Introduction to Epistemology

The details
Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 4
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 15 December 2023
12 October 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

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.

The module begins by considering why we possess the concept of knowledge at all. What good is it? What does it do for us? It will then explore some recent work in social epistemology, reflecting on how knowledge is an interpersonal phenomenon, focusing on the phenomena of echo chambers, epistemic injustice, and the role of trust in our knowledge practices.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To explain some of the major approaches to virtue and vice epistemology, social epistemology, and political epistemology, as well as to questions about selfhood and identity, and to theorising about such challenges.

  • To analyse critically the debates surrounding them.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to 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

The module will also explore political epistemology, looking at how politics shapes knowledge production and vice versa; we will focus in particular here on propaganda and belief polarization.

Finally, we turn our attention to virtue and vice epistemology, which study 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 and intellectual perseverance; and we will also read about epistemic vices that undermine our capacity to acquire knowledge, e.g., closed-mindedness and dogmatism.

By the end of the module, students will better understand how individual, social, and political factors interact in the human pursuit of knowledge.

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?

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 1-hour lecture per week.
  • One 1-hour class/seminar per week where issues from the lecture will be discussed in smaller groups.

There will also be a Reading Week when no teaching will take place, exact week to be confirmed.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

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

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Matthew Burch, email:
PHAIS General Office - 6.130;



External examiner

Dr Josiah Saunders
Durham University
Associate Professor
Available via Moodle
Of 36 hours, 36 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


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