Knowledge & Reality

Below are readings and essay questions for tutorials in Knowledge & Reality. Many of the readings are available online, and all are easily obtained from the college or other libraries in Oxford, but if you are struggling to get hold of anything, email me, as I have PDF copies of nearly everything.

I have divided the reading for each topic into CORE READING and FURTHER READING, with more introductory texts marked with a star (*). Focus on the Core Reading suggestions in writing tutorial essays, and use the Further Reading suggestions as starting points for exploring topics in more depth during vacations. You will find more suggestions in the Faculty Reading List.

The default plan is to cover the TUTORIAL TOPICS, but I am happy to cover other topics in place of some of these. Options include, but are not limited to, the OTHER TOPICS. (I’ve also listed some ADVANCED TOPICS, which presuppose some familiarity with other topics, and which some students have wanted to explore. These are less likely to come up in exams.)


  1. Epistemic Closure
  2. Epistemic Contextualism
  3. Williamson on Knowledge
  4. Epistemic Injustice
  5. Possible Worlds
  6. Causation
  7. Persistence
  8. Time




The following anthologies are particularly useful, and contain many of the key readings. I refer to them below as SKF&M and KK&S respectively.

There are no set textbooks, but you might find the following helpful as introductions:




Is knowledge closed under known entailment? What significance does the issue have for the problem of external-world scepticism?

*Steven Luper (2001/2010) ‘The Epistemic Closure Principle’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Fred Dretske (1970) ‘Epistemic Operators’ in Journal of Philosophy 67(24), pp. 1007–1023. Reprinted in SKF&M.
Gail Stine (1976) ‘Skepticism, Relevant Alternatives, and Deductive Closure’ in Philosophical Studies 29(4), pp. 249–261. Reprinted in SKF&M.
Robert Nozick (1981) Philosophical Explanations (OUP), pp. 167–247. Reprinted (and usefully abridged) in SKF&M.
Ernest Sosa (1999) ‘How to Defeat Opposition to Moore’ in Philosophical Perspectives 13, pp. 141–153. Reprinted in SKF&M.

Vogel (1990) defends epistemic closure. Roush (2005) defends Nozick’s sensitivity account of knowledge. Dretske and Hawthorne (2014) debate epistemic closure: Hawthorne argues for, and Dretske against. Kvanvig (2008) is a nice overview of the issues. Holliday (2015) is a formal piece, but accessible to students who have taken Philosophical Logic. It argues that, once externalist theories of knowledge are formalised, counterexamples to epistemic closure can be seen to be inevitable.

Jonathan Vogel (1990) ‘Are There Counterexamples to the Closure Principle?’ in Michael D. Roth and Glenn Ross, eds. Doubting: Contemporary Perspectives on Skepticism (Springer). Reprinted in SKF&M.
Sherrilyn Roush (2005) Tracking Truth (OUP), esp. Chs. 1 and 2.
Fred Dretske and John Hawthorne (2014) ‘Is Knowledge Closed Under Known Entailment?’ in Matthias Steup, John Turri, and Ernest Sosa, eds. Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, 2nd edition (Blackwell). (Originally published in 2005.)
Jonathan Kvanvig (2008) ‘Closure and Alternative Possibilities’ in John Greco, ed. Oxford Handbook of Skepticism (OUP).
Wesley Holliday (2015) ‘Epistemic Closure and Epistemic Logic I: Relevant Alternatives and Subjunctivism’ in Journal of Philosophical Logic 44(1), pp. 1–62.

How important is the concept of luck in epistemology? (2016)

Is it rational to believe each member of a finite set of propositions but fail to believe their conjunction? (2012)

Suppose that I would still believe P, were P false. Does it follow that I do not in fact know that P? (2010)

EITHER (a) Is knowledge just a true belief that is ‘safe from error’? OR (b) Is knowledge just a true belief that in Nozick’s sense ‘tracks the truth’? (2009)



NOTE: This week, together with a tutorial on EPISTEMIC CLOSURE, prepares you for some of the main approaches to external world scepticism.

What is epistemic contextualism? How does it differ from subject-sensitive invariantism? Is it correct? Does it offer a satisfactory response to the problem of external-world scepticism?

*Keith DeRose (1999) ‘Contextualism: An Explanation and Defense’ in J. Greco and E. Sosa, eds. The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology (Blackwell), pp. 187-205.

Ernest Sosa (2000) ‘Skepticism and Contextualism’ in Philosophical Issues 10, pp. 1–18.
John Hawthorne (2004) Knowledge and Lotteries (OUP), Ch. 4.
Jason Stanley (2005) ‘On the Linguistic Basis for Contextualism’ in Philosophical Studies 119(2), pp. 119-146.
Keith DeRose (2005) ‘The Ordinary Language Basis for Contextualism, and the New Invariantism’ in The Philosophical Quarterly 55(219), pp. 172-198.

