PHIL2007 Knowledge and the Justification of Belief

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 core unit in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics major sequence
  • Level 2 option in the Philosophy major sequence
  • The area of knowledge for this unit is Society and Culture
  • Level 2 elective
We live in an age characterised as ‘post–truth', constantly inundated by advertising spin, ‘alternative facts', fake news and conspiracy theories. This unit is about how we can have knowledge, how we can have justified beliefs about the world. The unit combines the investigation of theoretical questions and problems in epistemology (the theory of knowledge) and the application of these theories to real problems about what we should believe and why.

Not everything that a person believes to be true is something that they know to be true. Under what conditions does a person's belief count as being justified? Is her possessing evidence sufficient to justify the belief? Does anyone have that much evidence about anything? Does the justification of beliefs require that there exist certain 'foundational' beliefs, that is, beliefs where its own justification does not depend upon the agent's other beliefs? If so, what sort of beliefs can be foundational in this sense? Are there 'truths of reason' that are independent of observation that are foundational? What is the status of testimony? Why should someone telling us something justify us in believing it? How can studying epistemology help us sort out the global warming debate? What can it tell us about conspiracy theories, etc. Students in this unit form a comprehensive understanding of theoretical and applied issues regarding knowledge and the justification of belief.
Students are able to (1) locate global epistemological issues in their historical and cultural context; (2) independently interpret philosophical texts; (3) evaluate philosophical positions, including identifying counter-examples and identifying and questioning their basic assumptions; (4) compare and contrast philosophical positions; (5) construct persuasive arguments; (6) demonstrate strong written communication and research skills; (7) gain knowledge about arguments in favor of, and in opposition to, theories in epistemology; (8) understand about influential philosophical views concerning knowledge and the justification of belief; and (9) reason in a constructive and cooperative way about some of the most polarising applied global issues in knowledge and the justification of belief, including climate change and conspiracy theories.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) essays; (2) examination; and (3) participation. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Chris Letheby
Unit rules
any Level 1 unit
Contact hours
lectures: 2 x 1 hour per week; tutorials: 1 x 1 hour per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available via the Booktopia Textbook Finder, which has the functionality to search by course code, course, ISBN and title, and may also be posted or available at the appropriate school's administrative offices. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.