Keith Douglas' Web Page

About me Find out who I am and what I do.
My resumé A copy of my resumé and other documentation about my education and work experience for employers and the curious.
Reviews, theses, articles, presentations A collection of papers from my work, categorized and annotated.
Current research projects What I am currently working on, including some non-research material.
Interesting people People professionally "connected" to me in some way.
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Intellectual/professional influences Influences on my work, including an organization chart. Here you can also buy many good books on philosophy and other subjects via amazon.com. I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, amazon.com associates programs, etc.
What is the philosophy of computing? A brief introduction to my primary professional interest.
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My educational philosophy As a sometime teacher I've developed one. Includes book resources.

Book Influences - Philosophy: Epistemology

Title
Author
Purchase / Enjoy Cover
Comment
A Companion to Epistemology Dancy and Sosa, eds. The Blackwell Companions are like a pretty good absolutely huge philosophy encyclopedia you can fortunately buy in parts. Here's the epistemology volume.
Abductive Inference: Computation, Philosophy, Technology Josephson and Josephson (eds.) A small (<300 pages) introduction to an important area where computing meets philosophy. Abductive inference is reasoning of the form "B; but B would be a matter of course if A, therefore it is very likely that A. It is also called (by some) "inference to the best explanation". This book discusses increasingly sophisticated computer programs to perform this task and defends the notion as one used in science, technology (noticably in medical diagnosis) and elsewhere. Weaknesses of the otherwise quite decent book include: insufficient computational discussion (there is no source code in the book, only algorithm sketches) and almost no discussion of the problem of generation of hypotheses. This latter issue is in my view the most philosophically interesting, psychologically baffling and computationally difficult to implement.
Abductive Reasoning Walton Similar in character to the above one's more philosophical parts, this book is a defense of the notion(s) of abduction to philosophers. Walton shows how "argumentation theory" is greatly enhanced by postulating at least one further broad class of arguments and "dialogic items" beyond deduction and induction. The work is clear but it feels very repetitive and summary-esque. This is especially true in the case of the section on open problems. Once again there is absolutely no discussion about the actual generation of hypotheses, merely how to evaluate them, of which the approaches mentioned seem eminently reasonably if not a little too banal in places. Nevertheless, this work is valuable because it illustrates to more "traditionally minded" philosophers that there are interesting (to use what looks like Walton's favourite word) areas to explore here in epistemology proper, so-called informal logic, the philosophy of science and law, etc.
Belief and Agency Hunter (ed.) A CJP supplementary volume on the connections between beliefs and actions. As with many such volumes, these simply continue debates and discussions found elsewhere and are hard to evaluate for that reason. However, most are clear and make copious references. My largest worry is with claims to the effect that two aspects of what would be the brain have to work together - there is, soon, going to be a point where such speculation must engage the neuroscience and psychology literature - as some philosophers have already started.
Color for Philosophers: Unweaving the Rainbow Hardin Expanded edition of a classic, sparking a renewal of the literature on colour by philosophers. Hardin does not shirk from the sciences of colour, to his advantage, and shows why the epistemology of perception literature must make contact in ths way or be irrelevant at best.
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge Wilson While one can quibble (see Bunge's Emergence and Convergence, for example - the distance between their positions is very small) over the implementation and the amount of "reductionism" that Wilson advocates, the unity of knowledge program he advocates is, in my opinion, a necessary one.
Evidence and Inference Lerner   A little book discussing how evidence and inference standards differ across different fields.
Evidence and Inquiry: A Pragmatist Reconstruction of Epistemology Haack A second edition of Haack's challenging but very stimulating and basically correct, as far as it goes, monograph. Herein she defends a viewpoint she calls "foundherentism" - a compromise between several versions of foundationalism and coherentism. My only complaint - and it is a somewhat minor one - is that not enough is paid attention to the ideational ("rationalistic") component to inquiry. (Of course, this defect is shared by almost everyone. I suspect this is because it involves investigating creativity and nobody really knows what to say there.) Also included in the second edition are several papers on epistemology, some available elsewhere (including some of Haack's previous collections) and some new.
Fact, Fiction and Forecast Goodman Goodman's classic, though as far as I am concerned the worry over "grue" is a pseudoproblem. Scientists do not use induction by simple enumeration very often, after all. They know that emeralds are green, not grue, because of the well known, independently estbalished laws of chemical composition, not because they have counted up how many emeralds are green or whatever. (Haack and Bunge have been making the same point for decades.) The book does introduce the notion of epistemic entrenchment, though not in the way the belief revision literature uses it exactly.
Inference to the Best Explanation (2e) Lipton In this slim volume, one of the many ways of conceptualizing how we reason is discussed. It is compared to other approaches (such as Bayesianism) and found to have many virtues, despite apparent circularity in its hope for self-justification. Missing from the discussion: how hypotheses are actually generated. (This isn't surprising, since nobody knows anything useful to say here.)
Knowledge in Flux: Modelling the Dynamics of Epistemic States Gärdenfors See my amazon.com review.
Language, Truth and Logic Ayer