DeRose (2009), the first of two volumes, is a statement and defence of contextualism. DeRose (2018), the second volume, is just out, and focuses on the application to scepticism and lottery puzzles. Brown (2006) defends an orthodox invariantist position, opposed both to contextualism and the subject-sensitive invariantism (SSI) endorsed by the likes of Hawthorne and Stanley. The debate between contextualism and SSI raises questions about the role of pragmatic elements in knowledge, or so-called pragmatic encroachment. Fantl and McGrath (2009) is a great discussion of this. Conee and Cohen (2014) is a useful debate for and against contextualism. It includes, among other things, discussion of whether contextualism provides a satisfactory response to scepticism.

Jessica Brown (2006) ‘Contextualism and Warranted Assertibility Manoeuvres’ in Philosophical Studies 130(3), pp. 407-435.
Keith DeRose (2009) The Case for Contextualism (OUP).
— (2018) The Appearance of Ignorance (OUP).
Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath (2009) Knowledge in an Uncertain World (OUP), Ch. 2. Available online here.
Earl Conee and Stewart Cohen (2014) ‘Is Knowledge Contextual?’ in Matthias Steup, John Turri, and Ernest Sosa, eds. Contemporary Debates in Epistemology 2nd edition (Blackwell, first published in 2005).

Is there any reason to think that ‘knows’ is context sensitive? What significance would it have for epistemology if this were so? (2016)

Can positing variation across contexts of standards for ascribing knowledge help solve sceptical puzzles? (2015)

Are there any reasons to think that ‘know’ is context-sensitive, other than its potentially affording a response to scepticism? (2014)

‘When S knows that p, that is a non-linguistic fact about S’s mental state. That fact will obtain regardless of the linguistic context, and, hence, S will know that p in every such context. So epistemic contextualism is false.’ Discuss. (2012)



What is the connection between Williamson’s claim that knowledge is a mental state and his claim that knowledge is unanalysable? Are these claims correct?

*J. Adam Carter, Emma C. Gordon, and Benjamin Jarvis (2017) ‘Knowledge First: An Introduction’ in J. Adam Carter, Emma C. Gordon, and Benjamin Jarvis, eds. Knowledge First: Approaches in Epistemology and Mind (OUP).

Timothy Williamson (2000) Knowledge and its Limits (OUP), esp. Introduction and Ch. 1. Reprinted in SKF&M and available online.
Quassim Cassam (2009) ‘Can The Concept of Knowledge be Analysed?’ in Patrick Greenough and Duncan Pritchard, eds. Williamson on Knowledge (OUP).
Elizabeth Fricker (2009) ‘Is Knowing a State of Mind? The Case Against’ in Patrick Greenough and Duncan Pritchard, eds. Williamson on Knowledge (OUP).

If you have time, you might want to look at Williamson’s replies to Cassam and Fricker, which can also be found in Patrick Greenough and Duncan Pritchard, eds. Williamson on Knowledge (OUP).

If you are pursuing this topic in more depth, you should read Ch. 2 and 3 of Williamson (2000), which flesh out his claim that knowledge is a mental state. Zagzebski (1994) presents a recipe for constructing Gettier-style counterexamples to (certain sorts of) analyses of knowledge. (Jennifer Nagel introduces this and Williamson’s view in this short video.) Lowe (2002) is a useful review of Knowledge and its Limits, critically discussing Williamson’s claim that knowledge is a mental state. For more sympathetic discussion of the claim, see Yablo (2003) and Nagel (2013). Hyman (2014) criticises Williamson’s claim that knowledge is the most general factive stative attitude.

Linda Zagzebski (1994) ‘The Inescapability of Gettier Problems’ in Philosophical Quarterly, 44(174), pp. 65–73. Reprinted in SKF&M.
E. J. Lowe (2002) ‘Critical Notice of Timothy Williamson’s Knowledge and its Limits’ in International Journal of Philosophical Studies 10(4), pp. 483–503.
Stephen Yablo (2003) ‘Causal Relevance’ in Philosophical Issues 13, pp. 316–328.
Jennifer Nagel (2013) ‘Knowledge as a Mental State’ in Tamara Szabó Gendler and John Hawthorne, eds. Oxford Studies in Epistemology, Vol. 4 (OUP).
John Hyman (2014) ‘“The most general factive stative attitude”’ in Analysis 74(4), pp. 561–565.

Is knowledge prior to belief? (2016)

Is knowledge the most general factive mental state? (2015)

‘It’s too easy to come up with counterexamples to putative analyses of knowledge in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions, so we should abandon the attempt to construct such analyses.’ Is this a compelling argument? And should we give up the project of analysing knowledge? (2014)



How should the notions of testimonial and hermeneutical injustice be defined? Are they distinctively epistemic forms of injustice?

*Axel Gelfert (2014) A Critical Introduction to Testimony (Bloomsbury), Ch. 10, pp. 193-214.

Miranda Fricker (2007) Epistemic Injustice (OUP), Ch. 1 and 7.
Ishani Maitra (2010) ‘The Nature of Epistemic Injustice’ in Philosophical Books 51, pp. 195-211.
Kristie Dotson (2011) ‘Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing’ in Hypatia 26(2), pp. 236–257.
David Coady (2017) ‘Epistemic Injustice as Distributive Injustice’ in Ian James Kidd, José Medina, and Gaile Pohlhaus, Jr., eds. The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice (Routledge).

