Department:       Dept of Logic, History & Philosophy of Science, Universitat de Barcelona

When?       Tuesdays 18–20.30h, 18 February 2014 – 21 May 2014,

Where?       Room 412, Philosophy Faculty

Responsible:        Max Kölbel, ICREA Research Professor at Universitat de Barcelona

Office hour:       Tuesdays 17-18h, room 4051 Philosophy Faculty UB (or by appointment)


This course aims to introduce the participants to a range of central topics of contemporary epistemology. The preliminary plan for the course is to devote two or three sessions to each of the following topics:

1. Scepticism (3 sessions)

2. The Problem of Induction (3 sessions)

3. Testimony (3 sessions)

4. The Structure of Knowledge (2 sessions)


The course will be taught in the style of a seminar in which one article-length text (or two shorter texts) will be discussed every week. Each seminar will start with a very short introduction to the topic, followed by general discussion. Students will be expected to be prepared in each session either to defend or oppose the thesis of the assigned text. In particular, they should come prepared for a class debate that will follow the following pattern:

We will divide the participants into two groups, one that will defend, and one that will attack the theses defended in the text(s). Each group will have 10 minutes to construct a case for their position. Then each group presents their case. There will be opportunities for questions and objections and replies. After a break, the groups will re-group to construct an improved case for their position.


The participants will be assessed on the basis of class participation and one 2500-word essay (max.) on a question they may choose from a list of essay questions to be published towards the end of the course.


The readings will be available from the “readings” section of this blog, which is password protected. If you are a participant, I will tell you the password in class, or upon request by email.


1.    18 February 2014:    Introduction to the topics and discussion of the course format.

2.    25 February 2014:    Scepticism: Descartes (Meditations, 1st and 2nd Meditation)  and Moore (“Proof of an External World”, Proceedings of the British Academy 25. Reprinted in Collected Papers. Read pp. 144–8 of the reprint downloadable here).

3.    4 March 2014:    Scepticism: Dretske’s “The Pragmatic Dimension of Knowledge”, Philosophical Studies 40, pp. 363–78.

4.    11 March 2014:    Scepticism: David Lewis, “Elusive Knowledge”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74, pp. 549–67.

5.    18 March 2014:    Induction: Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding, §IV + §V pt 1;  and Russell, The Problems of Philosophy, Ch. 6, “On Induction”

6.    25 March 2014:    Induction: Hempel and Goodman, Fact, Fiction and Forecast, Ch. III: “The New Riddle of Induction”. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1955

7.    1 April 2014:    Induction: David Stove: “Another Attempt to Prove that Induction is Justified”, excerpt from The Rationality of Induction, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1986.

8.    8 April 2014:    Testimony: Locke,  Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book I, chaoter iv, §23, and book IV, chapter xx, §17.

David Hume, Enquiry Concening Human Understanding, Section 10 “Of Miracles”.

15. April 2014:    EASTER WEEK: NO CLASS

9.    22. April 2014:    Testimony:

Coady, T (1973). “Testimony and Observation”, American Philosophical Quarterly 10, pp. 149–55.

Reid, T. (1764). Inquiry into the human mind and the principles of common sense, Ch. 6, §24.

10.    29 April 2014:    Testimony: Jennifer Lackey (1999) “Testimonial Knowledge and Transmission”. Philosophical Quarterly 49, pp. 471–90.

11.    6 May 2014:    Structure of Justification: James Pryor: “There is Immediate Justification”. In Matthias Seut & Ernest Sosa (eds), Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, Oxford: Blackwell 2005, 181–202.

12.    13 May 2014:    Structure of Justification: Michael Williams: “Doing without Immediate Justification”. In Matthias Seut & Ernest Sosa (eds), Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, Oxford: Blackwell 2005, 202–16.

Further reading:

On Moore and scepticism:

Crispin Wright, “Scepticism, Certainty, Moore and Wittgenstein”, in M. Kölbel and B. Weiss (eds.), Wittgenstein;s Lasting Significance, London: Routledge 2003, pp. 223–43.

On “grue”:

Frank Jackson, “Grue”, Journal of Philosophy 72, pp. 113–131.

On Stove’s justification of induction:

Patrick Maher, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74, pp. 423–32.

Scott Campbell, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79, pp. 553–63.

On Testimony:

Martin Kusch and Peter Lipton (2002) “Testimony: A Primer”.  Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 33 (2002) 209–217.

Jennifer Lackey (2005) “Testimony and the Infant/Child Objection”. Philosophical Studies 126, pp. 163–90.

John Hardwig (1985) “Epistemic Dependence”. Journal of Philosophy 82, pp. 335–34.


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