Belief and Knowledge

Course Requirement Areas: 
Metaphysics and Epistemology
Course Description: 

This is an advanced course in the philosophy of mind, with connections to epistemology. The course presupposes familiarity with basic philosophical concepts in the philosophy of mind and epistemology. It focuses on the nature of belief, and its relationship to knowledge. The topic has a rich history and it's instructive to see how our assumptions about knowledge and belief have changed through the history of philosophy. We will begin with Plato's idea that knowledge and belief have different objects, and a more contemporary version of the same idea. Next we will look at the puzzling claim, apparently held by the Pyrrhonian sceptics, that we should suspend all beliefs. Considering how this is possible will lead us to the question of whether we can believe at will, and to investigating the connection of beliefs to actions. Once we have some idea of what beliefs may be, we shall see whether we can have beliefs in dreams, and possible consequences of this to the issue of dream scepticism. In the last part of the course, we will consider forms of knowledge that may not presuppose belief, and the idea that knowledge and belief are distinct mental attitudes.

Learning Outcomes: 

Students will have an in-depth understanding of some of the most important philosophical debates surrounding the concept of belief. They will have an insight into the historical construction of philosophical issues. They will develop their ability to discern and evaluate arguments in texts, and to present an argued position in a clear and concise manner.


Conditions for passing the course:

  • conscientious attendance, reading of the assigned material, (mental) preparation of answers to all the reading questions, participation in discussions;
  • a 10-15 minute presentation based on the readings for a class. Presenters are advised to focus on the reading questions which will be distributed throughout the term. The presentation can be developed into a term paper.
  • A 4-5000 word term paper, to be submitted by the end of the term, on a suitable topic related to the course. Please consult the instructor on your topic.



  • 25% presentation
  • 75% term paper

Informed and active participation in the seminar discussions will be taken into account in borderline cases to improve the grade