Shakespeare and the Analysis of Knowledge

Dr Dan O'Brien
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In this paper I discuss ways in which Shakespeare can be integrated into the study of the analysis of knowledge. The primary focus is on the Gettier problem: after laying out Gettier's argument against the traditional account of knowledge, I shall give a short sketch of a Gettier example that can be found in "The Comedy of Errors". Scenarios from certain other plays shall then be considered in more depth, and I shall show how the Gettier cases found there can be used to illuminate certain key epistemological issues such as those concerning the role of luck, self-knowledge and testimony. Others plays considered include "Othello", "Hamlet", "The Comedy of Errors", "Richard III" and "Much Ado about Nothing". At times, analytic philosophy takes an almost perverse pleasure in concocting bizarre examples and scenarios. These are sometimes very useful and illuminating (and often amusing), but to one not attuned, they can be off-putting. To counter such a reaction, I have shown here how other rich examples can be taken from literature. Such examples are beneficial because they help ground our philosophical concepts in psychologically plausible examples of human behaviour. They can also, perhaps, have a reciprocal effect on our appreciation of literature. A performance of "Othello", for example, does not just tell us something about the vicissitudes of human jealousy and weakness, but also something about human knowledge.

Keywords: Philosophy, Epistemology, Analysis of Knowledge, Gettier, Self-Knowledge, Testimony
Stream: Knowledge
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Shakespeare and the Analysis of Knowledge

Dr Dan O'Brien

Lecturer in Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Birmingham Edgbaston Birmingham 

After graduating in Biological Sciences / Genetics, I spent 4 years living in Birmingham working on various Arts and Crafts projects and reading Philosophy. This led to a part-time postgraduate diploma, MA, MPhil and PhD. I was extremely pleased to then secure a job in the Department in which I had studied, and this is now my fourth year there as a teacher. I have also taught Philosophy in various schools across Birmingham; classes were featured in a Times Educational Supplement article entitled 'Think about It'. My main research interests are in the Philosophy of Mind and Epistemology; This year I am teaching level 1 and level 3 modules in the Philosophy of Mind, and a level 2 module in Epistemology. I am currently under contract to write two books: An Introduction to Epistemology, Polity Press (forthcoming, 2005), and A Reader's Guide to Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Continuum (with A. Bailey) (Forthcoming, 2006); I have also been published in Discourse, Philosophy, Philosophy in Review, The Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Outside of Philosophy I am a keen outdoors enthusiast, cycle tourist and hillwalker.

Ref: H05P0199