Uncertainty, Vagueness and Disagreement

Subject PHIL40013 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2016.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 24 hours - 1 x 2 hour seminar each week for 12 weeks
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Admission to fourth year Honours or the Graduate Diploma (Advanced) in the discipline of Philosophy.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability

Subject Overview:

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.

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.
  • Topical studies totalling 1000 words, for submission and class presentation, within the first 8 weeks of the semester (20%)
  • A 4000 word research essay, due at the end of semester (75%)

Hurdle requirement:

  • Students must attend a minimum of 75% of classes in order to pass this subject.
  • All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Note: Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 2% per day. After five days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked.

Prescribed Texts:

To be advised.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information: http://shaps.unimelb.edu.au/philosophy
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Graduate Certificate in Arts (Advanced) - Philosophy
Graduate Diploma in Arts (Advanced) - Philosophy
PC-ARTS Philosophy
PD-ARTS Philosophy

Download PDF version.