Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Epistemology Group Inquiries

Epistemology Inquiries

Areas of Inquiry

In the comments below, I’d like to hear from your group, or even multiple members of your group, about how you are approaching these initial questions in your epistemological inquiry:

  • What is your group’s main question?
  • What questions follow from your initial question?
  • How will you go about answering these questions?
    • Where will you look?
    • Who will you talk to?
    • What resources will you consult?
  • How will you know you have answered them?

Naturally, there will be overlapping areas of inquiry that these comments should seek out in trying to find common ground before we head into our activities and discussions next week. If you have helpful resources or referrals to add to anything your classmates are exploring, please feel free to post these links and leads below as well.

Next week, these various threads will come together to form our learning activities in the epistemology unit, culminating in a personal theory of knowledge mid-term assignment. This cumulative assignment doesn’t need to address the topic your group is investigating; however, this would likely be helpful.



Erasing the Boundaries

Vincent`s upbringing on the viewing of rationalism and empiricism and talks of genetic code, which intrigue me, have led me to look into erasing the boundaries. So I begin by putting forth the question of empiricism again: What evidence is there that cognitive processing is not wholly dependent on information from senses? If it is not from the sense, where is it from?
Through the proposal of evolutionary psychology, there is no sharp line that can be drawn between information that originates in the environment—including that acquired from the senses—and information that is conveyed through genes.

In the genetic model, the environment is paradoxically all-important. The information in the genes cannot express itself in bodily structures unless they are in a complexly specified suitable environment–so much so that 99% of the information for building an organism may be thought of as located in the environment and only 1% in the genes themselves (the proportion is not strictly quantifiable). The environment acts as a trigger for selective gene transcription, which in turn has an effect upon the immediate environment. As the information in the gene expresses itself in response to the structure of the environment, and the environment in turn responds to the action of the genes, the organism slowly begins to materialize. It is as if matter itself contains most of the information for life.

In terms of cognitive development, this means that genetic and environmental information act concurrently to construct cognitive structures. Some of the environmental information that activates certain genes may come through the senses; for instance, cats are unable to perceive vertical lines if they are not exposed to them before a certain age, and children who have not heard a language before the age of ten will no longer retain the capacity to acquire one. More complex scenarios with intermediate control structures are also possible, as an alternative to a continued role for the genes.

While the rationalist argument agrees with the genetic model in that both affirm that cognition is dependent on structures that do not derive from experience, the genetic model has historicized rationalism, playing the part of empiricism in undermining its claims to transcendental universals. Thus, the distinction between empiricism and rationalism has become largely meaningless, like two aspects of the same coin that have fused into a sphere.

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Heather test post

courtesy of memeblender



Thoughts on beginning Epistemology

Old and Bold

Image and Edit courtesy of Flickr user @talonsblog

No small part of the #Philosophy12 course design has been based in the framework of social constructivism:

according to which all “knowledge is a compilation of human-made constructions”,[16] “not the neutral discovery of an objective truth”.[17] Whereas objectivism is concerned with the “object of our knowledge”, constructivism emphasises “how we construct knowledge”.[18] Constructivism proposes new definitions for knowledge and truth that form a new paradigm, based on inter-subjectivity instead of the classical objectivity, and on viability instead of truth. Piagetian constructivism, however, believes in objectivity—constructs can be validated through experimentation.

Many of the different ideas contained in the above definition (from Wikipedia) arose during last week’s Metaphysics Pecha Kucha presentations, and I have been thinking about how to extend our class’ pursuit of individual and collected knowledge with the beginning of our Epistemology unit, some of which I hope to introduce here, even if these ideas aren’t quite yet fully formed.

I have been reflecting on the purpose of the philosophical lecture, as well; the series of Pecha Kucha presentations delivered last week, each outlining and contextualizing a proposition of a notable metaphysician, were a literally awesome exploration and synthesis of a broad scope of human thinking about the nature of reality.  In my own preparations for the Epistemology unit, I’ve continued to indulge in materials from iTunesU, and Oxford University‘s Philosophy for Beginners, as well as Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (nicely accompanied by Project Gutenburg‘s access to the free volume of the text), and have been immensely grateful to these wildly knowledgable and articulate professors (and their institutions) for being willing to share their wisdom of the different contexts surrounding the development of human knowledge with us and others free of charge. (While some others may disagree, I think that this free and open sharing of ideas is necessary for our continued learning and progress as a society and civilization, and has been since time immemorial.)

Without these keepers of such knowledge, and contexts, being ‘brought up to speed‘ on the progress of philosophical thought would no doubt be a much more painful and arduous process, and I hope for-credit and open online participants familiarize themselves with some of the outstanding materials available to them online and locally (please feel free to use the comments of this post, the #philosophy12 hashtag, or a new posting on the blog to share something you come across that we could benefit from).

True to our constructivist’s roots, the class will be engaging with the idea of human knowledge by developing a statement and articulation of each learner’s own emerging individual philosophy, and then working collaboratively to synthesize and present a class lecture (one lecture undertaken by the class as a whole) outlining our collective reasoning, that will be recorded and streamed live online, and shared in the pantheon of voices between our own humble classroom and the halls of Oxford, the University of Glasgow, or even the new year’s Coursera offering.

The face-to-face class will be meeting Monday, November 5th, to discuss the criteria and layout of the unit of study, and streaming the conversation on #ds106radio so that open online participants can listen and take part in the conversation.

More Free Online Courses:

  • General Philosophy
    A series of lectures delivered by Peter Millican to first-year philosophy students at the University of Oxford. The lectures comprise the 8-week General Philosophy course and were delivered in late 2009.

  • Nietzsche on Mind and Nature
    Keynote speeches and special session given at the international conference ‘Nietzsche on Mind and Nature’, held at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, 11-13 September 2009, organized by the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford.

  • Kant’s Epistemology (audio only)
    Dr. Susan Stuart taught this course at the University of Glasgow in 2008, covering Kant’s three critiques published between 1781 and 1790.

  • Coursera’s Introduction to Philosophy
    This course will introduce you to some of the most important areas of research in contemporary philosophy. Each week a different philosopher will talk you through some of the most important questions and issues in their area of expertise.

I can also heartily recommend the Open Culture blog‘s collection of 55 Free Philosophy Courses




Introduction to Logic Blogging Assignments

Click the image above to access a Prezi Introduction to Logic corresponding to our reading this week.

Blogging Assignment for Logic Chapters

For credit participants: Submit three different responses to the posts outlined below on the class blog.

Open-online participants: Evaluate examples provided for Truth, Soundness, Validity and Reliability, comment, post examples of your own. Or lurk. That’s cool, too.

Create an original syllogism and identify its middle term, predicate term, and subject term. Examine your syllogism for Truth, Validity and Soundness.

Example of Logic
Present and deconstruct a logical argument in philosophy, literature, journalism, comedy, musical or other example, describing the effect created by the author’s use of logic (including Validity, Truth and Soundness).

Inductive / Abductive Reasoning
Summarize and analyze a piece of journalism, scholarship, political rhetoric or criticism which employs inductive or abductive reasoning. Evaluate the reliability of the evidence involved.

Logical Fallacies
Provide and summarize an example of an argument guilty of committing a logical fallacy: characterize the type of fallacy at work and (if possible) refute the argument with a contrary logical proposition.

Be sure to categorize these posts as Logic and Scientific Philosophy, and tag them corresponding to which of the above prompts they are responding to. For credit participants are expected to have their posts on the blog by this Friday, October 5th