A small classic of logical positivism: one of the first in English. This Dover reprint includes a detailed new introduction by the author correcting some of the mistakes in the earlier printings. However, it does not deal with one of the most substantial ones: namely, it is unclear whether Ayer intends "metaphysics" as a stipulative definition or not. Moreover, it is unclear how exactly experience plays a role. All these and other criticisms would have been known, since there were realist etc. critiques of Mach (etc.) from very early on. That said, Ayer is right to reject the idea that our metaphysics should be logicially necessary and also right in asserting that many apparent propositions can be dismissed as meaningless or false (some one, some the other) by logical analysis. Aside: he remarks somewhere that it is "analytic" that his newspaper contain news. He had obviously no knowledge of the National Inquirer.

Mainstream and Formal Epistemology Hendricks A slim (170 or so pages of content) volume showing the "continuum" of approaches in epistemology these days. These range from the traditional analysis-and-counterexample approaches to computational learning theory, to epistemic logics, and more. The overview is good as far as it goes, and the "bringing together" of all the approaches is to the good too. However, there is really very little "meat" in here - the book is very small. Many areas are alluded to but hardly discussed, most notably the AGM belief revision literature.
Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate Haack See my amazon.com review.
On Bullshit Frankfurt Made popular by Frankfurt's appearance on The Daily Show, this is a reprint of a noted ethicist paper on the status of what might be regarded as another sort of modal category of claims (in addition to knowledge, belief, etc.) - bullshit. Bullshit is everywhere, as he points out, and therefore some analysis of it is worthwhile. I suspect, with the appearance of another volume with the phrase in the title, Philosopher's Index may soon (if it hasn't already) need to create a category for it. As (apparently) the pioneering volume, however, this one is uneven and a bit repetitive. But not, all the same, unworthwhile.
Pragmatism Misak (ed.) A supplementary volume on pragmatism (in the philosophical sense) from the CJP.
Socratic Epistemology: Explorations of Knowledge-Seeking By Questioning Hintikka A noted epistemologist and logician assembles a collection of 10 papers (some new, some previously published) centered around the interesting idea that questions and "information" (which is provided by answers) should be central to epistemology. He draws upon the work of philosophers as disperate as Socrates, Aristotle, Peirce, Husserl, Gadamer and Quine as well as builds upon his own earlier work in epistemic logic. Along the way, the new approaches yield an interesting understanding of the visual systems, an approach to the role of mathematics in factual science, the a priori, a new understanding of the covering law model of explanation, and much else.
Studies in Subjective Probability Kyburg (ed.) A collection of classic papers in this controversial subject. (I have placed this book in the epistemology section because of the course on Bayesian epistemology I did with Horacio Arlo-Costa at CMU.)
Treatise on Basic Philosophy, Volume V Bunge Volume 5 of the monumental Treatise on Basic Philosophy. If you are skeptical that neuroscience, psychology and other scientific fields have anything to say to traditional epistemological views, read this - despite the fact that it needs an update as it is 20+ years old.
Treatise on Basic Philosophy, Volume VI. Bunge Volume 6 of the monumental Treatise on Basic Philosophy. The sequel to the above volume. Defends a critically realist ratio-empiricism. This volume also includes a very novel theory of partial truth. Most interesting feature: v(~P) does not equal in general 1-v(P) as almost everyone (including the earlier Bunge in previous works) would expect.
Witness Testimony Evidence: Argumentaton, Artificial Intelligence, and Law Walton While there is a lot to ponder and use in this book (argumentation schemes, analysis of examining witnesses at trial, defeasible inference models, etc.), it seems very repetitive (so many sections seem to say the same thing again and again). Moreover, there is no sustained discussion of how to evaluate expertise. For example, many naive members of the public may regard chiropractors as spine experts because they market themselves that way; this is, to say the least, extremely debatable. Finally, the references section is in alphabetical order by family name, as one would expect, but written in the form [given name][family name] rather than [family name],[given name] as is usual. These various flaws make for a passable but not great book.

 

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