COURSE TITLE: Epistemology: The Philosophy of Knowledge


Dr. Philippe Yates, pyates@holyapostles.edu


Aristotle stated that “All men by nature desire to know” and he believed that this desire could be realized. When the Delphic oracle proclaimed that “No man alive is wiser than Socrates”, Socrates interpreted this to mean that he was wisest because, whereas others thought they knew, he alone knew that he did not know (Plato, Apology, 21-23). What is knowledge? Is it possible to know? What is it possible to know? How is it possible to know? These are the questions researched in epistemology. This course will give an insight into classical, medieval, modern and contemporary answers to these questions, investigate a contemporary Thomist approach and give students the tools to devise their own responses.



  1. Week 1: Introduction: What is Epistemology? Framing the Questions

Required Reading: Epistemology

  1. Week 2: Classical Epistemology

Pre-socratics, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine

Required Reading: Epistemology

  1. Week 3: Medieval Epistemology

Anselm, Aquinas, Scotus, Ockham, Theology and Science

Required Reading: Epistemology

  1. Week 4: Modern Epistemology

Descartes, Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Kant.

Required Reading: Epistemology

  1. Week 5: Contemporary Continental Epistemology

Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Dewey.

Required Reading: Epistemology

  1. Week 6:  Contemporary Analytical Epistemology

Moore, Wittgenstein, Ayer, Quine

Required reading: Epistemology

  1. Week 7: Can we know? Wonder, scepticism and method in epistemology

Required Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 1: the Status of Knowing, p. 3-23.

The Role of Doubt? What is well grounded knowledge?

Required Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 2: The Critical Doubt, p. 24-43.

  1. Week 8: The Problem of Perception. Is seeing believing?

Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant

Consciousness and the World Around us. How do we relate to the world?
Required Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 3: The Point of Departure, p. 44-67.

Concepts. What are they and (how) can we know them?

Universals – Plato, Nominalism – Ockham

Locke, Berkeley, Moore Russel, Broad Ayer, Stebbing, Wittgenstein

Required Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 4: The Problem of Perception, p. 68-102

  1. Week 9: Realism and Objectivity

Required Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 5: The Problem of Perception II, p. 103-127.

Unconditional Truth. Can anything be known absolutely?

Hume and Kant

Required Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 6: The Search for the Unconditional, p. 128-152.

  1. Week 10: Conceptual Knowledge

Required Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 7: Conceptual Knowledge, p. 153-178.

Thought and Experience. How do these relate in knowledge?


Required Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 8: Thought and Experience I, p. 179-206

  1. Week 11: Induction and Tautology

Hume, Ayer, Von Hildebrand.

Recommended Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 9: Thought and Experience II, p. 207-225.

Existential Truth. What Counts as Evidence?

Kierkegaard, Marcel.

Required Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 10: Existential Truth, p. 226-250.

  1. Week 12: Intersubjective knowledge. (How) Can I Know Another?

Required Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 11: Intersubjective Knowledge, p. 251-275.

Science and Moral and Aesthetic Experience

Required Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 12: Remainders


Required Reading: K. T Gallagher, The Philosophy of Knowledge, Chapter 13: Reprise

  1. Week 13-14: Final Project Development

Develop Multimedia Presentation

  1. Week 14: Final Project Development

Post Multimedia Presentation, Retake Epistemology Survey, Check Postings/Replies on Discussion Forums and add if necessary.


  1. Survey 10%

Students will take the Epistemology Course Survey before the end of week 1 and, again, after week 12. This survey must be taken both times in order to pass the course but only the final survey will be graded according to the paper grading rubric.

  1. Discussion postings – 30%

One or more discussion forums will be available each week of the course up to Week 12. Students will respond substantively to the Week 1 and any seven other weekly forums for a total of 8 postings. The postings should be 300-400 words each and should address with some depth of thought the discussion prompt based on the lecture and the assigned readings.

  1. Peer Responses – 20%

For the second accountability exercise, students will respond (in around 50 words or so) to at least 8 reflections made by any of your colleagues (using the rubric on page 4) on at least 6 separate weekly discussion forums between weeks 1 and 12. The idea is to get to know one another through interaction and develop your understanding by bouncing ideas off each other.

  1. The Semester Project – 40%

For the third accountability exercise, students will develop a short multimedia project based on some aspect of epistemology and post it for viewing during the final week of the course.

This project will be divided into three parts, each of which will be on the dates assigned below.

The first part is to establish a blog at Wordpress (or a similar hosting site) and post a short annotated bibliography concerning some aspect of epistemology that the student wants to pursue. The annotated bibliography should include 4-6 resources. Due end of week 10.

Here is a sample entry in an Annotated Bibliography -- note the indentation format (but don’t worry if your hosting site will not allow you to imitate it fully) and that the description is 27 words which is just about right to summarize and defend the applicability of the article to the subject studied:

Harrison, D. J. “Using the Moral Language of Cultures to Dialogue.” Social Justice Review, 100 (2009):142-146. An examination of the use of Natural Law to enable interfaith dialogue, which is pertinent to my research because it addresses communication between peoples of different backgrounds.

The second part is to build some kind of multimedia presentation concerning the topic with which all students in the class can interact. Any student who needs help with the building of his or her presentation should email me before reaching the midway point of the course. Students are free to determine what exactly it is they will do. Due the end of Week 13.

