PP2IDR2-Ignorance, Doubt, and Relativism 2

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Summer term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Prof John Preston

Email: j.m.preston@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

This module introduces students to a core area of philosophy – epistemology (the theory of knowledge), makes them familiar with key stances on the extent and nature of human knowledge (scepticism, empiricism, relativism, etc.), and requires them to evaluate such stances and find their place on the epistemological map.


This module encourages students to think about the extent and nature of knowledge in a characteristically philosophical way. It builds on earlier modules by putting into practice the skills of philosophical argument taught in Part 1. It informs students about historical and current debates in epistemology. It cultivates skills in oral and written argument. It encourages students to compare and contrast very different ways of approaching fundamental philosophical questions such as ‘What is knowledge?’, ‘What, if anything, can humans know?’, ‘What are the best ways of coming to know?’, ‘Is science knowledge?’ and ‘Is anything other than science really knowledge?’, ‘What is superstition?’.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students will gain awareness of historical and contemporary perspectives on issues in epistemology, learn skills of argument and presentation, and understand in depth the very ideas of epistemology and methodology. Students will continue acquiring and developing their own skills of research and enquiry: they will undertake research to produce a coursework essay, and learn how to critically appraise what they discover.

Additional outcomes:

Students will develop the skills of understanding and evaluating very different sorts of claims to knowledge. They will develop an awareness of the factors (conceptual, evidential, contextual, social, etc.) which feature in the construction and evaluation of knowledge-claims. They will hone their ability to evaluate claims to the effect that assertions and skills of various kinds constitute knowledge, or are justified to some extent or other.

Outline content:

Topics covered on the module will typically include: philosophical scepticism; the extent of human knowledge and justified belief; empiricist and non-empiricist conceptions of knowledge; claims about different ways of coming to know; perception and perceptual knowledge; epistemological relativism.

Global context:

The module will help students evaluate media claims and counter-claims about and on behalf of experts, and about ‘alternative facts’.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught by project supervision. Students are expected to attend 10 hours of meetings with their supervisor (in groups). All students are required to write one essay from a list of questions supplied by the module convenor. Students are encouraged to be active in all meetings, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others. A reading list and sample questions will be given out at the start of the course.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Project Supervision 10
Guided independent study 90
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Other information on summative assessment:

1 x written assignment, including essay

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Written assignment, to be completed in August

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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