Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


PHIL100 Philosophy: the Big Questions or PHIL102 Theories of Human Nature or PHIL104 Introduction to Ethics or PHIL107 Philosophy of World Religions or PHCC102 Being Human or PHCC104 Ethics and the Good Life

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit in the philosophy of knowledge (epistemology) introduces students to philosophical problems and debates concerning the nature, possibility and limits of knowledge. In examining classical, modern and contemporary theories, students examine questions concerning the sources and objects of knowledge, the relationship of knowledge to belief and truth, problems of justification, and metaphysical debates concerning the mind-world relationship underlying epistemological theory. In exploring influential perspectives regarding those debates, students are required to develop reasoned positions of their own. In this way, the unit aims both to facilitate students' understanding of some key philosophical theories and debates, as well as to enhance their skills in critical analysis.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - identify and accurately explain some of the central problems and important theories in the field of epistemology (GA5); 

LO2 - critically analyse selected contemporary debates in epistemology, and develop coherent and consistent positions in relation to them (GA4; GA8); 

LO3 - demonstrate appropriate skills in philosophical research, and clear use of philosophically effective English expression (GA5; GA9). 

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • definitional issues: types of knowledge, belief, opinion, justification, certainty, scepticism;
  • theories concerning the nature of justification, such as foundationalism, coherentism, fallibilism, pragmatism, and sceptical arguments against the possibility of knowledge;
  • theories about the sources of knowledge, such as perception, rational reflection, memory, innate ideas, revelation; 
  • theories about the objects of knowledge, such as physical things, states of affairs, mental ideas, abstract entities, noemata;
  • meta-epistemological debates concerning various positions such as realism and anti-realism, internalism and externalism, naturalism and normativism.  

In addition, topics such as the following may also be included:

  • theories of truth, such as correspondence, coherence, pragmatism, deflationism;  
  • knowledge, truth and interpretation: the hermeneutic situation; 
  • knowledge of singulars and universals;  
  • the possibility of self-knowledge; 
  • the possibility of religious knowledge. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning, The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

The unit has been designed as a blend of direct instruction and project learning with a strong collaborative component. The direct instruction ensures that students develop a strong understanding of important philosophical concepts and theories, while the project learning enables the students to apply those concepts and theories critically and reflectively to problems in the field of epistemology. The collaborative context of the unit is focused especially on the weekly tutorial, during which the emphasis is on small group discussion of the weekly readings. These forms of classroom instruction and engagement are designed to support students’ attainment of the learning outcomes. Students will be asked to engage in class discussions, provide written critiques of significant theories, and present their reasoned position on matters at issue, after being introduced to them through readings and lectures. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit has been designed to examine students’ understanding of the philosophical issues and theories under consideration, as well as their ability to critically analyse those issues and theories. It does so through a series of three graduated assessment tasks. The first two tasks prepare students for the third and principal task of writing an extended research essay. The written analysis and presentation tasks examine students’ understanding of the key concepts and theories, and capacity to engage critically with some key texts in the field. The research essay examines students’ abilities to research and critically analyse an important epistemological issue, and to develop and defend a coherent position of their own in a formally structured argumentative essay.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Structured written task

Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts and analyse key texts in epistemology




Oral presentation with written component 

Requires students to demonstrate critical thinking skills  in dialogue with others


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8

Research Essay

Requires students to do further research, analyse an important epistemological issue, and argue for a coherent position in relation to it


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Audi, R. (2010). Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge. (3rd ed). London: Routledge.  

Bernecker, S. and Pritchard, D. (eds) (2010). The Routledge Companion to Epistemology, London: Routledge.

Greco, J. (ed). (2011). The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hetherington, S. (2018). Knowledge Puzzles: An Introduction to Epistemology. London: Routledge.

Kornblith, H. Ed. (2001). Epistemology: Internalism and Externalism. Oxford: Blackwell. 

Locke, J. (1996) An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. 

Plato. (2006). Theaetetus. Jowett, B (Trans). Teddington, Middlesex: Echo Library. 

Rorty, R. (2008). Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. (30th anniv. ed). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 

Stanley, J. (2011) Know How, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Turri, J. and Greco, J. (eds). (2012). Virtue Epistemology: Contemporary Readings. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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