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Knowledge and Reality A Lecture Four: Skills I Last Week We’ve introduced: Gettier Justification Now let’s turn to examining what the hell you’re meant to be doing! Let’s use Gettier as an example throughout. Why are you here? Well, why? You’re not here to learn a lot of information about philosophy, different philosophies or what different philosophers said. If you want that, there’s a library over there – go read a book. Why are you here? One of two reasons: Become a philosopher Get a really ace CV to get a really ace job You might have other reasons (you thought it’d be a laugh; your parents told you to take this course; you’re hiding from the Mafia by pretending to be a philosophy student) but that’s not my business. As far as I’m concerned, those are the reasons you’re here. Fortunately virtually everything we do does double duty – what makes one a good philosopher equips one with skills for the job market. It’s almost like businesses wanted University graduates for a reason! Why are here? I want you to bear that in mind – what we’re teaching you is to those ends. With that in mind, let’s look at the first way that you begin your research. Lectures The Wrong Model You turn up; do the lecture; and then represent information given to you in lectures in your own words. Does that make you a philosopher? No! A professional philosopher doesn’t just recap what other people said! Gettier wasn’t saying what someone else said – he was saying something new. Would doing that demonstrate you had the skills for business? No! What kind of business wants someone who can only generate ideas already spoon fed to them? If you work for Big Energy Company X that says ‘Here’s the problem we have concerning renewable energy sources – go solve it.’ your boss will be pissed as hell if you turn up at the next meeting and say ‘Well, I’ve identified the problem’ and feed back to him what he said at the last meeting! Lectures The Right Model Lectures are the beginning of your research. It is as far from the end as one could get without just staying in bed. Just look at the Time Allocation. For this module, you are recommended to break this down roughly as follows: Lectures 10 hours Total: 100 Lectures are a mere 10% of the total time. Lectures Instead a lecture is equipping you with some basic information. Some of the stuff you are looking at it quick complex. You need some idea of what’s going on. You need to know your Tripartite from your Conceptual Analysis; your Foundationalism from your Agrippa’s Trilemma. Lectures serve a purpose, but that purpose is only sketching the topic and giving you some basic tools to get on with. Lectures What you need to do is go beyond what is given you in lectures. Go beyond what myself and the tutors feed you. THAT’S BASICALLY THE MOST MAJOR THING THAT STUDENTS FAIL IN DOING WHEN IT COMES TO ASSESSMENT. How are you going to go beyond? Wider/Further Reading Well, one thing you need to do is read more. You might be able to get away with just your own ideas, but basically it’s unreasonable to think you can get by without reading what other people have said. Distinguish between wider reading and further reading. I’ve made the two distinctions up. Wider/Further Reading Wider reading would be to read widely around the topic. So to read a book on Epistemology generally, or flick through a few random articles. Wider reading isn’t a bad thing. You should do some. But our modules are already pretty broad ranging – it’s not essential to read yet more topics and yet more broadly. Doing so can definitely be helpful. Example: If you read broadly, really got into some obscure medieval philosopher and showed how it fed into analysing knowledge. Wider reading could help you do that – but notice there’s a large element of chance in all of that. Just reading widely and trying to crowbar that reading into an essay, no matter its relevance, is a very bad thing. Wider/Further Reading So some wider reading should be done, but if you just read everything for every week’s seminar for every module, you’ll have a pretty broad base of knowledge. Broader would be nice, but not what I’m going to concentrate on here. Further reading is concentrating on one topic and reading into that. This is good because your essay is on one topic, and reading more about that one topic is what we want you to do. Wider/Further Reading So we want you, as part of writing essays, to identify material that will help you develop your understanding of that specific topic. Say Gettier on analysing knowledge! If you’re doing your essay on that topic reading about other topics won’t (necessarily) be helpful. Keep noticing that it might be helpful. The very best essays often make connections between disparate areas. So… books