Spring 2021

Theory of Knowledge

Listed in: Philosophy, as PHIL-335

Formerly listed as: PHIL-35


Lauren J. Leydon-Hardy (Section 01)


This is a course on epistemology, the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Consider two parallel scenarios. In both cases you ask a passer-by for directions to the store. In the Good Case, the passer-by happens to be an employee of the store. In the Bad Case, they simply take a confident guess. In either case the passer-by gives you identical directions. From your perspective, the testimonies are indistinguishable, and in both cases you form a true belief.

 Are you better off in one case than the other? One thought might be that in the Good Case, you acquire knowledge, whereas in the Bad Case you acquire a (fortuitously) true belief. Is there a difference between knowledge and true belief? What is the relationship between our reasons for belief and the status of our beliefs (like whether a belief is somehow justified, or counts as knowledge)? Can we know anything at all? Or does the arguably pervasive possibility of being in a near-miss situation, like the Bad Case, undermine our claim to truly knowing much of anything?

This course will address why we should care about what knowledge is, and what it requires; the relationship between our reasons for belief and the biases that we have and their impact on the credibility we afford to members of marginalized groups; ways that our identities intersect with our ability to both acquire and to disseminate knowledge; and whether we have an obligation to speak out against what is false, or unjustified.

Requisite: One course in PHIL or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring Semester semester. Assistant Professor Leydon-Hardy.

If Overenrolled: Majors will be given priority, then students admitted by class.


Attention to Writing, Online Only


2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Spring 2017, Fall 2019