; for his part, he chooses belief, not based on reason, but based on passion. When should passion overrule reason and viceversa?
Context: The feminist concepts of situated knowers and standpoints are very familiar to us, even if we don’t recognize those labels. That different people evaluate the same situation and information differently is something we see in the news every day. For example, a homeless man has just been shot in L.A. and the police version of what took place is very different from the version presented by other homeless people (and there are still other perspectives, too). And, that there are different standpoints from which to view an event and that we privilege some of these over others is also familiar to us: we tend, for example, to give more weight to the reports by slaves of the conditions under which they lived than to those who owned slaves.
Writing Assignment: Write a 3-4 page paper in which you examine a contemporary event using the concept of the situated knower or the concept of standpoint; make sure to clearly explain the theories as you apply them to your example. Include in your analysis the advantages and limitations of the concept as evidenced through your study and application. (20 points)