The word “epistemology" stems from the Greek words “episteme” and “logos”, translated roughly as “knowledge", and “reason" or “argument", respectively. In short, epistemology is the branch of philosophy which focuses on the study of the various aspects of knowledge, asking questions like “what can we know?", “how do we know?", “what are the conditions for knowledge?", and “what are we justified in knowing?", among other questions.
In this course, we will focus on the study of scientific knowledge. Interestingly, the word “science" stems from the Latin “scientia", which also translates roughly to “knowledge". After all, a paradigm of contemporary human knowledge is scientific knowledge. We frequently appeal to and rely on scientific knowledge: our GPS works because of general relativity, our semiconductors are designed with quantum-mechanical principles in mind, and we take vaccines because we think the science behind it is trustworthy, etc. But what is scientific knowledge? How do we acquire scientific knowledge? These two questions will be the driving questions of our course for the next five weeks, and I hope you will walk away from this course with at least some tentative answers to these big questions.