then? So how do you go beyond? Well, you could start with a textbook. Like the Pritchard! But that’s only going to be beginning as well. Reading a textbook is not often going to give you a deeper understanding of what’s going on – it’ll just say the same thing but differently Allthe epistemology textbooks have a chapter on Gettier. Just reading those chapters ad infinitum won’t help. So where then? So I’ve told you to read more stuff on a specific topic. You know there’s a library over there. But that’s a whole lotta books and journals, and you’re only one woman (or man). Where do you start? Reading Lists You can start with a reading list. Don’t read everything. Remember you’re meant to be focusing in on a topic. The lecturer will have create a broad list covering a wide variety of areas. What they will not have done is given you a ready made list that you just have to go though, one by one, and stick together in an essay. THAT WOULD BE CRAZY Reading Lists We are intentionally trying to get you to do your own research – a professional philosopher doesn’t get a list to read; at a business your boss won’t ask you to solve a problem and say ‘By the way, I reckon this is exactly all the research you’ll need’ Who the hell gathers the research together? Someone like you! So YOU need the skill to gather the stuff in the first place. So even a reading list is only a beginning. Other ‘Good Starts’ So the lecture is a good start. Reading lists are a good start. Books, specifically textbooks, will contain suggested reading – that’s a good start too. The Stanford Encyclopedia is a good start. Other ‘Good Starts’ But all of this is just a springboard! It’s only a start to your research. So where from there? Well, you’re trying to find articles on what you’re writing about. Most importantly you’re trying to write an essay (or sample exam answer). Focus! Exactly what makes a good essay we’ll go into next week (these two lectures are inseparable) But effectively you’re trying to interrogate arguments. So you’ll select an argument to look at – say Clark’s response to Gettier. You’ll then try and find information on that. So you start by focusing on Gettier, then you narrow the focus by making it about Clark. At every stage you might want to focus more and more. As you do so, you’ll get a better and better idea of what to research and what you’re looking for. Footnotes There are lots of ways. I’ll enumerate some. You might ‘follow the footnotes’. If you find a paper by Philosopher Bob saying ‘such and such says X’ and you’re writing about X then the references Bob gives (often in the footnotes) will be invaluable research. And those papers will reference other papers. You can go and read them! Effectively, you’re building your own reading list out of the footnotes and references from other papers. Google Scholar The internet is now an amazing and wondrous device. Try Google Scholar (not regular Google) If I want to know about Clark, I might type it into Google. Google Scholar The internet is now an amazing and wondrous device. Try Google Scholar (not regular Google) If I want to know about Clark, I might type it into Google. Notice the direct link to the JSTOR document. Google Scholar The internet is now an amazing and wondrous device. Try Google Scholar (not regular Google) If I want to know about Clark, I might type it into Google. Notice the direct link to the JSTOR document. Notice also this bit: Google Scholar That lists everyone that Google knows of (which is just about everyone) who has written on Clark. Want to know more about what people thought of that exact paper? CLICK ON IT. Google Scholar That lists everyone that Google knows of (which is just about everyone) who has written on Clark. Want to know more about what people thought of that exact paper? CLICK ON IT. So that’s another way to find out more. Book Index Remember, don’t read through a whole book when writing your essay! You want specific things. Philosophers want specific things – when I’m writing an article on X I don’t want to read a whole book unless the entire book is about X. Your boss might want to know how efficient wind farms are – not read the entire of a 1200 page UN treatise on renewable energy sources. BE SELECTIVE! Use the index! Sit there and flick… You can also just go to the library and flick through journals and books. The books are arranged in topic order. Go to that topic, pull them off one by one when they look relevant and see if they’re relevant. Go to the journals and flick through the contents page looking at the title of articles and see if they’re relevant. This is a somewhat laborious process, mainly done away with by Google. Further Reading But in each case, note that you’re building your own reading list. Of things relevant to your essay. And