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Study information


Module titleEpistemology
Module codePHL3052
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Tom Roberts (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module introduces you to some of the most important topics in epistemology, which is the philosophical study of knowledge. The starting point for the module is the philosophical problem of scepticism: the challenge of showing how we can come to have knowledge of the world outside our minds. We will investigate and evaluate popular responses to scepticism, including foundationalist and coherentist theories, and then focus on individual ways of achieving knowledge, such as perception, testimony, and a priori reasoning.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module will familiarise you with core concepts in contemporary epistemology, and provide you with an understanding of central theories concerning the nature of knowledge; justification; and epistemic value. Upon completion of the module, you will also have acquired knowledge of the ways in which epistemological concerns relate to and inform wider issues in the discipline of philosophy, such as topics in metaphysics and the philosophy of science.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understand and explain the philosophical challenges raised by sceptical arguments;
  • 2. Demonstrate an acquisition of knowledge of different theoretical approaches to the nature of knowledge;
  • 3. Articulate your own arguments for and against different theories of knowledge;
  • 4. Explain in an informed way how epistemological problems are connected to issues in other philosophical domains, including metaphysics and the philosophy of science

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Analyze in a critical way different philosophical texts;
  • 6. Present and discuss, orally and in writing, a variety of philosophical concepts and arguments;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Illustrate and explain difficult ideas in writing and orally;
  • 8. Analyze complex ideas and concepts and reflect upon them critically;

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

Cartesian scepticism; foundationalism and coherentism; epistemic virtues and epistemic value; social epistemology; a posteriori and a priori knowledge; disagreement.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activity22Weekly 2-hour lectures/seminars or 1 hour lecture + 1 hour seminar.
Guided Independent Study45Weekly assigned readings
Guided Independent Study10Preparation for class discussion
Guided Independent Study23Preparation for essay
Guided Independent Study50Preparation for final examination

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Form of Assessment Detailed Essay Plan600 words1-8Verbal & Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1501500 words1-8Written
Essay 2501500 words1-8Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1Essay (1500 words)1-8August\September reassessment period
Exam 2Examination (1500 words)1-8August\September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic texts:

Pritchard, D. What is this thing called knowledge? Routledge, 2006.

Descartes, R. Meditations on first philosophy. Cambridge University Press, 1996/1647

Greco, J. ‘Virtues and vices of virtue epistemology’, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 23:413-432, 1993

Sosa, E. ‘The raft and the pyramid: coherence versus foundations in the theory of knowledge’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 5(1):3-16, 1980

Key words search

Epistemology; knowledge; justification; evidence.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Last revision date