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The University of Southampton

PHIL6070 Self-Knowledge

Module Overview

We seem to know our own minds - our beliefs, desires, intentions, thoughts, feelings and sensations - in a distinctively secure and immediate way, without having to rely on observation of our own behaviour. Such self-knowledge seems different from knowledge of other people or of the world around us, and is arguably part of what is special about persons. Though self-knowledge is familiar and effortless, it is puzzling. This course will examine a range of philosophical problems associated with self-knowledge, such as: How do we come to know our own minds? What (if any) are the differences between self-knowledge and knowledge in other domains (e.g. knowledge of other people's minds)? What explains these differences? Can the answers to these questions be reconciled with plausible accounts of the objects of self-knowledge, i.e. mental states and their contents? Do recent findings in empirical psychology show that we are more ignorant about our own minds than we suppose? How is self-deception possible?

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the philosophical issues raised by questions about self-knowledge.
  • central theories about self-knowledge and the problems which these theories face.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • interpret, synthesise and criticise complex texts and positions.
  • present ideas clearly and carefully.
  • debate and criticise ideas and arguments in an even-handed fashion.
  • articulate and defend your own views regarding the issues the module concerns.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify and use appropriate source material
  • present and debate ideas in an open-minded but rigorous way
  • undertake, with appropriate supervision, independent work, including identifying and analysing problems, and working effectively to deadlines.


The syllabus may vary from year to year. Topic might include: (1) The distinctive characteristics of self-knowledge. (2) What (if any) are the differences between self-knowledge and knowledge in other domains? What explains these differences? (3) How do we come to know our own minds? (4) Forms of self-knowledge and accounts of the objects of self-knowledge. (5) The implications of empirical psychology for the philosophy of self-knowledge. (6) Self-deception.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - Lectures - In-class discussion - One-on-one consultation with module co-ordinator Learning activities include - Attending classes - Contribution to class discussion - Doing independent research for and writing assessed work

Independent Study117
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Q Cassam (1994). Self-Knowledge. 

Self-Knowledge. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Wright, C., Smith, B.C., and Macdonald, C. (1998). Knowing Our Own Minds. 



Business case or Essay plan


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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