PHI240 Knowledge and Cultural Diversity

The unit will examine the fascinating relations between human knowledge and the diversity of human cultures. To question these relations, students will discuss three classic problems in epistemology and the philosophy of cultural cognition. The first is posed by the challenge of developing conceptions of "knowledge" and "culture" that can help us explain how human cognition uniquely works and changes. The second problem is to identify the core learning abilities and social processes that are engaged in cultural and knowledge transmission (for example, imitation, teaching, and cooperation). The third problem is to determine whether the diversity of human cultures and values justify relativism, and whether we can find alternatives to relativism to mitigate the conflicts caused by cultural antagonisms. To address these fundamental issues, students will evaluate both philosophical theories and scientific models of the foundations of knowledge, the mechanisms of cultural learning, and the consequences of relativism. Students will learn skills in thinking critically about cultural differences and developing philosophical explanations of the uniqueness of human cognition.

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