The Flammaroin Engraving (1888)

Introduction to Epistemology

Wintersemester 2023/24 Seminarplan Vorlesung mit Übungen Mittwochs, 12–14 Uhr, Übungen Donnerstags, 16–18 Uhr und 18–20 Uhr Max-Kade-Auditorium 1 (Alte Universität)

Please read the syllabus carefully!

This course offers an overview of contemporary epistemology with a primer on 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.

The primer on propositional and first-order logic is based on standard textbooks for logic in philosophy. The overview of epistemology is structured according to Michel Williams’ five systematic problems of epistemology:

  1. The Analytical Problem. What is knowledge and how can we define it? In the lecture, we start from the so-called “standard analysis of knowledge” as justified true belief (JTB) and the famous counterexamples by E. Gettier. We then dis¬cuss the most important contemporary theories of knowledge (internalism, externalism, virtue epistemology etc.) with a fo¬cus 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 includes a discussion of 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? The lecture focuses 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? The lecture concentrates on the last question and considers different traditions in epistemology.
Please read the syllabus carefully!


  1. Übungsgruppe: Thursday, 16–18 Uhr, AU 01036a
  2. Übungsgruppe: Thursday, 18–20 Uhr, AU 01065
  3. Übungsgruppe: Thursday, 16–18 Uhr, AU 01036a
  4. Übungsgruppe: Thursday, 18–20 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.


Graded Examination I (20%): Students must give a short presentation of one core text in the workgroups.

Graded Examination II (80%): Written exam on 7 February 2024 (80%). Re-Sit on 19 March 2024.