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Knowledge, Reason & Experience

Course Code: PHIL 1103
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Philosophy
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

What if anything do we really know? How do we know it? When do we really have knowledge as opposed to mere belief or opinion? This course will consider these questions in the context of traditional philosophical problems about the nature and possibility of personal, religious, metaphysical, scientific, and logical knowledge. Ideas of philosophers such as Plato, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, James, and Wittgenstein will also be considered. Students will be given the opportunity to develop self reflectively their own positions on matters which may be of philosophical concern to them, such as scepticism, free will, or religious knowledge. PHIL 1103 will serve as a foundation for further work in philosophy and is highly recommended as an elective for students in all other areas.

Course Content

A.  At least three of the following areas:

1.  The nature of reason, the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning, and the nature of the scientific method.
2.  The nature of knowledge and belief, including rationalist and empiricist approaches (e.g., Plato, Hume, Russell).
3.  Foundational and non-foundational views about the nature of knowledge and belief, and about the difficulties they face (e.g., Descartes, Wittgenstein, Bonjour).
4.  Different theories of truth, such as correspondence, coherence, pragmatic, and semantical (e.g., Locke, Blanchard, Quine, Tarski).
5.  Metaphysical, scientific, existential, phenomenological, religious, personal and other possible approaches to truth, knowledge, and belief (e.g., Sartre, Heidegger, Polyani).

B.  Sample illustrative problems (three or more, at least one in depth, may be integrated with the presentation of the  above theory):

1.  The problem of scepticism, generally, or of the knowledge of the external world, of other minds, of the self, of God, or spiritual reality (e.g., Nagel, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Descartes, Kant, Russell).
2.  The challenges to foundationalism and coherentism and possible solutions (e.g., Wittgenstein, Bonjour, Rorty).
3.  How we can have knowledge of universals and/or of abstract ideas (e.g., Plato, Russell, Wittgenstein, Locke, Berkeley, Hume).
4.  How we can have knowledge of the self or of the person, of consciousness, of the relation of mind to body, and/or in moral matters (e.g., Locke, K. Campbell, Nagel).
5.  How we can have knowledge of human nature and how this relates to our scientific understanding of the world (e.g., Plato, Nagel, Stevenson).
6.  How we can have knowledge or belief in free will, and how this relates to our scientific understanding of the world (e.g., Sartre, Nagel, Williams).
7.  How we can have knowledge or belief about God or about religious experiences, and how this relates to our scientific understanding of the world (e.g., Hume, Kant, James).

Methods of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:

Lecture and discussion, approximately two hours of each per week - perhaps also including some smaller group work.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria during the first week of classes.

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:


Tests, quizzes and short assignments  20% - 50%
Written class presentations, essays, essay exams       20% - 60%
Intructor's general evaluation
(e.g., participation, attendance, homework,
extra-credit, group work)
  0% - 20%

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:

  1. Reason and reflect philosophically upon traditional and contemporary philosophical viewpoints about topics covered.
  2. Explain the basic philosophical problems about the nature of reason, truth, knowledge, belief and experience.
  3. Contrast and compare traditional and contemporary philosophical perspectives on specific topics covered in the course.
  4. Systematically formulate and present their own thinking on specific topics covered in the course.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.