Yearning to Know: The Routes to Knowledge, and its Limits

Course summary

  • Tue 03 Oct 2017 to Tue 05 Dec 2017
  • 2:00-4:00pm 10 meetings
  • Ewert House, Ewert Place, Oxford, OX2 7DD
  • From £199.00
  • 10 CATS points
  • Course code O17P503PHW
  • +44 (0)1865 280892
  • Course ended

Yearning to Know: The Routes to Knowledge, and its Limits


The study of knowledge is at the heart of philosophy, and has become highly relevant in a world where experts are doubted, extravagant claims to knowledge are made, and we are all swamped by information. 

We will break the issues down into ten areas, pick out the main thinkers and theories, and introduce some of the vocabulary needed. Starting with the targets of knowledge, then examine the sources available to us, and identify ways in which knowledge can be secured. We will end with a look at relativism and scepticism, in the light of our earlier enquiry. The aim is to provide students with secure landmarks in the subject, and give confidence for further reading and study.

Programme details

Term Starts:   3rd October     

Week 1: Why study knowledge?

Week 2: Aiming for certainty

Week 3: Knowing reality

Week 4: Knowing by mere thought

Week 5: Knowing by perceiving

Week 6: Reason versus experience

Week 7: Justified by beliefs

Week 8: Justified by the facts

Week 9: My knowledge and yours

Week 10: Despair about knowledge


Background Reading:

Plato, Theaetetus

René Descartes, Meditations, 1 and 2

David Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding.  ed. Selby-Bigge, rev. Nidditch.  OUP.  pp. 17-39 (Sects II-IV)

Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy

If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

Recommended Reading List


Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to do so.


Course fee: £199.00
Take this couse for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Peter M A Gibson

Peter taught philosophy to sixth formers for many years, and completed a PhD in Philosophy at Birkbeck, London, in 2014.  He is Secretary of the Philosophical Society at Rewley House, and runs the website.

Course aims

To enable a clear assessment of whether someone 'knows' something, through a grounding in epistemology, by familiarising students with the main thinkers, concepts and theories.

Course Objectives

1.  To make clear most of the main concepts in epistemology.

2.  To give a map of the ongoing debate, with landmark thinkers and theories.

3.  To understand our relationship to the world better, by seeing how we grasp its facts.

Teaching methods

Teaching will be by lecturing, with some student participation.  Each of the ten sessions will have a carefully prepared handout, with all the main terminology, concepts and theories in brief.  Each session will aim to master what is on the handout.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1.  Be familiar with a reasonable range of epistemological vocabulary.

2.  Have a good grasp of the central claims of the main theories in the subject.

3.  Be able to discuss controversial issues about knowledge with greater accuracy and critical awareness.

Assessment methods

A single summative 1500 piece of writing or a ten minute presentation with occumpanying notes. A shorter warm-up piece may be set during the term.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)