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Epistemology: Contemporary Debates


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation History and Philosophy of the Sciences

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Natural Sciences

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Psychology


The philosophy of knowledge is a thriving field. No philosopher can avoid taking a stance on epistemological questions. Is truth the goal of inquiry? Is knowledge based on a foundation of observations? In what way does perception justify our beliefs about the world? We will start with cutting edge work on these long-standing questions. Each week, we will read pairs of epistemologists who respond critically to each other’s work and, of course, we will enter the fray.

Then we will move to a series of discussions revolving around a common theme – the objectivity of knowledge. We will discuss whether knowledge depends on context and whether practical interests can affect whether one knows. We will further discuss whether background beliefs shape what we observe and whether our total evidence always permits only one reasonable view or allows for irresolvable disagreements.

By the end of the course, you have will have a good sense of recent developments in epistemology and developed your own views on epistemic matters.

Course objectives

This course aims to introduce students to the central debates in current epistemology. Our focus throughout will be on philosophical discussion and argumentation, not only between the philosophers that we read but also amongst ourselves. At the end of the course, students are in a position to take a reasoned standpoint on the nature, structure and objectivity of knowledge.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • what is involved in knowing something;

  • the epistemic role of truth and evidence;

  • the ways in which knowledge may fail to be objective.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • formulate their views on knowledge and defend them against criticisms;

  • write in a confident, informed and precise manner about current issues in epistemology.


The timetable is available on the following websites:

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending seminars: 13 weeks x 3 hrs =: 39 hours

  • Weekly literature and assignments (including presentation): 13 weeks x 10 hours = 130 hours

  • Writing final paper (including research / reading additional literature): 111 hours

Assessment method


  • Mid-term paper (40%)

  • Final paper (60%)

Attendance and active participation in class is required for admission to the exam.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (see above).


The resit covers the entire exam (100%) and consists of of paper.
Attendance and active participation in class is required for admission to the resit.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory overall grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • class anouncements;

  • submitting essays and obtaining feedback.

Reading list

  • Contemporary Debates in Epistemology (2013). Matthias Steup; John Turri; and Ernest Sosa (eds.). Wiley-Blackwell. Note: we will be working with the newest edition of this book (this the second edition published in 2013; do not buy the earlier edition published in 2005).

  • Further materials will be made available in class.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number, which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. M.A. Lipman


Not applicable.