84995 - Philosophy of Knowledge (1)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course you will master the core concepts of epistemology (truth, belief, epistemic justification, evidence); you will have a basic understanding of the problem of scepticism and the analysis of knowledge; and you will be acquainted with som e of the main views which are at the centre of current debates on such topics. Besides, you will have built up an initial ability to do philosophical analysis by devising examples and counterexamples, and a capacity to recognise the structure of the argume nts you meet.

Course contents

You will be introduced to some of the main issues of contemporary epistemology. The focus will be on the problem of scepticism (15 hours) and on the analysis of propositional knowledge (15 hours).


Compulsory reading:

Plato, Theaetetus (any edition), I-VIII (142a - 153d7); XXXVIII (200c7 - 201b5).

R. Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy. First Meditation (any edition).

Chaps. 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 12 from A. Coliva, C. Calabi, A. Sereni, G. Volpe (eds.), Teorie della conoscenza, Milan: Cortina 2015 (you can read the English texts instead of the Italian translations collected in this volume).

R. Nozick, Spiegazioni filosofiche, Milan: il Saggiatore 1987, pp. 197-201, 230-245. (1st ed. in English 1981.)


Suggested reading:

T. Piazza, Che cos'è la conoscenza, Rome: Carocci 2017, pp. 1-102.


Students not attending lectures:

Pages 1-102 of Piazza's book are required reading for students not attending lectures.


Teaching methods

Three two hours lectures per week in the third term, half devoted to the problem of scepticism (15 hours), half to the analysis of knowledge (15 hours). Students will be encouraged to contribute to whole class discussions.

Attendance to lectures is warmly recommended: it is the best way to become familiar with the background and tools that are necessary to understand the texts and the only way to contribute to whole class discussions. However, the lectures' recordings will be available for download on Virtuale.

Classes start on Monday 26 September.

Assessment methods

Oral examination. The viva will assess whether you have achieved the learning outcomes of the course. You will need to show that you are familiar with the main views of human knowledge that have emerged during the history of Western philosophy, especially in the twentieth century, as well as that you have acquired the terminological and conceptual competence required to understand contemporary debates on the problem of scepticism and the nature of knowledge, especially the notions of truth, belief and epistemic justification.


Grade assessment criteria

Grade range below 18 – Fail. Poor knowledge of core material, a significant inability to engage with the discipline. Very poor presentation.

Grade range 18-21 – Pass. Limited and superficial knowledge of the subject, a significant inability to follow the thread of the discussion. Presentation with many inadequacies.

Grade range 21-23 – Adequate. The knowledge is superficial, but the thread of the discussion has been consistently grasped. Presentation with some inadequacies.

Grade range 24-26 – Acceptable. Elementary knowledge of the key principles and concepts. The presentation is occasionally weak.

Grade range 27-29 – Good. Comprehensive knowledge. Good presentation.

30 – Very Good. Detailed knowledge with hints of critical thinking. Very good presentation.

30 cum laude – Outstanding. Excellent knowledge and depth of understanding. Excellent presentation.


During the viva you will not be allowed to use any written material, either on paper or in electronic format.

Teaching tools

The teacher will occasionally distribute handouts and project slides. These will then be made available for download on Virtuale.

Office hours

See the website of Giorgio Volpe