Elizabeth Anderson (2012) ‘Epistemic Justice as a Virtue of Social Institutions’ in Social Epistemology 26(2), pp. 163–173.
David Coady (2010) ‘Two Concepts of Epistemic Injustice’ in Episteme 7(2), pp. 101–113.
Katherine Hawley (2012) ‘Partiality and Prejudice in Trusting’ in Synthese 191(9), pp. 2029–2045.
Jeremy Wanderer (2011) ‘Addressing Testimonial Injustice: Being Ignored and Being Rejected’ in The Philosophical Quarterly 62(246), pp. 148–169.

Miranda Fricker’s annotated entry for Oxford Bibliographies on the topic is a valuable resource:

What is epistemic injustice? (2016)

Is there a distinct phenomenon of epistemic injustice? (2015)



What is a possible world, and what reasons might there be for us to believe possible worlds other than the actual one exist?

*Joseph Melia (2003) Modality (Acumen), Ch. 1.

David Lewis (1973) Counterfactuals (Blackwell), Ch. 4, §1.
Robert Stalnaker (1976) ‘Possible Worlds’ in Noûs 10(1), pp. 65–75. Reprinted in KK&S.
William Lycan (1998) ‘Possible Worlds and Possibilia’ in Cynthia Macdonald and Stephen Laurence, eds. Contemporary Readings in the Foundation of Metaphysics (Blackwell). Lewis’s and Stalnaker’s pieces are also reprinted in this volume.
Ted Sider (2003) ‘Reductive Theories of Modality’ in M. J. Loux and D. W. Zimmerman, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics (OUP), pp. 180-208.

If you plan on looking into this topic in any more detail, the first three chapters of David Lewis’s (1986) book are essential reading. The first lays out a case for his brand of modal realism, the second defends it from various objections, and the third presents objections to various rival views. Bricker and Melia (2008) is a recent debate; they defend concretism and ersatzism respectively. The remaining suggestions all discuss other approaches. Rosen (1990) defends a fictionalist approach. Melia (1992) argues against modalism, the view (roughly) that modal notions are primitive, and not to be explicated in terms of possible worlds. Fine (1994) argues that modal notions are to be explicated in terms of objects’ essences.

David Lewis (1986) On the Plurality of Worlds (Blackwell), Ch. 1 to 3. Ch. 1 is reprinted in KK&S as ‘A Philosopher’s Paradise: The Plurality of Worlds’.
Phillip Bricker and Joseph Melia (2008) ‘Modality and Possible Worlds’ in T. Sider, J. Hawthorne, and D. W. Zimmerman, eds. Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics (Wiley Blackwell).
Gideon Rosen (1990) ‘Modal Fictionalism’ in Mind 99(395), pp. 327–354. Reprinted in KK&S.
Joseph Melia (1992) ‘Against Modalism’ in Philosophical Studies 68(1), pp. 35–56.
Kit Fine (1994) ‘Essence and Modality’ in Philosophical Perspectives 8, pp. 1–16. Reprinted in KK&S.

‘If possible worlds are needed to explain modality, it is better not to explain modality.’ Do you agree? (2016)

‘No individual exists in more than one possible world, so possible worlds are of no use in accounting for possibility and necessity claims concerning particular individuals.’ Discuss. (2015)

‘Jane studies philosophy, but she could have studied history.’ Should such claims be understood in terms of possible worlds? (2014)

EITHER (a) ‘It is possible for there to be a blue swan; therefore there is a blue swan in some possible world; therefore there is a blue swan.’ Discuss. OR (b) ‘The world is not a possible world.’ Is this true according to the best account of modality? (2013)



Critically assess the prospects of an account of causation in terms of (i) INUS conditions and (ii) counterfactuals.

*Tim Crane (1995) ‘Causation’ in A. C. Grayling, ed. Philosophy: A Guide Through the Subject (OUP), esp. pp. 184-91.

J. L. Mackie (1965) ‘Causes and Conditions’ in American Philosophical Quarterly 2(4), pp. 245–264 (skip §§5-7). Reprinted in KK&S.
David Lewis (1973) ‘Causation’ in The Journal of Philosophy 70(17), pp. 556–567. Reprinted in his (1986) Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2 (OUP), with additional postscripts, and in KK&S.
Peter Menzies (2001/14) ‘Counterfactual Theories of Causation’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Michael Strevens (2007) ‘Mackie Remixed’ in J. K. Campbell, M. O’Rourke, and H. S. Silverstein, eds. Causation and Explanation (MIT Press).

The literature for this topic is huge. Hume (1748) is essential reading. After that, your first port of call should be Sosa and Tooley (1993), which contains Mackie (1965) and Lewis (1973) as well as various other classic papers; the ones by Anscombe, Davidson, Kim, Salmon, and Tooley are especially recommended. Psillos (2003) is a good introduction to the main approaches, including those of Wesley Salmon and James Woodward, who introduce their positions themselves in Salmon (2002) and Woodward (2001/8) respectively. Alex Broadbent gives some helpful guidance on how to approach further work on causation here.

