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Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology (PH997-20/30)

This module adopts a distinctive approach to some central topics in the study of knowledge. It explores various ways in which familiar philosophical debates about the nature of knowledge can be informed, illuminated, and enlivened by philosophical accounts of the nature of mind.

We will start by considering work that focuses on the distinctions between different forms of knowledge – propositional knowledge, know how, and knowledge by acquaintance. So much of the philosophical literature focuses solely on propositional knowledge. But what do these varieties of knowledge have in common that make them all instances of knowledge, and what are the differences, and connections, between them? Among the questions we will consider is whether knowledge how is reducible to a form of propositional knowledge. We will then consider work on the differences between, and relations between, propositional knowledge and belief. Is propositional knowledge to be thought of as a mental state that is distinct from mere belief? Is propositional knowledge a relation to a fact, and belief a relation to a proposition? And if certain of our mental states are individuated in terms of ‘knowledge’, rather than belief, what bearing does this have on accounts of the justification and rationality of our mental states?

Finally, we will consider debates about the place and role of the notion of ‘epistemic virtues’ in an account of knowledge. What assumptions about the nature of minds and mental states are being made by those who advocate virtue epistemology, and how can such assumptions affect the stance one takes on more traditional epistemological concerns?

Module Director


Timing and CATS

This module will be running in the Spring term of the 2016/17 academic year and is worth 20 or 30 CATS depending on your programme of study.