what you focused on. If you’d chosen to focus on a different answer to Gettier, you’d need to have read different things. WHAT YOU CHOOSE CHANGES WHAT YOU NEED TO READ Note also, that there’s not some reading list we’re specifically wanting you to aim for. What can be read? Books Textbooks As I say, only a starting point – usually. Monographs Companions Edited Collections What can be read? Journals A journal is what us philosophers use – right now – to communicate with one another. You’ve already seen some articles from the journal Analysis. You are reading material not written for students. We want you to read material not written for students – mastering that is part and parcel of becoming a University graduate. Your (possible and future) boss wants you to read material that isn’t introductory! So do we! Internet The internet is full of cranks. When it comes to ‘Philosophy’ it’s full of lots of cranks. Example: Some dude and the laws of thermodynamics being false because of evil. Example: The crystals dude. Why you’d read that stuff I do not know… Serious philosophy is published philosophy. Internet Random websites = bad Unpublished writings of people who couldn’t get their articles anonymously accepted = bad Forums = bad Wikipedia Wikipedia functions by getting lots of people with time on their hands to collectively act to get correct knowledge. It’s ‘groupthink’. With mathematics, there are a lot of people who do maths. With mathematics, it’s easy to see when someone’s cocked up and said something wrong. With philosophy, there are far fewer skilled philosophers who know a lot about a topic and have time on their hands, such that they’re willing to do research for free and give it to Wikipedia. When a philosophy article contains falsehoods and nonsense (i) less people are going to bother to try and change it (ii) the fight to change it will be long and hard (iii) who’s going to put the effort in? Wikipedia is bad for a lot of philosophy. Ironic, given the links in the Pritchard. Wikipedia Feel free to use Wikipedia as a jumping off point but – just as Wikipedia itself says – it is not meant as a primary resource. Imagine how pissed your boss would be if your plan for a multibillion dollar company was based on a wikipedia article… Wikipedia is referenced though so just as with other things you can follow the footnotes. And should feel free to do so! Even then it’s a bit odd Example: The article on the Ontological Argument Internet What’s good: eBooks/JSTOR Stanford Blogs of a professional philosophers Webpages with unpublished articles of professional philosophers Probably not that useful until third year You’ve got the stuff, now time to make sense of it Getting the material is one part. Understanding it is another. Read things carefully. Read things slowly. Use what you’ve learnt as a springboard for understanding the articles/books. Don’t read it all if you don’t have to! You want the maximum result for the minimum effort. You’ve got the stuff, now time to make sense of it When you come to something you don’t understand decide whether You can skip it and still understand what’s going on (i.e. ignore the tangents) Go off and try and understand what’s going on. Use Dictionaries. You shouldn’t need to ask ‘What’s a priori’ given the existence of philosophical dictionaries! Read something else – some stuff is too hard! You’ve got the stuff, now time to make sense of it Take notes. But sparingly. If you just write notes on everything, without focus, you’re just rewriting the article! You’re doing something that takes time and makes you think you’re working when you’re not. Write notes only on things you (i) need for your essay (ii) think are difficult to understand and you want to explain your understanding of it. The rest of the time, you can always go back and reread the article. Away from texts! But philosophy isn’t just about books, it’s also about your own ideas. They are equally legitimate ways. We’re looking for independence, which can be different from originality. But a lot of research involves just talking and thinking. Sitting there thinking about something hard and what you want to say about it counts too! Away from texts! Talk to one another. Constantly. Talk to your lecturer/tutor. Use office hours! Talk in Seminars! Seminars are research too! That’s why failing to prepare is so naff - you’re blowing the chance to get to grips with ideas and come up with responses to the material. You can use other people’s ideas (properly referenced) from the seminar! Recap We’ve said you need to go beyond the lecture material. One way is seminars – I went through seminar method in lecture 1 Another way is reading stuff – I hope to have given you some ideas of how to do that here.
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