Knowledge and the Nature of Reality

Subject PHIL30016 (2010)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2010.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 3 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2010:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable


Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Thirty-five contact hours per semester: two 1-hour lectures per week for 12 weeks and 11 tutorials.
Total Time Commitment: an average of 8.5 hours each week.
Prerequisites: Completion of at least one prior subject in philosophy or the permission of the subject coordinator.
Corequisites: None.
Recommended Background Knowledge: As per prerequisites.
Non Allowed Subjects: This subject was previously available at level 2 as 161-010 Epistemology and as 161-010 Scepticism and Reason. Students who have completed 161-010 are not eligible to enrol in this subject.
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering requests for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.

The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website :


Assoc Prof Howard Sankey


Associate Professor Howard Sankey
Subject Overview:

This subject deals with major questions in epistemology and metaphysics, as well as the relation between epistemology and metaphysics. It will consider central questions in epistemology, such as the following. What is knowledge? What is the relation between knowledge and justified belief? Is knowledge possible? Is certainty necessary for knowledge? It will also explore such topics in metaphysics as the nature and structure of reality, the existence of objective kinds in nature and the relation between reality and truth. In addition, it will explicitly raise the question of the relationship between epistemology and metaphysics. For example, it will consider whether it is possible to meet the challenge of epistemological scepticism on the basis of metaphysical views about the structure and nature of reality. Among other topics, the subject will explore the relevance of contemporary theories about natural kinds to concerns about the justification and/or reliability of inductive inference.

Students who successfully complete this subject will

  • gain a sound general comprehension of the major recent advances in our philosophical understanding of the nature and structure of knowledge.
  • understand the roles of experience and reasoning in contributing to this structure.
  • display a familiarity with some major texts on which these advances are based.
  • indicate an awareness of how the subject matter is related to broader concerns in contemporary philosophy.
  • display acquaintance with some important past contributions to the discussion of those issues.
  • have the ability to explain in detail and critically discuss at least two important aspects of these recent advances.
Assessment: A 1500 word essay valued at 30% due about mid-semester, and a 2500 word essay valued at 70% due at the end of semester.
Prescribed Texts:

Hilary Kornblith, Inductive Inference and its Natural Ground (MIT 1993)

Noah Lemos, An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge (Cambridge University Press) 2007

In addition, a subject reader will be available from the University Bookshop at the start of semester.

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • be able to understand both the heart of a philosophical issue and its broader implications.
  • have learnt to form a critical understanding of philosophical texts.
  • have developed their skills to construct rigorous philosophical arguments.
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History && Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science Major
Philosophy Major
Philosophy and Social Theory

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