(The rubric for the discussion postings – see below - applies to this multimedia presentation. The student is not graded on aesthetics or functionality of the experience, but attention to these things is appreciated.)

The third part is to write up a 1- to 2-page analysis outlining why you chose the project, what you learned from it, and where you might take it in the future. (The rubric for the discussion postings applies to this analysis.) To be submitted by the end of Week 14.




(Basis of evaluation with explanation regarding the nature of the assignment and the percentage of the grade assigned to each item below). Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with the Online Writing Lab (available at http://www.holyapostles.edu/owl).


A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 60-69; F 59 and below

Grading Rubric for the Major Papers and Discussion Board (DB) Postings


1 (F)

2 (D)

3 (C)

4 (B)

5 (A)

Absence of Understanding

Posting shows no awareness of the concepts addressed in the topic by shifting off-topic


Posting demonstrates a misunderstanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic through an inability to re-explain them

Adequate Understanding

Posting demonstrates an adequate understanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic by a re-explanation of them

Solid understanding

Posting demonstrates an understanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic and uses that understanding effectively in the examples it provides

Insightful understanding

Posting demonstrates an understanding of the basic concepts of the topic through the use of examples and by making connections to other concepts


1 (F)

2 (D)

3 (C)

4 (B)

5 (A)

Missing Research

Paper shows no evidence of research: citation of sources missing.

Inadequate research and/or documentation

Over-reliance on few sources; poor quality of chosen sources; spotty documentation of facts in text; pattern of citation errors.

Adequate research and documentation but needs improvement

Good choice of sources but could be improved with some additions or better selection; did not always cite sources; too many citation errors.

Solid research and documentation

A number of relevant scholarly sources revealing solid research; sources appropriately referenced in paper; only a few minor citation errors.

Excellent critical research and documentation

Critically selected and relevant scholarly sources demonstrating extensive, in-depth research; sources skillfully incorporated into paper at all necessary points; all citations follow standard bibliographic format.


1 (F)

2 (D)

3 (C)

4 (B)

5 (A)

Incomplete writing

Posting is only partially written or fails to address the topic

Writing difficult to understand, serious improvement needed

Posting touches only on the surface of the topic and proceeds to talk about something else; confusing organization or development; little elaboration of position; insufficient control of sentence structure and vocabulary; unacceptable number of errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage

Acceptable writing, but could use some sharpening of skill

Posting is an uneven response to parts of the topic; somewhat conventional treatment;  satisfactory organization, but more development needed; adequate syntax and diction, but could use more vigor; overall control of grammar, mechanics, and usage, but some errors

Solid writing with something interesting to say

Posting is an adequate response to the topic; some depth and complexity in treatment; persuasive organization and development, with suitable reasons and examples;  level-appropriate syntax and diction;  mastery of grammar, mechanics, and usage, with hardly any error

command-level writing, making a clear impression

Posting is a thorough response to the topic; thoughtful and insightful examination of issues; compelling organization and development ; superior syntax and diction; error-free grammar, mechanics, and usage

COMMUNITY INTERACTION (50-word response)

1 (F)

2 (D)

3 (C)

4 (B)

5 (A)

Inadequate response

Response merely provides laudatory encouragement for original post, e.g., “Excellent post! You really have thought of something there.”

Weak response

Response summarizes original posting to which it responds.

Acceptable response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds.

Individually-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds and fosters its development.

Community-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the learning community and fosters its development.


Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at rmish@holyapostles.edu or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.


  1. Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.
  2. Avoiding Plagiarism
  3. In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your
  4. own.  At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to
  5. plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone
  6. else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person
  7. merely as a means to another person’s ends. Plagiarism includes: 1. Directly quoting without
  8. acknowledging the source. 2. Changing a few words of a text without indicating this was done and/or
  9. not acknowledging the source. 3. Not acknowledging that the structure of ideas or logic is from
  10. another author. 4. Not acknowledging a unique image (including analogies, similes, metaphors etc.) is
  11. from a particular document or author.
  12. Students, where applicable:
  13. ·     Should identify the title, author, page number/webpage address, and publication date of works when directly quoting small portions of texts, articles, interviews, or websites.
  14. ·     Students should not copy more than two paragraphs from any source as a major component of papers or projects.
  15. ·     Should appropriately identify the source of information when paraphrasing (restating) ideas from texts, interviews, articles, or websites.
  16. ·     Should follow the Holy Apostles College & Seminary Stylesheet (available on the Online Writing Lab’s website at http://www.holyapostles.edu/owl/resources).
  17. Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:
  18. Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously.  Students caught
  19. plagiarizing will receive a zero for the assignment, and may be withdrawn from the class and/or
  20. expelled from Holy Apostles.

Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 quality hours) a week to this course. A failure on the students part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.


An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. Approvalshould be understood as the professor responding to the students email in favor of granting the Incompletestatus of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of Fif the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course.

A W(Withdrawal) will appear on the students permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A WF(Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the students permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.


Dr. Philippe Yates studied philosophy at the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury, England and philosophy of law at St. Paul University, Ottawa, Canada. In addition to philosophy, he teaches canon law and Latin. He lives in Allegany NY with his wife Cookie and dog Pica.

He may be contacted at: pyates@holyapostles.edu