The Flammaroin Engraving (1888)

Knowledge and Its Problems: An Introduction to Epistemology

Wintersemester 2022/23 Seminarplan Vorlesung mit Übungen Mittwochs, 12–14 Uhr, Übungen Freitags, 8–10 Uhr und 10–12 Uhr Max-Kade-Auditorium 1 (Alte Universität)

Please read the syllabus carefully!

This lecture offers an overview of contemporary epistemology and introduces the basics of philosophical logic (propositional and predicate logic). At the same time, it introduces non-philosophy students to philosophy in the sense of working on conceptual problems, questions, and arguments. Students of all disciplines will profit from the introduction to conceptual thinking and logic.

The lecture is structured around problems encountered in thinking about knowledge, loosely based on Michael Williams’ Problems of Knowledge: A Critical Introduction to Epistemology (Oxford 2001):

  1. The Analytical Problem. What is knowledge and how can we define it? The lecture introduces the so-called “standard analysis of knowledge” as justified true belief (JTB) and the famous counterexamples by E. Gettier. We then discuss the most important contemporary theories of knowledge (internalism, externalism, virtue epistemology, knowledge-first epistemology etc.) with a focus on their core ideas and arguments.

  2. The Problem of Scepticism. Can we know anything at all? How can we know that we do (not)? The lecture outlines the most common sceptical positions and arguments (Agrippa’s trilemma, Cartesian scepticism) as well as the attempts to refute them.

  3. The Problem of Boundaries. What different kinds (know-how, know-that) and sources (perception, testimony, memory) of knowledge are there? How do we explain and distinguish them? We will focus on testimony as a source of knowledge and the resulting recognition of the social aspects of epistemology.

  4. The Problem of Value. Why do we aspire to gain knowledge? Why does true belief not suffice? The lecture discusses the intertwinement of values and knowledge by considering contributions from feminist epistemology.

  5. The Problem of Method. How do we gain knowledge? What role do rationality and reason play in epistemology? How should we do epistemology? We will concentrate on the last question and consider different traditions in epistemology.

Please read the syllabus carefully!


  1. Übungsgruppe: Friday, 8–10 Uhr, AU 01036a
  2. Übungsgruppe: Friday, 8–10 Uhr, AU 01065
  3. Übungsgruppe: Friday, 10–12 Uhr, AU 01036a
  4. Übungsgruppe: Friday, 10–12 Uhr, AU 01065

Allgemeine Literatur zur Vorbereitung

Nagel, Jennifer (2014): Knowledge. A very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pritchard, Duncan (2014): What Is This Thing Called Knowledge? Third ed. London: Routledge.

Tanesini, Alessandra (1999): An Introduction to Feminist Epistemologies. Oxford: Blackwell.

Williams, Michael (2001): Problems of Knowledge. A Critical Introduction to Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


The lecture is a mandatory part of the Core in the module “Theory of Knowledge.” There are no special requirements for taking it.


Examination: Written exam (100%), 8th of February 2022, 12–14h. Resit 8th of March 2022

Pass/Fail Examination: To be eligible for the exam, students must give an oral presentation on one of the texts discussed in the workgroups.