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Modal, Epistemic, and Temporal Logic


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Filosofie, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including History of Modern Philosophy, Logica, Epistemologie or Wetenschapsfilosofie, Analytische filosofie.

  • BA students in Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including World Philosophies: Modern Europe, Logic, Epistemology or Philosophy of Science, Language of Thought.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement and who have to complete an advanced seminar, to be selected from package C.


Modal, epistemic, and temporal logics study the general laws governing necessity, possibility, knowledge, and time. Over the course of the twentieth century, exciting technical advances in the formal treatment of these notions have allowed philosophers to develop compelling and precise accounts of classical metaphysical and epistemological issues, ranging from questions of the contingency of existence to the openness of the future. Moreover, the basic tools used in the study of these notions can be fruitfully applied to many other notions of philosophical interest, including those of obligation and belief. The techniques of modal logic have impressively widespread application.

This course will equip students with the tools required to understand and engage with contemporary work in this tradition. We will first cover different systems of propositional modal logic, study several proof methods for these, and look at central metalogical such as soundness and completeness. This course will thus also serve as an introduction to some of the techniques and concepts of metalogic, the study of the properties of formal systems themselves. We will then move on to quantified modal logic, considering specific issues raised by epistemic and temporal logics along the way.

The course will primarily focus on mastering the technical skills of these logical systems, but we will pay attention to the philosophical issues raised throughout. Topics will include a selection of the following, according to student interest and time: the correct logic for time; de re vs. de dicto modality; the Barcan Formula; Frege’s Puzzle; and possibilism vs. actualism. Completion of weekly problem sets will be required.

Course objectives

This course will provide students with the basic technical tools required for the study of modal, epistemic, and temporal logics.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • possible-worlds semantics for propositional modal logic and its relations to the most important logical systems;

  • the relation of these systems to several target philosophical notions (metaphysical necessity/possibility, future/past, knowledge/compatibility with knowledge);

  • the language of quantified modal logic, as well as both fixed and variable domain semantics for its interpretation;

  • central philosophical issues raised by quantified modal logic.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • prove validity and construct counterexamples to formulas in propositional modal logic using possible-world semantics;

  • prove theorems in propositional and quantified modal logic;

  • analyze the relationship between informal philosophical concepts (necessity, possibility, knowledge, past, and future) and different formal systems of modal logic.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method

  • Weekly assignments on Brightspace (20%)

  • Midterm written examination (30%)

  • Final written examination (50%)

The questions on the assignments will consist in a mix of technical exercises (including proofs) and written assignments relating the technical matter to issues in philosophical interpretation.
Satisfactory completion of the weekly assignments is a prerequisite for sitting the exams.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the several subtests (see above).


The resit consists of one examination for both the midterm and final examination, consisting of a written exam covering the entire course content. The mark for the resit will replace all previously earned marks for the midterm and final exam (80%). No separate resits will be offered for mid- term tests.
Satisfactory completion of weekly assignments is a prerequisite for taking the resit and the grades for weekly assignments remain in place.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Rod Girle, Modal Logics, London: Taylor and Francis, 2014.


Enrolment through MyStudymap is not possible for this course. Students are requested to submit their preferences for the third-year electives by means of an online registration form. They will receive the instruction and online registration form by email (uMail account); in June for courses scheduled in semester 1, and in December for courses scheduled in semester 2. Registration in uSis will be taken care of by the Education Administration Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable.