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Uncertainty, Vagueness and Disagreement (PHIL40013)

HonoursPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2017
Subject levelHonours
Subject codePHIL40013
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject tackles issues around information and when it is hard to deal with, because it is uncertain, imprecise or contested. We are often confronted by situations where we are uncertain, when our ideas are imprecise or ambiguous, and when we otherwise disagree and cannot seem to resolve this disagreement. What can we say and do in these situations? How are we to understand the distinctive features of uncertainty, vagueness and disagreement? How can we make decisions in the midst of incomplete information? When should we attempt to make vague notions precise, and when should we live with imprecision? When should we attempt to resolve disagreement, and when should we agree to disagree? These are questions are both practically pressing and deeply connected with our views of truth, knowledge, reality and meaning: some of the fundamental issues of philosophy. We will draw on techniques from semantics and epistemology, probability and logic, learn how they might be used, and critically evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

In this subject, students will be introduced to recent approaches for understanding these difficult phenomena, and will critically analyse their strengths and weaknesses, putting each in its intellectual context. We will also apply these techniques to a range of scenarios selected from topics of interest to the students in the class.

On successful completion, students will be familiar with techniques from epistemology, semantics, probability and logic, designed for the representation of information and its clarification, and will be able to apply them to different situations.

Students familiar with formal semantics and logic will have opportunities to extend and apply this knowledge in the course, but a background in logic is not necessary to participate fully and successfully in this subject.

Intended learning outcomes

students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • learn to master different techniques used to represent and evaluate uncertainty, vagueness and disagreement;
  • acquire the ability to critically reflect on the successes and failings of each proposed account.

Last updated: 16 August 2017