Last taught: Winter 2010-2011, Portland State University
Knowledge, Rationality, and Understanding
This course is an introduction to the Knowledge, Rationality and Understanding cluster. It deals briefly with the nature of these, techniques for achieving them, and criticisms of these techniques. Its main aim is to promote the kind of critical inquiry that has been so successful in advancing modern science. To do this, students will learn to recognize when and how human reasoning fails, and what steps to take to avoid these failures. We will also go into considerable depth establishing logical and mathematical skills that will allow students to more precisely bracket the likelihood of their beliefs and the quality of their reasoning. (There are no prerequisites for this course. All necessary logic and math will be included.)
- Gilovich T (1993) How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life. Free Press. ISBN 978-0029117064.
- Hacking T (2001) An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521775014.
- Samuels R, Stich S, & Faucher L (1999) Reason and rationality. In Sintonen M (1999) Handbook of Epistemology.
- Murphy C (1992) "To be" in their bonnets: a matter of semantics. The Atlantic Monthly. February issue.
- Stockdale S. An uncritical inference test. The Institute of General Semantics.
|1||Introductions. What do you know but cannot prove?||Stockdale: An uncritical inference test||n/a|
|1.5||Finding patterns in randomness; simulated vs. real coin flips||Gilovich ch. 1-2||Pick a passage|
|2||Confirmation bias; self-fulfilling prophesis; double-blind experimentation||Gilovich ch. 3-4||Response paper: When have you been guilty of one of Gilovich’s foibles?|
|2.5||Seeing what we want to see; good stories; false consensus; when to believe other people||Gilovich ch. 5-7||Pick a passage|
|3.5||Case studies: alternative medicine, ESP, and other questionable beliefs||Gilovich ch. 8 & 10||Response paper: Should we care if people believe in alt-med or ESP?|
|4||Where do we go from here? Gilovich wrap-up.||Gilovich ch. 11||Pick a passage|
|4.5||Intro to logic & inductive logic; examples of true but invalid, valid but false, etc.||Hacking ch. 1-2||Hacking ch. 1 exercises 1-7|
|5||Gambler’s fallacy; probability; prep for midterm||Hacking ch. 3…||Summary paper: Gambler’s fallacy|
|5.5||Bayes||Hacking ch. …7||Pick a passage|
|6||Midterm; presentation topic selection||n/a||n/a|
|6.5||Expected value; decision theory; decision under uncertainty||Hacking ch. 8-10||Response paper: Is it possible to do something you don’t want to do?|
|7||What is probability? Monty Hall problem||Hacking ch. 11-12||Pick a passage|
|7.5||Personal probabilities; coherence; learning from experience; Bayesian example: breast cancer screening||Hacking ch. 13-15||From Hacking ch. 15, complete exercise 3 or 4. Also complete exercise 5 or 6.|
|8||Statistical stability and normal distributions; presentation practice||Hacking ch. 16-17||Pick a passage|
|8.5||Statistical significance; confidence intervals; presentation practice||Hacking ch. 18-19||n/a|
|10||Normative vs. evaluative programs; the massive modularity hypothesis; writing with rigor||Samuels et al. (1999)||Response paper: Respond to one student presentation|
|10.5||Language and reality; term wrap-up||Murphy (1992)||n/a|