David Hume (1748) An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, §VII. Various editions, and available online:
Ernest Sosa and Michael Tooley, eds. (1993) Causation (OUP).
Stathos Psillos (2003) Causation & Explanation, Part I.
Wesley Salmon (2002) ‘Causation’ in Richard Gale, ed. The Blackwell Guide to Metaphysics (Blackwell).
James Woodward (2001/8) ‘Causation and Manipulability’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Should we explain causation in terms of counterfactuals, counterfactuals in terms of causation, or neither? (2016)

Critically compare two or more alternative accounts of causation. (2015)

Is backwards causation possible on a Humean account of causation? Does your answer tell for, or against, the Humean account? (2014)

Suppose there is only ever one ball-throwing. Can throwing the ball cause the window to break? (2013)



How, if at all, do objects persist over time?

*Andre Gallois (2005/16) ‘Identity Over Time’ in E. Zalta, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Roderick Chisholm (1979) Person and Object (Open Court), Ch. 3. Reprinted in KK&S.
David Lewis (1986) On the Plurality of Worlds, (Blackwell), §4.2, esp. pp. 202-204. Reprinted in KK&S.
Ted Sider (2001) Four Dimensionalism (OUP), §4.6.
Sally Haslanger (2003) ‘Persistence through Time’ in M. J. Loux and D. W. Zimmerman, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics (OUP).

Haslanger and Kurtz (2006) is an extremely useful collection, containing the relevant selection from Lewis (1986) and tons of other classic pieces on this topic. It should be your first port of call for further work on this topic. Hawthorne (2008) and Effingham (2012) are two good discussions of various issues concerning persistence. Einheuser (2012) is a nice discussion of the question whether there is a genuine problem of change. Magidor (2016) is another nice discussion, running through a host of different arguments that are offered in the literature, arguing that they are strictly orthogonal to the debate between endurantists and perdurantists.

Sally Haslanger and Roxanne Marie Kurtz, eds. (2006) Persistence: Contemporary Readings (MIT Press).
John Hawthorne (2008) ‘Three-Dimensionalism versus Four-Dimensionalism’ in T. Sider, J. Hawthorne, and D. W. Zimmerman, eds. Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics (Wiley Blackwell).
Nik Effingham (2012) ‘Endurantism and Perdurantism’ in Neil Manson and Robert Barnard, eds. The Continuum Companion to Metaphysics (Continuum).
Iris Einheuser (2012) ‘Is There a (Meta-)Problem of Change?’ in Analytic Philosophy 53(4), pp. 344-51.
Ofra Magidor (2016) ‘Endurantism vs. Perdurantism: A Debate Reconsidered’ in Noûs 50(3), pp. 509-532.

‘The following two claims are in tension: (1) There can be change over time; (2) At least some non-essential properties of objects are intrinsic.’ Explain how this tension might most plausibly be thought to arise. How would you propose to resolve it? (2016)

EITHER (a) ‘Consider a headless statue called “HEADLESS”. Suppose that at some later time T HEADLESS has been augmented by attaching a head to it. Call the whole statue after this augmentation “HEADY”. Consider the portion of HEADY consisting of the whole statue except for its head, and call that object “HEADY-MINUS”. On the one hand, we should say that HEADLESS has gained a head and is thus identical to HEADY. On the other hand, we should say that HEADLESS is identical to HEADY- MINUS. But these statements cannot both be true.’ How should this quandary be resolved? OR (b) Are there any good reasons to prefer the view that objects persist by perduring rather than by enduring? (2015)

What is the best account of how objects can gain or lose parts over time? (2014)

Is the phenomenon of change of properties over time any more puzzling than the variation of temperature along the length of an iron bar? (2013)



What is McTaggart’s paradox? What, if anything, does it tell us about the nature of time?

*Barry Dainton (2010) Time and Space, 2nd edition (Acumen), Ch. 1 and 2.

J. M. E. McTaggart (1927) The Nature of Existence, Vol. II (CUP), Ch. 33.
Michael Dummett (1960) ‘A Defense of McTaggart’s Proof of the Unreality of Time’ in The Philosophical Review 69(4), pp. 497–504.
Arthur Prior (1967) Past, Present, and Future (OUP), Ch. 1.
D. H. Mellor (1993) ‘The Unreality of Tense’ in Robin Le Poidevin and Murray Macbeath, eds. The Philosophy of Time (OUP).

Along with the article by Lewis below, the first and last of these are reprinted in Robin Le Poidevin and Murray Macbeath, eds. The Philosophy of Time (OUP).

For an introduction to the other main issues for this topic, you can’t do better than chapters 3 to 8 of Dainton (2010). B-theorists face the problem of accounting for the fact that time passes. Or if it doesn’t, of accounting for the fact that it seems to: we experience time as passing. They also have to explain the apparent asymmetry of our attitudes, e.g. of hope, dread, etc., towards the past and the future. Mellor (1998) tackles these and other problems for the B-theorist. On the A-theory side of things, try Lowe (2002) and, for a recent survey of presentism, Ingram and Tallant (2018). Another thing to think about is time travel. Is it possible? Does it pose a problem for particular views about the nature of time? Lewis (1976) defends the possibility of time travel, and Wasserman (2017) is a recent book looking at a range of issues.

