PHIL 201 Epistemology

Fall Semester 2013 | Day | Burnaby


INSTRUCTOR: D. Anderson, WMC 5605 (david.anderson at


The word “know” is one of the most used words in the English language. This fact alone gives us reason to pay close attention to the concept of knowledge: to think clearly and carefully about what it is to know something rather than merely to believe it. Fortunately, we are aided in this task by the long philosophical tradition of epistemology. In this introductory course to the discipline, we will begin by examining the problems of perceptual knowledge as they were developed in the Early Modern period. We will then consider analyses of the concepts of knowledge and justification, and attempt to develop responses to some surprisingly powerful arguments for the conclusion that we don’t in fact know anything after all. Along the way, we will find it useful to discuss disembodied brains, chicken sexers, clairvoyants, cleverly painted mules, and brain lesions that cause you to believe that you have a brain lesion.


  • Moser, Paul K. and Arnold vander Nat, Human Knowledge: Classic and Contemporary Approaches, 3rd ed. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0195149661
  • Steup, Matthias, John Turri and Ernest Sosa, Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, 2nd ed. Blackwell, ISBN: 978-0470672099
  • NOTE: the Steup/Turri/Sosa volume will not be available until September 2013. We will begin using it midway through the course so you will not need it immediately.


  • Vaughn, Lewis and J.S. McIntosh, 2009. Writing Philosophy: A Guide for Canadian Students. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0195446746


  • Class participation - 5%
  • Reading responses - 10%
  • First midterm - 20%
  • Second midterm - 20%
  • Third midterm - 20%
  • Final paper - 25%

 Students will be required to submit written work to, for plagiarism-checking and also, possibly, for anonymous peer review or as the basis for class discussion.

Prerequisites: One of PHIL 100, 150 or 151, or COGS 100. Students who have taken PHIL 301 cannot take this course for further credit.