PHIL20490 Knowledge & Scepticism

Academic Year 2022/2023

"A common refrain heard around New Scientist‘s offices in recent weeks has been “episte… what?!” Even among educated and well-informed people, epistemology – the study of knowledge – is neither a familiar word nor a well-known field of enquiry. But it has never been more important." - New Scientist Leader, 29 March 2017

This course is about *knowledge*, and related phenomena such as belief; justification; scepticism; testimony; and disagreement.

In the first part of the course, we address some of the core questions of epistemology, such as: what exactly *is* knowledge, and how does it relate to true belief? Do we really know as much as we think we do? And what is the difference between a justified and an unjustified belief?

In the second part of the course, we address questions concerning the *social* and *ethical* dimensions of knowledge, such as: how is knowledge transmitted from one person to another? Is it right to base our ethical beliefs on what others tell us? What is 'fake news', and how should we deal with it? And, are there ethical as well as rational standards of belief?

These are the central questions addressed in this module. We approach them by analysing classic and contemporary texts in epistemology; by carefully formulating arguments and responses to those arguments; and through discussion and debate.

The course is assessed on the basis of two research essays, each worth 50% of the final grade (there is no exam). Students will be supported in writing their essays by (i) an essay rubric; (ii) a sample essay written by the lecturer; (iii) essay templates; (iv) links to relevant essay-writing resources; and (iv) extensive feedback on both draft and submitted essays.

The course is taught by Dr. Daniel Esmonde Deasy (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, UCD School of Philosophy) and is delivered in the form of 24 one-hour in-person lectures and seven one-hour in-person tutorials. Lectures will consist in the presentation of content by the lecturer and in-class discussion.

[NOTE: If you are taking this module as an *elective*, then please note that it forms part of the Structured Elective *Philosophy of Mind* - see here: https://www.ucd.ie/students/electives/structured-elective-KK.html (copy and paste this address into your browser). Students can gain a Structured Elective in Philosophy of Mind (which is noted on their UCD Transcript) by completing 15 credits from the modules listed on the above webpage.]

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

As a result of studying this course, students will learn to:

1. CRITICALLY REFLECT on classic and contemporary debates in epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge)
2. IDENTIFY key concepts and theories in epistemology, and SHOW AWARENESS of potential problems that have led to the refinement of those concepts and theories in the course of the relevant debates
3. INTERPRET and UNDERSTAND classic and contemporary texts in epistemology
4. WRITE well-structured and well-argued philosophical essays that explain and critically assess the key concepts and theories introduced in the module
5. RESPOND to essay feedback
6. ARTICULATE their own responses to philosophical views; support them with reasons; and defend them in light of potential objections

Indicative Module Content:

The module is divided into two parts. In Part I, we address questions concerning the nature and scope of knowledge. In particular, we will address questions such as:

1. What is the relationship between knowledge, truth, and belief?
2. Is it possible to provide a strict definition of what it is to know something?
3. Does knowledge require certainty?
4. Does the justification of belief depend solely on what goes on in our heads, or also on how we relate to the world around us?
5. How should we respond to those who argue that we have no real knowledge of anything outside our own private experiences and sensations?

For an introduction to some of the topics of Part I, see here (copy and paste this link into your browser):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_Y3utIeTPg&t=123s

In Part II, we will address questions concerning the social and ethical dimensions of knowledge. In particular, we will address questions such as:

6. How do we gain knowledge from other people?
7. What is the rational response to disagreement?
8. Is it ever right to base our ethical beliefs simply on what other people tell us (even if they are reliable)?
9. What is 'fake news' and how should we respond to it?
10. Are there ethical as well as rational standards of belief, i.e. can it be wrong to believe something even if it is perfectly rational to believe it?

For an introduction to some of the topics of Part II, see here (copy and paste this link into your browser):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4AybWp4O8Q

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning

94

Lectures

24

Tutorial

7

Total

125

Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
1. TEACHING

This module is taught on the basis of 24 in-person lectures (two one-hour lectures per week for twelve weeks), and 7 one-hour in-person tutorials (delivered by a graduate tutor).

Lectures will be delivered in person during timetabled slots. Lectures will consist in the presentation of content by the lecturer and class discussion of the material.

In tutorials, students will have the opportunity to discuss and debate the week's readings and the material presented in the lectures in detail, as well as to raise questions concerning the material with the graduate tutor. Students will sometimes be divided into smaller groups who will discuss certain questions and then feed back their answers to the whole group. There will also be an opportunity to discuss essay plans and essay feedback in tutorials. Tutorials will often be structured around specific questions and readings provided in advance by the tutor or lecturer. 

2. LEARNING

Learning for this module is centred around (i) material presented in lectures; (ii) reading material and videos shared on Brightspace; (iii) discussion and debate; and (iv) essay writing.

Students will be expected to read short set texts in advance of the lectures; to attend lectures/seminars; and to actively participate in tutorials. Students will be supported in their learning of the module material by lecturers and tutors, both in lectures and tutorials, by email, and in set office hours. Students will be supported in their writing by a lecture on how to write a good philosophical essay; reading materials on how to write a good philosophical essay; substantial comments on draft essays; clear feedback on submissions by the lecturer and/or tutor; a clear rubric accompanying essays; and a sample essay. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.


Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Incompatibles:
PHIL20290 - Knowledge and Reality


 
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: A 1,500 word research essay on a topic introduced in the first part of the module. Week 6 n/a Graded Yes

50

Essay: A 1,500 word research essay on a topic introduced in the second part of the module. Week 12 n/a Graded No

50


Carry forward of passed components
Yes
 
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

1. The lecturer and tutor will provide feedback on draft essays prior to submission (as long as drafts are presented by an agreed date). 2. The first submitted essay will be returned with extensive comments from the lecturer. 3. After the first essay has been submitted, there will be group/class feedback from the lecturer/tutor. 4. Students will have the opportunity to engage in self-assessment activities prior- and post-submission in tutorials.

Name Role
Marta Dmuchowska Tutor
Ms Rachel Russell Tutor
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
 
Autumn
     
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Mon 11:00 - 11:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Wed 12:00 - 12:50
Tutorial Offering 1 Week(s) - 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Tues 16:00 - 16:50
Tutorial Offering 2 Week(s) - 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Wed 15:00 - 15:50
Tutorial Offering 3 Week(s) - 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Mon 14:00 - 14:50
Tutorial Offering 4 Week(s) - 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Tues 12:00 - 12:50
Tutorial Offering 5 Week(s) - 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Mon 16:00 - 16:50
Tutorial Offering 6 Week(s) - 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Wed 14:00 - 14:50
Autumn