People tend to value knowledge; it’s better to know something than just to believe it, even if your belief is correct by pure luck. But why? What’s so great about knowledge? In this Wireless Philosophy video, Jeremy Fantl (University of Calgary) explains the so-called “Meno problem” – the problem of explaining why knowledge is distinctively valuable.
In this Wireless Philosophy video, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke University) introduces a new approach to the problem of free will: contrastivism. At odds with traditional philosophical approaches to free will, contrastivism holds that people are free only relative to relevant alternatives. This approach gives us two kinds on freedom - freedom from causation and freedom from constraint - and it helps philosophers resolve a number of complex philosophical issues with free will.
In this Wireless Philosophy video, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke University) introduces contrastivism, a new approach to philosophy. At odds with traditional philosophical positions, contrastivism holds that particular philosophical concepts or positions only succeed or fail relative to contrast classes, or relevant alternatives. This approach may help philosophers resolve a number of complex philosophical issues.
PHILOSOPHY - Metaphysics: Emergence
July 8, 2016
In this Wireless Philosophy video, Paul Humphreys (University of Virginia) introduces the concept of emergence. Emergence occurs when features of the world are not reducible to arrangements of fundamental entities.
In this Wireless Philosophy video, David Miguel Gray (Colgate University) introduces sociohistorical theories of race. Gray introduces socially constructed categories and what it means to think about categories in this way. This is part 3a of a four part series, “Racial Ontology: A Guide for the Perplexed."
Everybody has false beliefs, including you. But that means everyone's beliefs are self-contradictory. If we wrote down everything you believe in a book, we'd have to include one more statement in the book's preface: "some of the statements in this book are false". In this Wireless Philosophy video, Jonathan Weisberg (University of Toronto) explains the infamous "Paradox of the Preface", and what it might teach us about belief, reason, and logic.
In this Wireless Philosophy video, Geoff Pynn (Northern Illinois) introduces virtue epistemology, an approach to epistemology that takes intellectual virtue as the central concept in discussions of theory of knowledge. Along the way, he shows how virtue epistemology can provides interesting solutions to some of the problems that we've encountered so far in the series.
CRITICAL THINKING - Fundamentals: Bayes' Theorem [HD]
April 22, 2016
In this Wireless Philosophy video, Ian Olasov (CUNY) introduces Bayes' Theorem of conditional probability, and the related Base Rate Fallacy.
Common sense takes for granted that we can typically just see physical objects without further hindrance. In this Wireless Philosophy video, Eugen Fischer (University of East Anglia) presents the ‘argument from hallucination’ that questions common sense: Together with parallel arguments, it appears to show that we are cut off from any physical objects around us by a veil of immaterial perceptions.
CRITICAL THINKING - Fallacies: Straw Man Fallacy [HD]
April 17, 2016
In this Wireless Philosophy video, Joseph Wu (University of Cambridge) introduces you to the straw man fallacy. This fallacy is committed whenever someone misrepresents an opponent's claim in arguing against it.
In the second of a four part series, “Racial Ontology: A Guide for the Perplexed,” David Miguel Gray (Colgate University) introduces naturalist theory of race. Naturalist theories place questions of race in the domain of biology and appeal to physical properties to define what races are. Problems for developing naturalist theories are discussed as well as some solutions.
After many failed attempts to construct an analysis of knowledge, some philosophers began to wonder whether knowledge was resistant to analysis, and why that might be so. In this Wireless Philosophy video, Jennifer Nagel (University of Toronto) looks at the reasons why philosophers like Linda Zagzebski have thought that knowledge can’t be reductively analyzed, and explores the “Knowledge First” approach of Timothy Williamson.
Problems for the causal theory of knowledge led epistemologists to propose that knowledge is a matter of tracking the truth. Fred Dretske and Robert Nozick developed this idea using counterfactual conditions. In this Wireless Philosophy video, Geoff Pynn (Northern Illinois University) examines the tracking idea, consider how it improves on the causal theory, and then discuss some well known objections to the theories advanced by Dretske and Nozick.
Is knowledge a matter of being causally connected to the world in the right way? In this Wireless Philosophy video, Jennifer Nagel (University of Toronto) examines the causal theory of knowledge proposed by Alvin Goldman in 1967, and then discusses the problems with the causal theory that led Goldman to formulate his influential reliabilist theory of knowledge.
If we can’t analyze knowledge simply as justified true belief, can we add one more ingredient to produce a successful analysis? In this Wireless Philosophy video, Jennifer Nagel examines two ‘extra ingredient’ analyses of knowledge: Michael Clark’s ‘no false lemma’ analysis, and the fancier ‘no undefeated defeaters’ analysis of Keith Lehrer and Thomas Paxson.
Is knowledge the same as justified true belief? In this Wireless Philosophy video, Jennifer Nagel (University of Toronto) discusses a Gettier case, a scenario in which someone has justified true belief but not knowledge. We’ll look at a Gettier case from Edmund Gettier’s famous 1963 paper on this topic, and a structurally similar case from 8th century Classical Indian philosophy.
How do contemporary philosophers respond to the threat of skepticism? In this Wireless Philosophy video, Jennifer Nagel (University of Toronto) reviews the semantic (or meaning-based) theories of Hilary Putnam and David Chalmers, according to which skepticism either self-destructs, or isn’t as scary as you might think. She then examines the defensive approach of Timothy Williamson, an approach whose goal is not to convert you from being a skeptic back into believing in knowledge, but rather to protect you from becoming a skeptic in the first place.
In this Wireless Philosophy video, Jennifer Nagel (University of Toronto) looks at three historically influential responses to the challenge of skepticism. We start with René Descartes’s efforts to prove that God would not let us be chronically deceived. Next, we examine Bertrand Russell’s efforts to disprove the skeptic through a strategy called ‘inference to the best explanation’, and we finish with G. E. Moore’s common sense approach.
Is knowledge humanly possible? In this video, Jennifer Nagel (University of Toronto) looks at skeptical arguments, starting with Ancient Greek and Chinese philosophy, and moving forward into contemporary brain-in-a-vat scenarios. We’ll review a variety of reasons to worry that knowledge might be impossible, and we’ll examine the difference between global and local forms of skepticism.
In this video, Jennifer Nagel (University of Toronto) launches our Theory of Knowledge series. We look at the line between knowing and just believing something, focusing on factors like truth and confidence.

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