PP2TK-Theory of Knowledge

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Dr Mark Tebbit

Email: m.w.tebbit@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
To introduce students to the traditional and contemporary problems in the theory of knowledge, explaining the difference between knowledge and belief, the role of justification and evidence, and exploring a variety of theories of knowledge. The role of perception in knowledge and the structure of perceptual experience will also be a prominent part of the course.

To introduce students to the study of knowledge, including exploring the difference between knowledge and belief, the role of justification and evidence, and examining different possible sources of knowledge. Sceptical issues, such as doubt about the external world and the veracity of perceptual beliefs will also be explored.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of this module, students will be able to develop a clear analysis of the conditions for knowledge and will be able to explain clearly the difference between various theories of justification and knowledge, and to explain various lines of defence of either. They will understand the arguments for and strategies against scepticism, and will be familiar with a range of theories and positions on the nature of knowledge. Students will also understand the major issues and problems dividing the principal schools of thought on the nature of perception in relation to the world, and the structure of perceptual experience, with reference to classical empiricism and contemporary conceptualism.

Additional outcomes:
Theory of Knowledge is one of the core areas in past and present philosophy. The study of it will give students an invaluable platform for further in-depth study in other areas. Along with the intrinsic value of studying the topics covered, the placing of them in a historical context will give students an advantage in appreciating contemporary research and looking at how current philosophers address these age-old problems. Finally, students will gain skills in the analysis of arguments and key texts, together with the oral presentation and defence of their views in seminars.

Outline content:
The module consists of two distinct but connected parts. The first, on theories of knowledge and justification, addresses the fundamental philosophical question of how we can know anything about the world we live in, and the problems of justifying our beliefs about it. From the outset of the course, the spectre of complete scepticism will be raised. Close analysis of the conditions of knowledge will be followed by considering the foundationalist, coherentist and contextualist attempts to defeat scepticism. The second part will focus on perception as our principal source of knowledge. Various versions of empiricism will be explored to see how accurately they deal with the difficulties in explaining the nature of perceptual experience and its connection with the world perceived. Philosophers featuring prominently in this module include Plato, Descartes and Montaigne, Hume, Thomas Reid, Kant, Peirce, Russell, Wittgenstein, J.L.Austin, A.J.Ayer, Sellars, Putnam, Nozick and McDowell.

Sample Reading List
Dan O’Brien, An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge (2nd edition) (Course Text)
Michael Williams, Problems of Knowledge
Jonathan Dancy, An Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology
Matthias Steup & Ernest Sosa, Contemporary Debates in Epistemology
Michael Huemer & Robert Audi, Epistemology: Contemporary Readings
Barry Maund, Perception
Robert Schwartz (ed), Perception

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
This module is taught by lectures, seminars and essay preparation and guidance. Students are encouraged to be active in all classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Guided independent study 170
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 70
Written assignment including essay 30

Other information on summative assessment:
There will be two essays, of 1500 – 2000 words, worth a total of 30% of the final mark.

Electronic Submission
All coursework should be submitted electronically via Blackboard.

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:
    There will be a 2-hour examination, worth a total 70% of the final mark, in which you will be required to answer 2 questions from a list of 6 within 2 hours. The paper will consist of two sections, with one question to be answered from each section.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination in August by written examination only.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 9 January 2017

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