D. H. Mellor (1998) Real Time II (Routledge).
E. J. Lowe (2002) A Survey of Metaphysics (OUP), Ch. 17.
David Ingram and Jonathan Tallant (2018) ‘Presentism’ in E. Zalta, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
David Lewis (1976) ‘The Paradoxes of Time Travel’ in American Philosophical Quarterly, 13(2), pp. 145–152.
Ryan Wasserman (2017) Paradoxes of Time Travel (OUP).

‘It is manifest in our experience that time passes.’ Is this so? What follows for how we should understand the nature of time? (2016)

Is time travel possible? What does this tell us about the nature of time? (2015)

In what, if anything, does the flow of time consist? (2014)

If what is true depends on what exists, how can a presentist explain the truth of ‘Dinosaurs used to roam around in what is now Oxfordshire’? (2012)




Can knowledge be analysed as justified true belief? If not, how, if at all should it be analysed?

*Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa and Mattheus Steup (2001/2012) ‘The Analysis of Knowledge’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Edmund Gettier (1963) ‘Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?’ in Analysis 23(6), pp. 121–123.
Linda Zagzebski (1994) ‘The Inescapability of Gettier Problems’ in Philosophical Quarterly, 44(174), pp. 65–73. Reprinted in SKF&M.
Timothy Williamson (2000) Knowledge and its Limits (OUP), Introduction and Ch. 1. Reprinted in SKF&M and available online.
William Lycan (2006) ‘On the Gettier Problem Problem’ in S. Hetherington, ed. Epistemology Futures (OUP).

Weatherson (2003) is an interesting defence of the JTB analysis of knowledge. For virtue-theoretic approaches, see Sosa (2007) and Zagzebski (1996). The Gettier problem has received a great deal of attention from so-called experimental philosophers. See Nagel (2012) for critical discussion. Those interested in more formal approaches to epistemology will profit from Williamson (2013); in the same issue of Inquiry you’ll find response articles from other philosophers and a reply from Williamson. For more on Williamson’s views on knowledge, see the Williamson on Knowledge topic.

Linda Zagzebski (1996) Virtues of the Mind, Vol. 1 (CUP), esp. Part I. Selections reprinted in SKFM.
Brian Weatherson (2003) ‘What Good are Counterexamples?’ in Philosophical Studies 115(1), pp. 1–31.
Ernest Sosa (2007) A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Vol. 1 (OUP), Ch. 2.
Jennifer Nagel (2012) ‘Intuitions and Experiments: A Defense of the Case Method in Epistemology’ in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85(3), pp. 495-527.
Timothy Williamson (2013) ‘Gettier Cases in Epistemic Logic’ in Inquiry 56(1), pp. 1-14.

How important is the concept of luck in epistemology? (2016)

What, if anything, is wrong with the view that knowledge is rationally held reliably true belief? (2015)

‘It’s too easy to come up with counterexamples to putative analyses of knowledge in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions, so we should abandon the attempt to construct such analyses.’ Is this a compelling argument? And should we give up the project of analysing knowledge? (2014)

‘The theory that knowledge is justified true belief is a simple and powerful proposal. Just as we accept simple and powerful, but highly counterintuitive, theories in fundamental physics, so too we may accept the knowledge proposal despite its counterintuitive consequences.’ Discuss. (2012)



What is a priori knowledge? Do we have any? If so, how is it possible for us to have it? In particular, can a priori knowability be explained in terms of analyticity? Can a priori knowability be identified with necessity?

*Alex Orenstein (2002) W. V. Quine (Acumen), Ch. 4.

W. V. O. Quine (1951) ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’ in The Philosophical Review 60(1), pp. 20–43. Reprinted in Quine (1961) From a Logical Point of View, revised ed. (Harvard).
Saul Kripke (1980) Naming and Necessity (Blackwell), pp. 34–39, 54–57, and 134–139.
Laurence Bonjour (1998) In Defense of Pure Reason (Cambridge UP), Ch. 4.
Carrie Jenkins (2008) ‘A Priori Knowledge: Debates and Developments’ in Philosophy Compass 3(3), pp. 436–450.

Greg Restall has a nice introductory piece on the a priori here. Both Quine (1951) and the relevant selections from Kripke (1980) are reprinted in Paul Moser, ed. (1987) A Priori Knowledge (OUP), alongside a number of other classic papers on the a priori.

If you are working on this topic in more depth, this syllabus put together by Jim Pryor will be helpful, as will the rest of Bonjour (1998). Boghossian (1997) is an interesting and influential attempt to resuscitate an account of the a priori in terms of analyticity. Field (2000) develops an interesting expressivist account of the a priori. Williamson (2013) argues that the a priori/a posteriori distinction is of “little theoretical significance”. This and other challenges to the distinction are discussed in Casullo (2013). Bonjour and Devitt (2014) debate whether anything is knowable a priori.

