27387 - Methods of Scientific Knowledge

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Students are guided to focus on and analyze topics and issues emerging from a methodological reflection on logic-mathematical knowledge and scientific investigation.

Course contents

Module 1: Induction and scepticism

This module aims to provide an introduction to some classic forms of the problem of scepticism, with a focus on scepticism about inductive methods. Various forms of sceptical paradox, “Cartesian” and Humean” paradoxes in particular, will be explained. They will be understood as problems that arise from tensions internal to our cognitive practices and our conception of knowledge. As already said, we will focus on the problem of induction, in a very broad sense, namely the problem of providing a justification for any ampliative method of inference, or even more generally any cognitive method that has an element of fallibility. Various forms of reply to these paradoxes will then be explained and discussed.


Module 2: Philosophy of cognitive science

This module aims to provide an introduction to philosophy of cognitive science, or, as someone prefers to say, cognitive sciences, with an emphasis on the plurality of approaches to this field. Cognitive science was born in fact from the convergence of several fields of studies that relate to the mind and its cognitive capacities, such as reasoning and memory: psychology, artificial intelligence, neurology, linguistics, philosophy, and more. We will look at the way these disciplines combined, both from a historical and a conceptual point of view. We will then focus on the challenges posed in the last 30 years to the classic paradigm of cognitive science, which is based on the metaphor of the mind as a computer or information processor.



Module 1

René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, I and II meditation (any edition)

David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, sections. IV and V

Annalisa Coliva, Scetticismo. Dubbio, paradosso e conoscenza, Laterza 2012

Recommended readings (these texts are particularly recommended for students not attending the lectures regularly)

Daniele Sgaravatti, “Paradossi scettici”, APhEx, Portale Italiano di Filosofia analitica


Leah Henderson, “The Problem of Induction” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy



Module 2

Massimo Marraffa e Alfredo Paternoster, Persone, menti, cervelli. Storia, metodi e modelli delle scienze della mente, Mondadori 2011

Massimo Marraffa e Alfredo Paternoster (a cura di) Scienze cognitive. Un’introduzione filosofica, Carocci 2011, specialmente capp. 3-5

Recommended readings (these texts are particularly recommended for students not attending the lectures regularly)

Diego Marconi, Filosofia e scienza cognitiva, Laterza 2001

Marcello Frixione, Come ragioniamo, Laterza 2009

Assessment methods

Written and oral examination.


30 cum laude - excellent as to knowledge, philosophical lexicon and critical expression.

30 – Excellent: knowledge is complete, well argued and correctly expressed, with some slight faults.

27-29 – Good: thorough and satisfactory knowledge; essentially correct expression.

24-26 - Fairly good: knowledge broadly acquired, and not always correctly expressed.

21-23 – Sufficient: superficial and partial knowledge; exposure and articulation are incomplete and often not sufficiently appropriate

18-21 - Almost insufficient: superficial and decontextualized knowledge. The exposure of the contents shows important gaps.

Exam failed - Basic skills and knowledge are not sufficiently acquired. Students are requested to show up at a subsequent exam session.

Teaching tools

Power point slides will be used during lectures.

Further materials (papers, slides) will be uploaded in the course website.

Office hours

See the website of Daniele Sgaravatti