Advanced issues in cognitive sciences and philosophy (5cr)

Master courses
Mandatory Philosophy courses
Start / End: 
25/01/2021 - 05/02/2021
Monday to Friday, 10:00 - 13:00
Online. Please email instructor for the link.

The course is concerned with two central questions: what we know and what we should believe. It approaches these questions by examining candidate principles for knowledge and justified belief. Examples of such principles are: what is known is true; one should believe only what one knows; it is not justified to have contradictory beliefs; it is justified to believe what follows from one’s beliefs, and so on. Studying such principles is one of the main ways in which contemporary philosophers gain insight into what knowledge is, what we know and what we should believe




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 their knowledge and their arguments to specialized audiences in a clear and articulate way.

CG2. Students should be able to design, create, develop and undertake new and innovative projects in their area of ​​expertise.

CG3. Students should be able to engage both in general and specific discussions in the domain of epistemology. They should be able to conduct a philosophical discussion (orally and in written form), by putting forward, for example, general arguments or specific examples, in support of one’s position.

CG4. Students should be able to work both independently and in a team, in an international environment.

CG5. Students should be able to identify methodological errors, rhetorical, conventional and uncritical assumptions, vagueness and superficiality.

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

CE2. Students shoulld 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.


Structure and Contents: 
Topics. The first week, taught by Sven Rosenkranz, provides a general introduction to epistemology, its central conceptual distinctions and core questions (25 - 29 January, 2021). The second week is taught by Julien Dutant, King’s College London (1 - 5 February, 2021). It will cover views of knowledge in Western philosophy, the contemporary debate on the analysis of knowledge, some influential contemporary theories of knowledge and their implications for some of our principles. It will also ask what we should believe, in particular whether we should believe what is sufficiently probable, whether our beliefs should be coherent, whether we should believe the consequences of what we believe, and whether we may believe things we know we don’t know. Along the way it will provide students with formal tools that are essential for epistemology: epistemic logic, probability theory, epistemic utility theory. A detailed provisional programme for week 2 is provided below.
Provisional programme for week 2. The programme may be adjusted before the course starts. Main readings for each unit are listed; these are not mandatory, but recommended for those who wish to get deeper in some topic.
Week 2, Day 1: The concept of knowledge
    Knowledge in the history of philosophy
    Theories of knowledge since Gettier
Week 2, Day 2: Epistemic Logic
    Introduction to epistemic logic
    An application: Lewis’ theory of knowledge
Week 2, Day 3: Safety and the KK principle
    From epistemic logic to safety
    The KK principle
Week 2, Day 4: Epistemic enkrasia; Introduction to probability theory and epistemic utility theory
    Epistemic enkrasia
    Introduction to probability theory and epistemic utility theory
Week 2, Day 5: The Lottery and the Preface
    The lottery paradox and the preface paradox
    Knowledge-based approaches to the lottery and preface

The course will combine lectures by the course instructors with seminar-like discussions to which students are expected to actively contribute. A list of mandatory readings (about 50 to 100 pages in total) will be communicated before the Christmas break. Some preparatory readings are also suggested in the bibliography.

Evaluation. Evaluation will be based on active participation in class and a final essay, of around 3000 words, on a pertinent question to be agreed with the course instructors.
COVID-19. In the event that the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the course will be given online, using Zoom. Students will be expected to connect during the indicated hours for the entire course and to actively participate during the discussion periods. The essay submission and evaluation processes will stay the same. Students will be informed on time whether the course will be held online.

Students who wish to start preparing early may consult one or several of the following. (To be clear, these are not the mandatory readings for the course; those will only be provided before the Christmas break.) Nagel, Jennifer. 2014. Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press. Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5, 7. A brief, accessible and rigorous introduction to a number of topics presented in the course. Papineau, David. 2012. Philosophical Devices. Chaps 7 and 8. A brief and easy introduction to probability. Bradley, Darren. 2015. A Critical Introduction to Formal Epistemology. Chaps 1, 2, 3 offer a clear introduction to probability with a focus on epistemology. Hendricks, Vincent and Symons, John. 2006. "Epistemic Logic", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Section 1 offers a brief introduction to epistemic logic.