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Issues In Philosophy (for non-Philosophy students) (PH141-15)


This module runs in the Autumn Term and is worth 15 CATS


The first few sessions will be on knowledge and scepticism. Sceptical scenarios are familiar in philosophy (Descartes), and in Hollywood (The Matrix). One question, then, is: can you know that you are not actually in a sceptical scenario? For example, can you know you are not in a Matrix-style scenario? If not, can you know any of the things you ordinarily think you know? Some philosphers argue that if you can't know you are not in a sceptical scenario then you can't know many of the things you think you know. Philosophers who argue in this way rely on something called the principle of epistemic closure so the first couple of lectures will focus on this principle

The last few sessions will be on the nature of persons and personal identity.


At the end of the module students should...

  • Have acquired a good understanding of some key issues in metaphysics, epistemology and philosophy of mind.
  • Be able to understand the main debates over the nature of knowledge, belief and persons.
  • Be able to articulate their own view of the relative merits of different positions in these debate.
  • Be able to critically analyse and evaluate philosophical argument.
  • Be able to display knowledge of key historical texts concerning knowledge, belief and persons.


In this module students must attend 2 hours of lectures and one hour of seminars per week

Lectures for 2014-15

Tuesdays 5pm-6pm L4 Thursdays 11am-12pm LIB2

There will be no lectures in reading week (week 6)

Seminars for 2014-15

Seminars start in week 2 and run for nine weeks.

There will be no seminars in reading week (Week 6)

Please sign up for a seminar group using Tabula.


This module can be formally assessed in the following ways:

  • 100% examination (2 hour)

In addition students are required to submit 2 unassessed essays of approximately 1500 words each via the department's coursework managament system in line with the 2014-15 essay deadlines schedule.


Weeks 1-5

Barry Stroud (1984) The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism. Oxford: OUP. Chapter 1, available on the course materials page.

Keith DeRose and Ted Warfield eds. (1999) Skepticism: A Contemporary Reader. Oxford: OUP. Introduction (by DeRose). Available at:

If you haven't already done so, you might also want to watch The Matrix.

Weeks 7-10

J. Perry (ed.) (2008) Personal Identity. University of California Press, 2nd edition. Introduction, available on the course materials page.

Course materials


Previous years

Please be aware that these materials may not be relevant to the current version of this module; they are intended primarily for students who took the module in other years.