Admission to one of the following programmes is required:
MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Knowledge
MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Natural Sciences
MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Psychology
No philosopher can avoid taking a stance on broad epistemological and methodological questions. What should we think of intellectual disagreements, can two conflicting parties both be right? Are facts ‘constructed’? Can perception be a neutral arbiter and objective source of evidence? What is the place of philosophy in scientific inquiry at large? These are some of the questions that we will discuss in this course.
The course is structured around three related themes, seen through the lens of three (short) books. The first theme is that of relativism and constructivism, roughly the idea that we have no access to mind-independent facts but only to conceptualized facts, with the (alleged) result that there are different facts relative to different conceptual schemes, and new facts when there are new concepts. We will read Boghossian’s much discussed book Fear of Knowledge: against Relativism and Constructivism.
The second theme will be that of our perceptual access to the world. There has been much discussion of the fact that prior beliefs and desires can influence what we observe in the world. This raises the question: can perception then still serve as a way of gathering new information and evidence? We will read (two thirds of) Susanna Siegel’s recent book The Rationality of Perception.
The third theme will be that of philosophical methodology. There is currently much discussion of the idea that the point of philosophy is to improve our language and create new concepts. The aim is not passive analysis but active conceptual engineering, or so some argue. We will read Herman Cappelen’s recent book Fixing Language: An Essay on Conceptual Engineering.
For each theme we will also look at critical responses and book symposia. By the end of the course, you will have a good sense of recent debates in epistemology and methodology, and you will have developed your own views on these matters.
This course aims to introduce students to some of the central debates in current epistemology and philosophical methodology. Our focus throughout will be on philosophical discussion and argumentation, not only between the philosophers that we read but also amongst ourselves.
Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:
what is involved in knowing something;
the ways in which knowledge may fail to be objective;
the nature and epistemic role of perctual evidence;
current developments in philosophical methodology.
Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:
formulate their views on knowledge and methodology, and defend them against criticisms;
write in a confident, informed and precise manner about current issues in epistemology (broadly construed).
Mode of instruction
Class attendance is required.
Students will write two short argumentative papers (of 2000 words) as well as weekly writing assignments.
The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the two subtests:
Midterm paper (50%)
Final paper (50%)
The weekly assignments need to be completed in order to pass the course. Similarly, proper attendance and preparation are required to pass the course.
The resit offers the opportunity to students who obtained an insufficient overall grade for the course to write a longer paper that counts for 100% for the overall grade, overwriting the grades for both the midterm and the final essay.
Sufficient attendance at the seminars and adequate weekly preparation for the seminars is a condition for participation in the resit.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory overall grade for the course cannot take the resit.
Inspection and feedback
Essays and feedback will be made available through Turnitin.
Although they are available through the University Library as e-books, it’s recommended that students consider buying the following books:
Boghossian, P. (2006). Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism. Oxford University Press.
Cappelen, H. (2018).* Fixing Language: An Essay on Conceptual Engineering.* Oxford University Press.
Siegel, S. (2017). The Rationality of Perception. Oxford University Press.
Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website
Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number, which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.
Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs