Academic Year 2021/2022 - 1° Year
Teaching Staff: Emanuele COCO and Salvatore VASTA
Credit Value: 8
Taught classes: 48 hours
Term / Semester:

Learning Objectives

The course proposes a historical and critical picture of the problems inherent to the Theory of Knowledge. It has three general educational objectives: to illustrate the themes and the authors of the history of epistemology; to provide critical tools to better understand the work and results of scientific practices; to stimulate critical reflection on epistemological approaches, on the dialogue between scientific practices and human sciences, on the knowledge of "inner reality" (psychic dimension).

The course is divided into three sections: 1. the key problems of epistemology; 2. the twentieth century debate around science; 3. the dialogue between epistemology and psychology.

The first section will illustrate the reasons why an objective knowledge of reality may constitute a theoretical problem that is not a simple solution. We will talk about the fallacy of the senses, empirical psychology, idealism, the contrast between appearance and reality, the answers offered by some philosophers to the problem of the senses (Galileo and English empiricism). The rationalist alternative and the problem of the contrast between mind and body will be illustrated. The section concludes with the synthesis proposed by Kant and with some references to alternative geometries, truth theories and fallible realism. This will allow students to acquire tools that allow them to make a conscious and critical use of the scientific methodologies present in their work, avoiding ingenuity or misuse of scientific results and their consequences on the person, on the patient or in society.

The second part is dedicated to the most recent topics of the epsythemological debate. The aims are the same as in the previous section, but the discourse is extended to the protagonists of knowledge criticism who have operated during the 20th century, in many cases in relation to psychological research. It will illustrate the tradition of the "recived view" and the arguments against it, Kuhn's turning point and Fleck's "styles of thought", Lakatos' theoretical positions, Feyerabend's farewell to reason, constructivism and the dissolution of reality, science as social practice, the relationship between science and society.

The third section addresses some specific problems in the relationship between science and psychology. The examples of these mutual exchanges will change from year to year, so as to make the teaching more alive and relevant. The following themes are planned for the current year: Kant's influence on Freud's thought; Wilhelm Reich's naturalism; Bateson's ecology of the mind. The section ends with an in-depth examination of Dream, myth and symbolism in the knowledge of inner reality.

Course Structure

1. Lessons with projection of slides; 2. interactive work with students during lessons; 3. summary and evaluation of learning (the latter are not "in itinere tests" but only colloquial comparisons that are held at the beginning of each lesson and that are used by the teacher to verify the progress of learning and by the student to estimate his or her own harmony with the programme already carried out and his or her ability to intervene on these topics). 4. group work in the classroom in the presence of the teacher. 5. IN ITINERE TESTS. There will be two in itinere tests (one in the middle of the course and one towards the end of the course) dedicated to specific parts of the program.

The students who will participate in the activities of comparison and verification in progress during the lessons may be exempted from exposing some parts of the program, according to modalities that will be communicated in class. This solution is optional and will be confirmed at the beginning of the course according to the number of students attending the course. In any case, it is valid only for those who will take the exam within September.

If the teaching is given in mixed mode or at a distance, due to the Covid emergency, the necessary variations may be introduced with respect to what has been stated previously, in order to respect the program foreseen and reported in the syllabus. The learning verification can also be carried out electronically, should the conditions require it.

Detailed Course Content

The course is divided into three sections: 1. the key problems of epistemology; 2. the 20th century debate about science; 3. the dialogue between epistemology and psychology.

The first section is dedicated to an introduction to the fundamental problems of epistemology. Themes addressed: The problem of knowledge; Scepticism under attack; Scepticism and the senses; Empirical psychology; Idea-ism, appearance and reality; Primary and secondary qualities; Berkeley: idea-ism becomes idealism; Hume: idea-ism becomes irrationalism; The answers to Hume on induction; The rationalist alternative; The defence of Descartes' rationalism; Kant and the synthetic a priori; Alternative geometry; Truth and theories of truth; The fallible realism.

The second section is dedicated to the epsythemological debate of the twentieth century and the most recent acquisitions in the field of knowledge theory. Themes dealt with: The "received" image of science and its crisis, Kuhn's turning point, Lakatos' theoretical positions, Feyerabend's farewell to reason; Naturalised epistemology and evolutionist epistemology; Constructivism and the dissolution of reality.

The third part addresses some examples of the relationship between epistemology, psychology and psychoanalysis. The following themes are planned for the current year: Kant's influence on Freud's thought; Wilhelm Reich's naturalism; Bateson's ecology of the mind; Dream, myth and symbolism in the knowledge of "inner reality".

Textbook Information

  1. A. Musgrave, Senso comune, scienza e scetticismo. Un’introduzione storica alla teoria della conoscenza, Raffaello Cortina editore, 1995 [360 pagine, it is possible to use the english version]
  2. F. Coniglione, Lontano da Popper. L'epistemologia post-positivista e le metamorfosi della razionalità scientifica, Bonanno editore, [pdf available on the Studium platform]
  3. E. Coco, Dal cosmo al mare. La naturalizzazione del mito e la funzione filosofica, Olschki, 2017 [130 pagine]