Introduction to Epistemology

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 4
Thursday 06 October 2022
Friday 16 December 2022
28 April 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

Students taking this module will follow the topics described below. Each lecture will be followed by a one-hour discussion class, at which issues covered in the lecture will be discussed in smaller class groups.

This module encourages students to reflect on what kind of knowers they want to be and what kind of knowledge community they want to belong to. We will begin by reading recent work in virtue epistemology, which studies the so-called virtues and vices of the mind. We will discuss important epistemic virtues that can help us flourish as knowers, e.g., self-reflection, intellectual humility, and intellectual perseverance; and we will also read about epistemic vices that undermine our capacity to acquire knowledge, e.g., closed-mindedness, dogmatism, and intellectual laziness. We will then turn to social epistemology, with a particular focus on the importance of trust in our knowledge practices. Put simply, if we cannot trust the testimony of others and their claims to know things, it's difficult to see how we can know anything. With this insight in mind, we will pay special attention to the question of what makes the claims of science trustworthy.

Module aims

By the end of the module students should be able to:

explain some of the major approaches to theories of knowledge, virtue epistemology, and social epistemology as well as to today’s ethical challenges and to theorising about such challenges;

analyse critically the debates surrounding them.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

1. articulate certain philosophical problems in the areas studied;
2. expound and critically evaluate some responses to these problems;
3. employ their powers of philosophical argument and analysis in written work.

Module information

Begin your study of philosophy with an exploration of epistemology (the theory of knowledge). What does it mean to say that we 'know' something? How do our modes of practical interaction with the world and each other shape our ability to know different kinds of objects? Are there vices of the mind that distort our reasoning and lead our practical deliberations astray? What makes for virtuous knowers, and what for healthy knowledge communities? How important is trust in a functional knowledge community?

For more details, see Autumn Term of PY111-4-FY.

Learning and teaching methods

There will be a one-hour lecture and one-hour class/seminar each week, where issues from the lecture will be discussed in smaller groups. Reading Week will be Week 8.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Autumn Term Essay (1500 words)    100% 
Exam  Main exam: Remote, Open Book, 24hr during January 
Exam  Reassessment exam: Remote, Open Book, 24hr during September (Reassessment Period) 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Ellisif Wasmuth, email:



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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