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This year I am again teaching the class “Theory of Knowledge” in the first year of the international programme at the Institute of Philosophy of the KULeuven. The course offers a standard introduction to epistemology and the structure of the course is fairly straightforward. I follow the general structure of the handbook (Richard Feldman, Epistemology, Prentice Hall 2003) and complement that in my lectures with historical background, explanations of philosophical jargon, alternative terminology, and quite some critical notes.

The book proceeds by outlining the traditional analysis of knowledge as justified true belief and Edmund Gettier’s counterexamples , then presents various theories of justification, and problems stemming from skepticism, relativism and naturalism. The main theories it discusses are presented under the opposing headings of evidentialism and non-evidentialism. Evidentialist theories take evidence as the justification for belief and include foundationalism and coherentism. Non-evidentialism includes the causal theory, the truth tracking theory, reliabilism, and proper function theory. Feldman then discusses two forms of skepticism (high-standards skepticism and ordinary standards skepticism) and in passing briefly outlines inference to the best explanation and contextualism.

However, the fact that evidentialism is normally associated with internalism, and non-evidentialism with externalism is not mentioned in the book: a quick search with Google books shows a single hit for each in the title of a book referenced in a footnote. Other puzzling omissions include not mentioning Russell when discussing knowledge by acquaintance vs knowledge by description and not discussing any alternative to the correspondence theory of truth. While I understand that one cannot discuss everything or always involve the historical background, I think it might have been worthwhile to include a short paragraph on the pragmatism and fallibilism of Peirce and James, since it originally was a reaction to Cartesian foundationalism. Even though it is perhaps more a topic for the philosophy of science, some discussion of the realism / anti-realism debate would also have been useful.

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