Academic year
Michele Palmira
Department of Philosophy
Universitat de Barcelona
Master courses
Module 7. Issues in Contemporary Theoretical and Practical Philosophy
2019-02-12 - 2019-04-30
Tuesdays, 15:00-18:00
UB, Philosophy Faculty, room 401


Do we know that we are not in the Matrix? What else should be added to truth in order for a believed proposition to count as knowledge? Does perception immediately justify our empirical beliefs? What does it take for a proposition to be epistemically justified? Is there a distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this course.

The overall aim of the course is to familiarise you with the main issues and positions in contemporary epistemology about the problem of external world scepticism, the analysis of knowledge, the alleged different values between knowledge and truth, the notion of justification, and so on. The course will put you in a position where you can give reasoned arguments for your own views on the central questions of epistemology.




There will be a required textbook for the course: Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, 2nd edition, edited by Matthias Steup, John Turri and Ernest Sosa (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014). All the assigned readings are included in the textbook, so students are expected to purchase their own copy. (Both paperback and kindle editions are available on

There will be ten three-hour classes. After the first introductory session led by the instructor, each session will be run as a discussion-intensive seminar, where you are all expected to ask questions and participate in the discussion. You are expected to volunteer to do at least one presentation during the term. These presentations will be 15-20 minutes long. The seminar leaders will summarise and critically explain the central arguments from the assigned readings. You are expected to carefully read the assigned readings in advance and prepare questions and comments for discussion.

you can choose the date and topic of their presentations during the first session on 12/02/2018 (see the preliminary syllabus below).








The module will be evaluated by a weighted combination of various factors. Participation in class will be evaluated in terms of quality of preparation and of contributions to the discussion. Class presentation will be evaluated in terms of clarity of presentation. The essay will be due some time after the end of classes. You will be provided with a set list of questions. You can choose one of the questions and answer it, or else you can take it as a general guide or source of inspiration. The questions will be made available in the last third of the course. The essay will have a strict word limit of 3000 words. The weighting of the three factors is as follows:


Class participation: 15 %.

Presentation: 25 %.

Critical essay: 60 %.


Deadlines (tentative):

  • (Optional): First drafts, in order to receive feedback by the instructor: 1st
  • Final version of the essay: 25th


Basic Competences:

CB6 – Students should be able to critically understand central texts in epistemology in a way that puts them in a position to develop and apply original ideas.

CB9: Students should be able to communicate effectively their arguments and conclusions to a specialized audience in a clear and rigorous manner.

CB10: Students should be able to acquire learning skills that allow them to pursue their studies in an autonomous manner.


General Competences:

CG1: Students should be able to analyze, assess and construct valid arguments, and to identify formal and informal fallacies.

CG2: Students should be able to design, create and develop original research projects in their chosen areas of study in epistemology.

CG4: Students should be able to work both autonomously and as part of a team, in order to provide arguments for and against different positions in epistemology, and provide examples.


Specific Competences:

CE1: Students should be able to critically engage with the concepts and methods of contemporary epistemology.

CE2. Students should be able to identify the core arguments and theories of contemporary epistemology.

CE4. Students should be able to assess the writings of leading contemporary philosophers in the field of epistemology.

CE5. Students should be able to identify and critically engage with the current state of a particular philosophical debate, and form a reasoned view, even if provisional, about it.

CE7. Students should be able to critically use specialized terminology in the field of epistemology.





Background readings:

(-) Stanford Encyclopaedia Entry on the topic (accessible introduction, it contains links to other entries on most of the topics we will cover):


(-) Pritchard, D. (2013) What Is This Thing Called Knowledge?, London: Routledge.


Preliminary syllabus with readings for class:


Week 1 (February 12) – Introduction to Epistemology

(no reading)


Week 2 (February 19) – Scepticism and Explanation

Ch. 5: “Can Skepticism Be Refuted?”, by Jonathan Vogel and Richard Fumerton.


Week 3 (February 26) – “Knows”

Ch. 3: “Is Knowledge Contextual?”, by Earl Conee and Stewart Cohen.


Week 4 (March 5) – Closure

Ch. 2: “Is Knowledge Closed Under Known Entailment?”, by Fred Dretske and John Hawthorne.


Week 5 (March 12) – Justification and Dogmatism

Ch. 9: “Is There Immediate Justification?”, by James Pryor and Juan Comesaña.


Week 6 (March 19) – Internalism vs. Externalism about Justification

Ch. 13: “Is Justification Internal?”, by John Greco and Richard Feldman.


Week 7 (March 26) – Knowledge and Luck

Ch. 7: “Can Knowledge Be Lucky?”, by Duncan Pritchard and Stephen Hetherington.


Week 8 (April 2) – Knowledge-First Epistemology

Ch. 1: “Should Knowledge Come First?”, by Tim Williamson, Trent Dougherty and Patrick Rysiew.


Week 9 (April 9) – The A Priori-A Posteriori Distinction

Ch. 8: “Is There A Priori Knowledge?”, by Laurence BonJour and Michael Devitt.


Week 10 (April 30) – Pragmatic Encroachment

Ch. 4: “Do Practical Matters Affect Whether You Know?”, by Jeremy Fantl, Matthew McGrath, and Baron Reed.