Paul Boghossian (1997) ‘Analyticity’ in Bob Hale and Crispin Wright, eds. A Companion to Philosophy of Language (Blackwell). Reprinted in his (2008) Content and Justification (OUP).
Hartry Field (2000) ‘Apriority as an Evaluative Notion’ in Paul Boghossian and Christopher Peacocke, ed. New Essays on the A Priori (OUP).
Tim Williamson (2013) ‘How Deep is the Distinction between A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge?’ in Albert Casullo and Joshua C. Thurow, ed. The A Priori in Philosophy (OUP).
Alberto Casullo (2013) ‘Four Challenges to the A Priori: A Posteriori Distinction’ in Synthese, pp. 1–24.
Laurence Bonjour and Michael Devitt (2014) in Matthias Steup, John Turri, and Ernest Sosa, eds. Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, 2nd edition (Blackwell). (First published in 2005.)

Are all the propositions knowable by humans either ‘matters of fact’, or ‘relations of ideas’, as Hume maintained? (2016)

EITHER (a) Are there any contingent truths that are knowable a priori? OR (b) Does an appeal to intellectual intuition play a role in explaining how we are able to have a priori knowledge? (2015)

Do accounts of a priori knowledge have a problem with explaining how there can be contingent a priori claims? (2014)

EITHER (a) Why not simply suppose that all and only the things knowable a priori are analytic truths? OR (b) Is any justification purely a posteriori? (2013)



What is induction? What is Hume’s problem of induction? What do you think is the most promising response to it? Does Goodman’s “New Riddle” add anything to the problem?

*Darren Bradley (2015) A Critical Introduction to Formal Epistemology (Bloomsbury), Ch. 6 and 7.

David Hume (1748) Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, §§. IV and V.
James van Cleve (1984) ‘Reliability, Justification, and the Problem of Induction’ in Midwest Studies in Philosophy 9(1), pp. 555–67.
Laurence BonJour (1998) In Defense of Pure Reason (CUP), Ch. 7.
Nelson Goodman (1983) ‘The New Riddle of Induction’ in Fact, Fiction and Forecast (Harvard UP, 4th edition). First published in 1954. Other editions will do just as well.

Millican (2012) is an excellent overview of interpretative issues in thinking about Hume’s problem. Beebee (2011) argues against what she calls metaphysical solutions to the problem of induction. Henderson (2018) is a recent survey piece on the topic. Jackson (1975) and Shoemaker (1980) both discuss Goodman’s puzzle. Jackson argues that all predicates are projectible, even ‘grue’. Shoemaker argues against this, and connects projectibility with standing for a property with genuine causal power.

Peter Millican (2012) ‘Hume’s ‘Scepticism’ about Induction’ in Alan Bailey and Daniel O’Brien, eds. The Continuum Companion to Hume (Continuum).
Helen Beebee (2011) ‘Necessary Connections and the Problem of Induction’ in Noûs 45(3), pp. 504-527.
Leah Henderson (2018) ‘The Problem of Induction’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Frank Jackson (1975) ‘Grue’ in Journal of Philosophy, pp. 113–131.
Sydney Shoemaker (1980) ‘Properties, Causation and Projectibility’ in L. Jonathan Cohen and Mary B. Hess, eds. Applications of Inductive Logic (OUP).

‘To say that valid predictions are those based on past regularities, without being able to say which regularities, is…pointless.’ (GOODMAN) How does this remark bear on the problem of what justifies us in making inferences from a finite number of instances to a general law subsuming these instances? (2016)

An item is grue if and only if either it is observed before a certain time T and is green, or it is not observed before T and is blue. Suppose that over 10,000 emeralds have been observed prior to time T and all were grue. Should one on that basis expect the first emerald observed after T to be grue? (2015)

What would it take to solve the problem of induction? (2014)

Whether induction is rational is one question; whether induction is reliable is another. Need anything more be said to resolve the problem of induction? (2013)



Can one know that something is the case simply because one has been told that it is? If not, does it follow that we know far less than we ordinarily take ourselves to know?

*Jennifer Lackey (2010) ‘Testimonial Knowledge’ in Sven Bernecker and Duncan Pritchard, eds. The Routledge Companion to Epistemology (Routledge).

Elizabeth Fricker (1995) ‘Telling and Trusting: Reductionism and Anti-Reductionism of Testimony’ in Mind 104(414), pp. 393-411.
Tyler Burge (1993) ‘Content Preservation’ in The Philosophical Review 102(4), pp. 457-88. Reprinted in KK&S.
Paul Faulkner (2000) ‘The Social Character of Testimonial Knowledge’ in Journal of Philosophy 97(11), pp. 581-601.
Jennifer Lackey (2006) ‘It Takes Two to Tango: Beyond Reductionism and Non-Reductionism in the Epistemology of Testimony’ in J. Lackey and E. Sosa, eds. The Epistemology of Testimony (OUP), pp. 160-89.

Adler (2006/12) is a useful overview of the issues. Coady (1992) is a classic defence of anti-reductionism. Lipton (1998) defends reductionism, as does Fricker (2006). Lackey (2007) argues that anti-reductionism is incompatible with virtue epistemology, the idea that knowledge is something for which subjects deserve credit.

