HFIK03731U FILO, Module 1: Classical Philosophical Text: Knowledge and Its Limits

Volume 2015/2016

Master in Philosophy


Is it possible to be in pain without knowing that one is? Could we be rationally required to perform certain actions or to revise our beliefs in certain ways although there is no way for us to know that we are rationally required to do so? Do we sometimes have evidence or even mental states that we are not in a position to know that we have?

In his seminal work Knowledge and Its Limits, Timothy Williamson argues forcefully that we should answer all these questions in the affirmative. Despite endorsing an anti-skeptical picture of knowledge, Williamson thinks that certain structural limits on what we can know leads to a variety of important and surprising philosophical consequences.

In philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, decision theory, linguistics, and game theory the notions of belief and rationality have traditionally been treated as the theoretically central notions while the place of knowledge has been subordinated. In Knowledge and Its Limits, Williamson turns this picture upside down and lays the foundation for a new research programme that has become known as the ‘knowledge first’ movement.

The book presents a new conception of knowledge as a fundamental kind of mental state and outlines a way of understanding a variety of central philosophical notions by how they relate to knowledge. Knowledge and Its Limits develops positions on a wide range of topics such as the nature of mental states, evidence, rationality, belief, assertion, skepticism, externalism/internalism, epistemic transparency, the iterativity of knowledge, and probability.

Knowledge and Its Limits has had a tremendous impact and has become a contemporary classic in philosophy. In this course we will read and discuss Williamson’s book while looking at its place in the broader theoretical landscape and its implications for a wide variety of philosophical questions.

Learning Outcome

The Master’s Programme in Philosophy 2014:
Module 1, Classical Philosophical Text: HFIK03701E
Module 5, Freely chosen topic 1: HFIK03741E
Module 5, Freely chosen topic 2: HFIK03751E

The Master’s Programme in Philosophy 2008:
Module 2, Freely chosen topic A: HFIK03521E
Module 4, Freely chosen topic B: HFIK03541E
Module 5, Freely chosen topic C: HFIK03551E
Module 6, Freely chosen topic D: HFIK03561E
Module 7, Freely chosen topic E: HFIK03571E

Williamson, Timothy. Knowledge and Its Limits. Oxford University Press, 2000.

Greenough & Pritchard. Williamson on Knowledge. Oxford University Press, 2009.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 42
  • Course Preparation
  • 367,5
  • Total
  • 409,5
Type of assessment
The exam will be conducted in english
Criteria for exam assesment