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The University of Southampton

PHIL2021 Epistemology

Module Overview

Epistemology is dedicated to questions about the nature and structure of knowledge and justified belief. Some central questions in epistemology include: - What is knowledge? Why is it valuable? - To gain knowledge from a reliable source, does one need to know that the source is reliable, or is it enough for the source simply to be reliable? - What is justified belief? Is evidence necessary for justified belief, or can some beliefs be justified without evidence? - Is the justification of a person's beliefs determined just by the person's mental states, or might factors external to the mind play an essential role? - Where, if at all, do sceptical arguments go astray? While epistemology has traditionally focused on individual knowers, the field has recently taken an interpersonal turn, examining new questions concerning the social dimensions of knowledge. The course will cover some of this new work in social epistemology in addition to classics in individual epistemology.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To explore and critically assess some central views and arguments in epistemology.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • some of the central views in epistemology.
  • the arguments for and against these views.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • undertake, with adequate supervision, independent work, including identifying and using appropriate resources.
  • work effectively to deadlines.
  • take notes from talks and written materials.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • relate the issues the module concerns with those in other areas of philosophy, including the history of philosophy
  • analyse the views and arguments which epistemologists advance.
  • present and debate ideas, both orally and in writing, in an open minded and rigorous way.


The syllabus may vary from year to year. Topics might include: - Central sceptical problems and proposed solutions - The analysis of knowledge - The nature of justified belief - The value of knowledge. - Social epistemology

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - Lectures - In-class discussion - One to one consultation with the module coordinator Learning activities include - Attending classes - Contributing to class discussion - Doing independent research for and writing assessed work

Completion of assessment task23
Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Follow-up work24
Wider reading or practice24
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

D H Pritchard (2006). What is this Thing Called Knowledge?. 

J Dancy (1985). Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 50%
Examination  (90 minutes) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


No additional costs have been associated with this module.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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