Jonathan Adler (2006/12) ‘Epistemological Problems of Testimony’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
C. A. J. Coady (1992) Testimony: A Philosophical Study (OUP).
Peter Lipton (1998) ‘The Epistemology of Testimony’ in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 29(1), pp. 1-31.
Elizabeth Fricker (2006) ‘Second-Hand Knowledge’ in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73(3), pp. 592-618.
Jennifer Lackey (2007) ‘Why We Don’t Deserve Credit for Everything We Know’ in Synthese 158(3), pp. 345–361.

How readily should one believe what others tell one? (2016)

EITHER (a) ‘Understanding other people’s eye-witness accounts affords one epistemic access to states of affairs they have observed and now report, in much the same way that one’s memory affords one present access to past states of affairs which one oneself once observed.’ Discuss. OR (b) To what extent does one’s dependence on others for much of what one knows compromise one’s ability to take responsibility for one’s own beliefs? (2015)

‘Insofar as observations could undermine our entitlement to trust testimony, so also testimonies could undermine our entitlement to trust particular observations.’ Is this true? Does it follow that testimony and observation are equally basic as sources of knowledge? (2013)

Can there be such a thing as knowledge by testimony alone? (2011)



What does it take for a person x identified at one time to be numerically identical to a person y identified at some other time? Why might the answer to this question be thought to matter? Does it?

*Eric T. Olson (2002/15) ‘Personal Identity’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Bernard Williams (1970) ‘The Self and the Future’ in Philosophical Review 79(2), pp. 161–180. Reprinted in his (1973) Problems of the Self (CUP), and in KK&S.
Derek Parfit (1984) Reasons and Persons (OUP), Ch. 12: ‘Why Our Identity is Not What Matters’.
David Lewis (1976) ‘Survival and Identity’ in Alice Oksenberg Rorty, ed. The Identities of Persons (University of California Press). Reprinted with a Postcript in Lewis’s Philosophical Papers, Vol. 1 (OUP, 1983), and in KK&S.
Eric Olson (2003) ‘An Argument for Animalism’ in Raymond Martin and John Barresi, eds. (2003) Personal Identity (Blackwell), and in KK&S.

Note that Raymond Martin and John Barresi, eds. (2003) Personal Identity (Blackwell), the source of Olson (2003), also contains reprints of the other papers, alongside many other classic papers on this topic.

Noonan (2003) is a book length discussion of the issues, aimed at upper-level undergraduates. Perry (2008) is another useful anthology, containing classic early modern discussions of the issue. Shoemaker, a leading psychological continuity theorist, criticises animalism in his (2008). Madden (2011) is a sophisticated attempt by an animalist to deal with transplant cases. Blatti and Snowdon (2016) is a recent collection of papers on animalism, including one by Derek Parfit arguing that we are not animals.

Harold Noonan (2003) Personal Identity, 2nd edition (Routledge).
John Perry, ed. (2008) Personal Identity, 2nd edition (University of California Press).
Sydney Shoemaker (2008) ‘Persons, Animals, and Identity’ in Synthese 162(3), pp. 313–324.
Rory Madden (2011) ‘Externalism and Brain Transplants’ in Karen Bennett and Dean Zimmerman, eds. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol. 6 (OUP).
Stephan Blatti and Paul Snowdon, eds. (2016) Animalism (OUP).

What is involved in person A at time t1 being identical with person B at another time, t2? Is this a metaphysical question, a moral question, or something else? (2016)

Do psychological factors have the upper hand in accommodating our intuitions about when persons persist over time? Are psychological factors dominant in determining our intuitions regarding what it takes for a person to persist over time? (2015)

Does the psychological view of personal identity face challenges that other views on personal identity easily avoid? (2014)

‘Since there can be merely apparent memories, no account of personal identity can appeal to memories without begging the question.’ Does this follow? (2013)



In what sense, if any, do races exist?

*Alyssa Ney and Allen Hazlett (2014) ‘The Metaphysics of Race’ in Ney’s Metaphysics: an Introduction (Routledge).

Kwame Anthony Appiah (1994) ‘Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood ConnectionsTanner Lectures on Human Values. Also in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann, eds. Color Conscious (Princeton University Press).
Charles W. Mills (2000) ‘“But What Are You Really?” The Metaphysics of Race’ in A. Light & N. Mechthild, eds. Race, Class, and Community Identity: Radical Philosophy Today (Humanity Books), pp. 23–51. Also in his (1998) Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race (Cornell UP).
Sally Haslanger (2000) ‘Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?’ in Noûs 34(1), pp. 31-55. Reprinted in her (2012) Resisting Reality (OUP).
Robin O. Andreasen (1999) ‘A New Perspective on the Race Debate’ in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 Supplement, pp. 653-666.

For more on natural kinds and social construction in general, see Quine (1969). For more on eliminativism about race, see Shelby (2002). Glasgow (2009) is a book length treatment of the issues. See especially Ch. 5, discussing realism, and Ch. 6, discussing constructivism. Mills (2014) discusses Haslanger’s constructivism. Haslanger responds to Mills’ paper (and another by Karen Jones) in the same issue. Spencer (2014) defends biological realism about race.

