1st Edition

Epistemology: 50 Puzzles, Paradoxes, and Thought Experiments

By Kevin McCain Copyright 2021
    262 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    262 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this new kind of entrée to contemporary epistemology, Kevin McCain presents fifty of the field’s most important puzzles, paradoxes, and thought experiments. Assuming no familiarity with epistemology from the reader, McCain titles each case with a memorable name, describes the details of the case, explains the issue(s) to which the case is relevant, and assesses its significance. McCain also briefly reviews the key responses to the case that have been put forward, and provides a helpful list of suggested readings on the topic. Each entry is accessible, succinct, and self-contained. Epistemology: 50 Puzzles, Paradoxes, and Thought Experiments is a fantastic learning tool as well as a handy resource for anyone interested in epistemological issues. 

    Key Features:

    • Though concise overall, offers broad coverage of the key areas of epistemology.
    • Describes each imaginative case directly and in a memorable way, making the cases accessible and easy to remember.
    • Provides a list of Suggested Readings for each case, divided into General Overviews, Seminal Presentations, and Other Important Discussions.


    Part I: Nature of Knowledge
    General Background: The Traditional Account of Knowledge
    1. Promotions and Traveling Friends (The Gettier Problem)
    2. A Grisly Discovery (Causal Theory of Knowledge)
    3. A Strange County (Fake Barns)
    4. Red Barns and Blue Façades (Kripke’s Barn)
    5. The Tourist (Credit View of Knowledge)
    6. A Horrible Library (Kvanvig’s Comanche Case)
    7. The Quiz Show (Knowledge without Belief)
    8. Trip to the Zoo (Dretske’s Zebra/Disguised Mule)
    9. Saul the Superstitious Lawyer (Knowledge and Basing)
    10. Going to the Bank (Contextualism)

    Part II: Limits of Knowledge
    General Background: Skepticism
    11. Descartes’ Demon (Cartesian/External World Skepticism)
    12. Descartes’ Dream (Dreaming Skepticism)
    13. Is the Past Real? (Russell’s 5-minutes Old Universe)
    14. Descartes’ Apple Sorting Problem (The Problem of the Criterion)
    15. You’re Debased! (The Debasing Demon)
    16. Winning the Lottery (Lottery Skepticism)
    17. You Only Believe That Because…(Contingency of Belief)
    18. Hot or Cold? (Anti-luminosity)
    19. A Cut-Rate Eye Exam (Bootstrapping/Easy Knowledge)
    20. Off to the Races! (Disjunction Objection to IBE)
    21. To Transform or Not to Transform? (Transformative Experience)
    22. Mary Sees an Apple (Knowledge Argument Against Physicalism)

    Part III: Justification
    General Background: The Nature of Justification
    23. The Unfortunate Twin (New Evil Demon Problem)
    24. Psychic Powers (Clairvoyance Cases)
    25. Avocados Are Healthy, But I Forgot Why (Forgotten Evidence)
    26. The Sleepy Student (Problem of Stored Beliefs)
    27. A Visitor from the Swamp (Swampman Objection to Proper Functionalism)
    28. Missing the Show (Unpossessed Evidence)
    29. A Pair of Hens (Speckled Hen Problem)
    30. Birdwatching (Problem of Background Beliefs; Novice/Expert)
    31. Gold Rush (Cognitive Penetration)
    32. Armchair Quarterback (Isolation/Input Objection to Coherentism)

    Part IV: Social Epistemology
    General Background: Social Epistemology
    33. The Unbelieving Teacher (Transmission View of Testimony—Necessity)
    34. A Conspiracy (Transmission View of Testimony—Sufficiency)
    35. He Can’t Possibly Know (Epistemic Injustice—Testimonial)
    36. What’s Harassment? (Epistemic Injustice—Hermeneutical)
    37. Expecting a Bad Tip (Moral Encroachment)
    38. Splitting the Check (Disagreement—In Favor of Equal Weight)
    39. Bad Math (Disagreement—Against Equal Weight)
    40. Majority Rules? (Group Belief Aggregation)

    Part V: Puzzles & Paradoxes
    General Background: Puzzles & Paradoxes
    41. A Gruesome Riddle (New Riddle of Induction/Grue)
    42. Ravens Paradox
    43. Dogmatism Puzzle
    44. Sleeping Beauty
    45. The Surprise Quiz Paradox
    46. Knowability Paradox
    47. Moore’s Paradox
    48. Lottery Paradox
    49. Preface Paradox
    50. Proof Paradox


    Kevin McCain is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His published works include Evidentialism and Epistemic Justification (2014), The Nature of Scientific Knowledge: An Explanatory Approach (2016), (with Ted Poston) Best Explanations: New Essays on Inference to the Best Explanation (2017), and (with Kostas Kampourakis) Uncertainty: How It Makes Science Advance (2019).

    "There's no better way to master contemporary epistemology than to think through the many puzzling thought experiments that occupy center stage in contemporary epistemology. Finally there's a book that not only discusses 50 of the very best in one place but also provides an authoritative guide to the surrounding literature. Every student of epistemology--undergraduates to professionals--should own a copy. Highly recommended."
    Peter Graham, University of California, Riverside

    "McCain’s handy compendium will entertain and instruct both newcomers and regulars in the imaginary worlds that have formed the backdrop to many of the most significant debates in contemporary epistemology."
    Elijah Chudnoff, University of Miami

    "This book provides an accessible and engaging introduction to epistemology through an exploration the most influential thought experiments and puzzles in the literature. Readers are introduced to many of the central debates in epistemology in short and easy to understand chapters, as well as helpfully pointed toward further reading to dig deeper into any of the issues discussed. It is an excellent resource for students, teachers, and anyone interested in investigating issues in epistemology."
    Jonathan Matheson, University of North Florida, USA