Philosophy 132: Epistemology

Where: WLH 2112
When: TuTh 2-3:20

Instructor: Jonathan Cohen
email: joncohen AT aardvark DOT ucsd DOT edu
office phone: (858) 534 6812
Office hours: Tu 10-11:30 and by appointment, in H&SS 8072.


This is a course in recent and contemporary approaches to the theory of knowledge. We'll be looking at some of the major debates in epistemology, including those over the structure of knowledge, the proper analysis of knowledge, justification, and related notions, as well as some meta-epistemological issues that have arisen in recent discussions of so-called naturalized epistemology. The course will not presuppose any exposure to the relevant literatures, and will be a broad overview of some of the going accounts and controversies.

Course Requirements

There will be two assigned papers for the course, and a take home final exam. There will be no midterm.


In grading I will assign equal weight to each of the two papers and the take home exam. In addition, I'll increase your total grade by 1/3 of a letter grade if you come to office hours twice during the quarter to raise and talk about specific issues related to the course that interest you. I'll use class participation as a way of deciding between borderline cases.

Academic Integrity

Violations of academic integrity will not be tolerated in this course; violators will receive an F on at least the relevant assignment and possibly the course, and will be subjected to UCSD's disciplinary procedures (which could result in penalties including permanent explusion from the university).

You are responsible for knowing and adhering to the UCSD Policy on Integrity in all respects. In particular, you may not cause or allow your work for this course to resemble that of any other person, and all use of the ideas or words of anyone other than a paper's author must be acknowledged properly. I don't care a huge amount about specific citation formats; I do care a huge amount that sources are acknowledged. As far as collaboration goes, it's fine (it's encouraged) to talk about the philosophical issues with other students or anyone else you like; but when it is time to write up an essay you should do so entirely by yourself. If you have any questions about the Policy on Integrity or how to follow it (e.g., if you are unsure how to cite ideas from other sources) please ask me! I am very happy to help prevent real or apparent violations of academic integrity before they occur, and very unhappy to discover that they have occured. (As you may have noticed, I feel very strongly about this issue.)

To ensure standards of academic integrity are met, I'll ask you, as a condition on taking this course, to run all of your assigned work for the course through, which checks your paper for textual similarity to all of the other papers in its databases. (Your submitted papers will also be included as source documents in the reference database, solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism, going forward.)

To get started with the system, please see the instructions at You'll need the class name (Epistemology, Winter 2015), class ID (9110947), and enrollment password (knowledge).

Reading Materials

We won't be using a textbook/anthology for the course. Instead, all readings will be made available by electronic reserve at Geisel Library. Note that you will need a password (jc132) to access this material.

Tentative Schedule

This schedule is tentative in both its content and its timing; I reserve the right to add, subtract, or reschedule items as the course progresses. (In particular, I am skeptical that we'll have time for segment 6 at all; but we can try!)

Segment 1: Skepticism

Segment 2: The Analysis of Knowledge

Segment 3: Foundations and Coherence

Segment 4: Reliabilism and Externalism

Segment 5: Epistemological Naturalism

Segment 6: Contextualism