Fred Adams


CV Teaching Papers Gallery Links

Theory of Knowledge

Epistemology derives from the Greek episteme ("knowledge") and logos ("account or reason"). The study of epistemology is the attempt to give an account of the source and nature of knowledge.

Knowledge is a highly prized commodity. Secret agents kill to get it. Scientists spend billions of dollars trying to find it. If you knew the winning numbers in the next Powerball lottery, you would become rich by purchasing a ticket with those very numbers.

We would like to know many things that we do not know. Is there life on other planets? Will computers someday actually be able to think? There are also many things that we do know. We know enough physics, engineering, and computer science to send people to the moon and return them safely to Earth. Pick up any encyclopedia and you will have a partial list of what we now know. What you will not find is an answer to the question "What is it for a person to know something?" This question does not only ask things such as whether Tom knows Joe is drug-free. It asks what is required for such knowledge. For example, how accurate must a drug test be to be able to give knowledge? To ask such a question is to turn the pursuit of knowledge upon itself. What is it for someone to know something?

This course will attempt to answer the above question. We will read attempted answers. We will also consider objections to those attempted answers. Students will develop the critical reasoning skills of appraising arguments. They will learn to evaluate theories of knowledge. Some theories are better than others, and students learn ways of telling which theories are better and why.

The course will involve reading of original philosophical texts. It will involve critical appraisal of arguments. Students will write a series of papers evaluating theories of knowledge. There will also be some short quizzes on reading and lecture material. There will also be a final exam. The class will be in a lecture and discussion format. Discussion will be encouraged and will play a large part in the course.

Philosophy of Mind
PHIL330-010 / 080, CGSC330-010 / 080
(080 honors sections require permission of honors program)

What is the mind? What is the relation of the mind to the body? How does the mind work? For example, how do thoughts come to be about the world around us? How do your thoughts come to be about or mean the University of Delaware? And how do thoughts cause behavior? You enrolled at the University of Delaware because you wanted to come here. How do wants (desires) cause things in virtue of their contents or meanings? We are quite familiar with the fact that our thoughts do control our behavior. And our thoughts certainly seem to do this because of what they mean or are about. How does this all work? Philosophers, linguists, psychologists, computer scientists, and neuroscientists, among others, have asked these sorts of questions. We will surely attempt to answer questions about the nature of the mind and how it acquires its contents (or meanings). We begin with a historical survey of approaches to the mind. We will then look at current debates about the nature of the mind. Along the way we will consider related issues of whether nonhuman animals can think and whether a machine (computer) could be made that can think, among other issues. We will consider various theories about how the mind represents the world and current debates about the best way to model the workings of the mind. The course will not presuppose familiarity with the literature on these topics, but will be self-contained--the first part of the course will build a background for the remainder of the course. The format for the course will be lecture and discussion. Students will be active participants in daily discussion of materials. Grades will be determined on the basis of a combination of quizzes, papers and participation.

CGSC 410/610 Embodied Cognition

This is an undergraduate-graduate co-listed course on embodied cognition.  Embodied cognition is the theory that the nature of the body of an organism influences the nature of its cognitive operations in a non-contingent way.  A non-embodied view has it that the senses feed information into the cognitive system and once concepts and goals or formed the motor system does the mind’s bidding.  Cognition typically was thought to take place after information was delivered to the senses and prior to the motor system’s doing the mind’s bidding.  On the embodied view, cognition takes place completely across the sensori-motor divide.  This course investigates the theoretical and empirical support for the claim that cognition is embodied in an essential way.  The readings for this course are interdisciplinary, covering perspectives from most of the areas of cognitive science.