PH224      Half Unit

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Anna Mahtani


This course is available on the BSc in Philosophy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


Students must have, or be in the process of completing PH111 Introduction to Logic (or PH101/PH104).

Course content

Each of us represent the world as being a certain way. Perhaps we have knowledge about the world, or at any rate beliefs, or probabilities in certain possibilities. But how do we arrive at these representations? Do these representations reflect reality? And which conditions should they satisfy in order to be rational? Are perception, memory, testimony and intuitions reliable sources of information? The way that we represent the world affects the choices that we make, but how exactly do or should we arrive at decisions? These are some of the questions that we cover in this course on epistemology.

The first half of the course is an exploration of classic epistemology. We begin with the argument for skepticism about the external world, and in seeking to solve this problem we consider a range of positions and arguments in epistemology, including: the JTB account; the causal theory of knowing; reliabilism; internalism and externalism; contextualism and semantic externalism.

The second half of the course focuses on modern formal epistemology. Moving from a qualitative to a quantitative concept of belief, we explore Bayesian epistemology – a powerful account of rational degrees of belief or credence. We consider a series of puzzles for Bayesian epistemologists: the sleeping beauty problem; imprecise probabilities; awareness growth; and the surprise exam paradox. 

Throughout, the aim will be to give a sharp understanding of key concepts, arguments, and the logical relationships between different ideas. We aim to give students a conceptual toolbox for rigorous analysis that can be applied to a range of areas.


10 hours of lectures, 10 hours of classes and 2 hours of workshops in the MT.

Lectures are taught alongside PH501 postgraduate students.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.

Indicative reading

  • Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy;
  • Barry Stroud, The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism;
  • Laurence BonJour, Epistemology: Classic Problems and Contemporary Responses, 2nd Edition;
  • Brian Skyrm, Choice and Chance


Essay (80%, 2000 words) in the period between MT and LT.
Exercise (10%) and class participation (10%) in the MT.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2020/21: 21

Average class size 2020/21: 7

Capped 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills