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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHIL2615 How Do You Know? Topics in Epistemology

20 creditsClass Size: 120

Module manager: Joshua Habgood-Coote

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

Pre-requisite qualifications

PHIL1090 Knowledge, Self and Reality or PHIL1555 Philosophy for PPE

Module replaces

PHIL2405 Introduction to Epistemology

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module will introduce students to some of the central topics in epistemology and the strategies philosophers have used to address those topics. Epistemology asks questions about the nature of knowledge and justification. For example, what makes a belief justified? Are justified beliefs sufficient for knowledge? Are they necessary for knowledge? What knowledge could we have?


Students taking this module will explore the nature of justification, belief and knowledge. This module will cover central questions, such as:

* What is knowledge? Can the concept be defined?
* Can we know about an external world? Or might we be living in a simulation? If we cannot have knowledge, can we still have justified beliefs?
* Can we know about mathematics/logic? If not, can we still have justified beliefs about mathematics/logic? Do we have a priori insight into these fields? If so, does this conflict with naturalism?
* What is evidence? Can the concept be defined? Is it a normative concept? How is it related to experience?
* How should we respond to evidence? Does Bayesianism offer a satisfactory account?

Lectures will guide students through the main issues, questions and arguments, which students will then be able to explore in more detail in seminars, to develop their own view about the issues explored.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of the module students will have demonstrated the following learning outcomes relevant to the subject:

1. Accurately explain arguments and ideas in some of the epistemological literature studied

2. Analyse and evaluate arguments in the relevant epistemological literature

3. Construct rationally persuasive arguments in support of your own view about the relevant epistemological literature

Skills Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of the module students will have demonstrated the following skills learning outcomes:

4. Communicate ideas and understanding clearly and concisely, using appropriate academic language (Academic and Work Ready skill)

5. Critically analyse source material and demonstrate independence of thought (Academic and Work Ready skill)

6. Search for appropriate material to support knowledge and analysis of topics (Academic, Work Ready, Digital and Sustainability skill)

7. Conform to standards of academic integrity including when and how to appropriately acknowledge someone else’s work (Academic and Work Ready skill)


Topics covered may include the following:

1. The case for scepticism - the thesis that we typically know nothing or next to nothing;
2. The analysis of knowledge, or whether there are informative necessary and sufficient conditions for someone's knowing that something is the case;
3. The nature of justification: under what conditions do we have the right to be sure about our beliefs? Is this justification "internal" to us, so that we can spot it from the "inside"? In order to be justified in a belief, does that belief have to be based on another belief we're justified in believing?
4. The sources of knowledge and justification: are we justified in believing things on the basis of testimony? On the basis of our memory? On the basis of our senses? On the basis of inductive reasoning? And if so, why?
5. Other related issues concerning knowledge and justification.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours181.00
Total Contact hours19.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Formative assessment in this module is designed to facilitate (i) differentiated instruction, (ii) active student reflection on skills development, and (iii) student choice. In addition to the formative feedback available to students in office hours and seminar-based activities, students are invited to complete one piece of formative work which will receive written feedback. In this module, students are given three options:

essay plan

literature review

exposition and critique of a philosophical argument or position

By giving students a choice, this formative assessment takes account of variations in prior knowledge and skill development, and it enables the instructor to respond to students’ individual needs. It also builds students’ academic self-conception and encourages them to take ownership over their intellectual development. To do this, and to ensure that students get the formative feedback they need, each student is required to select an option after critical reflection on the skills that they judge they most need to work on. They are asked to read and reflect on (i) the feedback they received in previous summative assessments, (ii) the PRHS marking criteria for their upcoming summative assessment, and (iii) the specific guidance provided on the summative assessment in this module. These exercises encourage students to engage with previous feedback, think about current expectations, and take an active role in honing their knowledge and skill development.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000 word essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2024 16:19:42


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