W. V. O. Quine (1969) ‘Natural Kinds’ in Nicholas Rescher, ed. Essays in Honor of Carl G. Hempel (Synthese). Also in his (1977) Ontological Reality and Other Essays, New Ed. (Columbia UP) and in KK&S.
Tommie Shelby (2002) ‘Foundations of Black Solidarity: Collective Identity or Common Oppression’ in Ethics 112(2), pp. 231-266.
Joshua Glasgow (2009) A Theory of Race (Routledge).
Charles W. Mills (2014) ‘Notes from the Resistance: Some Comments on Sally Haslanger’s Resisting Reality’ in Philosophical Studies 171(1), pp. 85–97.
Quayshawn Spencer (2014) ‘A Radical Solution to the Race Problem’ in Philosophy of Science 81(5), pp. 1025–1038.

‘All categorisation of things into kinds depends upon the interests, purposes, and technological ability of those doing the categorising. So there is at best only a difference of degree between social kinds and natural kinds.’ What, if anything, is correct about this claim? What significance does your answer have for the debate over the reality of race? (2016)



What do we mean when we ask ‘what is there?’ and how should such questions be investigated?

*Tuomas Tahko (2015) An Introduction to Metametaphysics (CUP), Ch. 2.

W. V. O. Quine (1948) ‘On What There Is’ reprinted in his (1980) From a Logical Point of View (Harvard UP, 2nd edition, revised). Reprinted in KK&S.
Rudolf Carnap (1950) ‘Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology’ in Revue Internationale de Philosophie 4, pp. 20-40. Reprinted in his Meaning and Necessity (University of Chicago Press, 2nd edition) and in KK&S.
Maria Reicher (2006/14) ‘Nonexistent Objects’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Yablo (1998) articulates a fictionalist approach to meta-ontology. For contemporary Quinean and Carnapian approaches, see van Inwagen (1998) and Thomasson (2009), respectively. For ontological pluralism — not to be confused with the Carnapian approach, which sometimes goes by the same name — see McDaniel (2009). Berto and Plebani (2015) discuss all these and various other approaches, and defend the Quinean position, which they call the Standard View.

Stephen Yablo (1998) ‘Does Ontology Rest on a Mistake?’ in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supp. Vol. 72, pp. 229–261. Reprinted in KK&S.
Peter van Inwagen (1998) ‘Meta-Ontology’ in Erkenntnis 48(2/3), pp. 233–250.
Amie Thomasson (2009) ‘Fictional Entities’ in J. Kim, E. Sosa and S. Rosencrantz, eds. A Companion to Metaphysics (Blackwell, 2nd edition), pp. 10-18. Reprinted in KK&S.
Kris McDaniel (2009) ‘Ways of Being’ in David Chalmers, David Manley, and Ryan Wasserman, eds. Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology (OUP).
Francesco Berto and Matteo Plebani (2015) Ontology and Metaontology: A Contemporary Guide (Bloomsbury).

What is the best methodology for resolving ontological disputes? (2015)

‘The standard of ontological commitment in metaphysics is the same as that in the sciences – one is committed to what one quantifies over in one’s best theory. Accordingly, it cannot be correct to castigate metaphysics as unscientific.’ Discuss. (2013)

Are ontological disputes merely verbal disputes over the choice of conventional linguistic framework? (2012)

‘Existence is a property like any other.’ Discuss. (2011)




Can the fact that Ruqia could have been a doctor be understood in terms of the properties that Ruqia herself has in other possible worlds? Can it be understood in terms of the properties that counterparts of Ruqia have in other possible worlds?

*Penelope Mackie and Mark Jago (2006/13) ‘Transworld Identity’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Roderick Chisholm (1967) ‘Identity through Possible Worlds: Some Questions’ in Noûs, 1(1), pp. 1–8.
David Lewis (1968) ‘Counterpart Theory and Quantified Modal Logic’ in The Journal of Philosophy 65(5), pp. 113–126.
Robert M. Adams (1979) ‘Primitive Thisness and Primitive Identity’ in The Journal of Philosophy 76(1), pp. 5–26. Reprinted in KK&S.
Saul Kripke (1980) Naming and Necessity (Blackwell), pp. 16-20 and 44-47.

Forbes (1985) argues that unless things have non-trivial individual essences, trans-world identities will be problematically ungrounded. Mackie (2006) discusses Forbes. Lewis (1986) discusses his counterpart theory in more detail. Fara and Williamson (2005) argues against it. Williamson (1998) argues that everything that does or could exist necessarily exists, in which case there are trans-world identities.

Graeme Forbes (1985) The Metaphysics of Modality (OUP), Ch. 6.
Penelope Mackie (2006) How Things Might Have Been (OUP), Ch. 2 and 3.
David Lewis (1986) On the Plurality of Worlds (Blackwell), Ch. 4.
Michael Fara and Tim Williamson (2005) ‘Counterparts and Actuality’ in Mind 114(453), pp. 1–30.
Tim Williamson (1998) ‘Bare Possibilia’ in Erkenntnis 48(2/3), pp. 257–273.