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Unit information: Scepticism in 2015/16

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Unit name Scepticism
Unit code PHIL30121
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Pyle
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit links the History of Philosophy with one of the central issues in Epistemology. The first part is broadly historical, and focuses on Pyrrhonian, Cartesian, and Humean scepticism, discussing their characteristic features, motivations, and problems. The second half is more analytic, discussing a number of responses to scepticism in twentieth-century epistemology, from the re-affirmation of common sense (Moore) down to contextualism (Lewis).

Unit Aims:

  1. To enable students to develop in-depth knowledge of the main types of sceptical argument deployed through the History of Philosophy.
  2. To enable students to engage with the arguments of the different sceptical traditions, and grasp their various strengths and weaknesses.
  3. To enable students to engage with various modern responses to scepticism, and to understand their significance for epistemology.
  4. To enable students to strengthen their skills in philosophical writing and argumentation.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will:

  1. have developed a strong knowledge of the literature on scepticism, both traditional and modern.
  2. have developed a solid understanding of the central sceptical and anti-sceptical types and strategies of argument.
  3. be able to engage philosophically with the main arguments of ancient, early modern, and modern sceptical traditions.
  4. be able to demonstrate skills in philosophical writing and argumentation appropriate to level H.

Teaching Information

Weekly 1-hour lecture and weekly 1-hour seminar.

Assessment Information

1 essay of 2750 words (formative only, but required for credit), ILOs 1 - 4.

1 x 3 hour examination (summative, 100% of unit mark), assessing ILOs 1 - 4.

Reading and References

Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism, ed Julia Annas & Jonathan Barnes, Cambridge, CUP 2000.

Chris Hookway, Scepticism, London, Routledge, 1992.

Barry Stroud, The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism, Oxford, OUP 1984

Sosa & Kim, eds, Epistemology: An Anthology, 2nd edition, Blackwell, Oxford, 2008.