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The University of Southampton

PHIL6058 Scepticism

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To explore and critically discuss different forms of, and varieties of responses to, philosophical scepticism from Antiquity to the present day.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • some of the central ways of motivating the radical sceptical problem
  • some of the central ways of responding to the radical sceptical problem
  • the key assumptions that have radical sceptical implications
  • the epistemological implications of the various positions studied in the module
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • undertake independent work, including identifying and using appropriate resources
  • work effectively to deadlines
  • take notes from talks and written materials
  • contribute to discussion in a critical but dispassionate way
  • express views clearly and concisely
  • identify and evaluate the reasons for and against your own views and those of others
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse views and their implications
  • identify and evaluate arguments critically and sympathetically
  • present and debate ideas in writing, in an open minded and rigorous fashion
  • articulate and defend your own views regarding the issues the module concerns


In this module you can expect to explore topics such as: - Pyrrhonian scepticism - Cartesian scepticism - Contemporary forms of scepticism - Ways of ‘living with’ scepticism - Attempts to refute scepticism - Attempts to undermine the cogency of scepticism

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • In-class discussion, exercises and presentations • individual consultation with the module coordinator during office hours or by appointment Learning activities include • Attending lectures • Contributing to class discussion; completing exercises; giving presentations • Doing independent research for and writing assessed essays and exams

Completion of assessment task40
Preparation for scheduled sessions30
Wider reading or practice25
Follow-up work20
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1969).  On Certainty. 

Barry Stroud  Scepticism and the Senses. European Journal of Philosophy. ,17 (4) .

P F Strawson (1959).  Individuals. 

René Descartes (1986). Meditations on First Philosophy. 


Assessment Strategy

For MA students taking this module, expectations will be significantly higher than those for year 3 undergraduate students attending the same lectures, and the assessment criteria will accordingly by stricter. In particular students will be required to demonstrate extremely high levels of detailed and accurate exposition, critical engagement, organisation and presentation, with scholarship that draws on appropriate primary literature.


Business case or Essay plan


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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