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 SPECIAL TOPICS, which haven’t come up in exams so often in the past few years, but which students might nevertheless want to explore.)

The current version of this reading list was put together in light of my experience using previous incarnations in teaching Knowledge & Reality to undergraduates in Oxford over the years. If you’re teaching a similar course, and want to make use of this reading list at all, as occasional emails suggest people sometimes do, please feel free. I’d love to hear how it goes!


  1. Knowledge
  2. Contextualism
  3. The A Priori
  4. Possible Worlds
  5. Time
  6. Persistence
  7. Personal Identity
  8. Causation




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.

Ernest Sosa, Jaegwon Kim, Jeremy Fantl, and Matthew McGrath, eds. (2008) Epistemology: An Anthology, 2nd ed. (Blackwell)

Jaegwon Kim, Daniel Korman, and Ernest Sosa, eds. (2009) Metaphysics: An Anthology, 2nd ed. (Blackwell)

There are no set textbooks, but it will be useful to do some introductory reading in the vacation beforehand. Both of the following are recommended.

Jennifer Nagel (2014) Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction (OUP).

Alyssa Ney (2014) Metaphysics: An Introduction (Routledge).





What philosophical account, if any, can be given of what it is for one to know that P?


*Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa and Mattheus Steup (2001/2017) 'The Analysis of Knowledge' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Edward Craig (1987) 'The Practical Explication of Knowledge' in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 87, pp. 211–226.

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), Ch. 1. Reprinted in SKF&M.

William Lycan (2006) 'On the Gettier Problem Problem' in S. Hetherington, ed. Epistemology Futures (OUP).

For an introduction to Zagzebski’s and Williamson’s views, see this short video by Jennifer Nagel:


In setting the reading for this topic, I have assumed that students are already familiar from their first year work in General Philosophy with the Gettier problem and various responses to it, including reliabilism, causal theories, and truth-tracking approaches. If you’re not familiar with these, let me know before the beginning of term, and I’ll suggest a slightly different essay question and set of readings. If you are familiar with them, but want a refresher, see, in the first instance, the references in Ichikawa and Steup (2001/17), above, and the survey articles in Part II of Bernecker and Pritchard, eds. (2011). See also Goldman and Beddor (2008/15) and the entry on EPISTEMIC CLOSURE. If you’re pursuing the topic further, you should look at virtue-theoretic approaches to knowledge, such as that of Sosa (2007). Craig (1990) develops his practical explication of the concept of knowledge in more detail—useful background reading if you’re studying EPISTEMIC INJUSTICE. Ch. 2 of Williamson (2000) develops his view that knowledge is a mental state, and is essential reading. You’ll find discussion of his work, together with responses from Williamson himself, in Greenough and Pritchard, eds. (2009). Particularly recommended are the pieces by Quassim Cassam and Elizabeth Fricker. See also Lowe (2002), the debate between Williamson and Trent Dougherty and Patrick Rysiew in Steup, Turri, and Sosa, eds. (2014), and the papers in the recently published volume, Carter, Gordon, and Jarvis, eds. (2017). Also have a think about the value of knowledge. Williamson and Craig both have things to say on this, but for an introduction to the issue and further references, see Pritchard (2007/18).

*Sven Bernecker and Duncan Pritchard, eds. (2011) Routledge Companion to Epistemology (Routledge).

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

Edward Craig (1990) Knowledge and the State of Nature: An Essay in Conceptual Synthesis (OUP).

*Alvin Goldman and Bob Beddor (2008/15) 'Reliabilist Epistemology' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Patrick Greenough and Duncan Pritchard, eds. (2009) Williamson on Knowledge (OUP).

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.

*Duncan Pritchard (2007/18) 'The Value of Knowledge' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Ernest Sosa (2007) A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Vol. I (OUP), Ch. 2.

*Matthias Steup, John Turri, and Ernest Sosa, eds. (2014) Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, 2nd edition (Wiley Blackwell).


Are there unanalysable factive mental states? (2017)

(a) How important is the concept of luck in epistemology?
(b) Is knowledge prior to belief? (2016)

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




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?


*Patrick Rysiew (2007/16) 'Epistemic Contextualism' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Keith DeRose (1999) 'Contextualism: An Explanation and Defense' in John Greco and Ernest 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. Reprinted as 'Sensitive Moderate Invariantism' in SKF&M.

Jason Stanley (2005) 'On the Linguistic Basis for Contextualism' in Philosophical Studies 119(2), pp. 119-146.


In working further on this topic, start by getting a good sense of what epistemic contextualism is. The best way to do this is to think about alternative views, including classical invariantism, subject-sensitive invariantism (SSI), and relativism. Classical invariantism is defended in Brown (2006). SSI is defended by Hawthorne in the Core Reading. For relativism, see Macfarlane (2005). DeRose fleshes out his case for contextualism and replies to Stanley’s objections, as well as those of various invariantists, in his (2009). McKenna (2015) is a useful survey of recent work. The debate between contextualists and SSIs raises questions about the role of pragmatic factors, such as practical interests, in knowledge. Fantl and McGrath (2009) is a great discussion of this, and Kim (2017) a survey of the recent debate. Steup, Turri, and Sosa, eds. (2014) is also useful here, containing accessible debates between Fantl and McGrath and Baron Reed over whether pragmatic factors affect knowledge, as well as Conee and Cohen over contextualism itself. The latter includes, among other things, discussion of whether contextualism provides a satisfactory response to the sceptic. On this last issue, Lewis (1996) is a must read, though beware that it is potentially misleading, suggesting that the contextualist holds that it is not just the truth-value of knowledge attributions that varies across contexts, but even whether one knows something. See also DeRose (2017), the follow-up to his (2009) book, developing his contextualist treatment of puzzles posed by both scepticism and lotteries.

Jessica Brown (2006) 'Contextualism and Warranted Assertibility Manoeuvres' in Philosophical Studies 130(3), pp. 407-435.

Keith DeRose (2009) The Case for Contextualism: Knowledge, Skepticism, and Context, Volume 1 (OUP).

— (2018) The Appearance of Ignorance: Knowledge, Skepticism, and Context, Volume 2 (OUP).

Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath (2009) Knowledge in an Uncertain World (OUP), Ch. 2.

Brian Kim (2017) 'Pragmatic Encroachment in Epistemology' in Philosophy Compass 12(5), pp. 1–14.

David Lewis (1996) 'Elusive Knowledge' in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74(4), pp. 549–567. Reprinted in SKF&M.

John MacFarlane (2005) 'The Assessment Sensitivity of Knowledge Attributions' in Tamar Szabo Gendler and John Hawthorne, eds. Oxford Studies in Epistemology 1 (OUP). Reprinted in SKF&M.

Robin McKenna (2015) 'Recent Work: Contextualism in Epistemology' in Analysis 75(3), pp. 489–503.

*Matthias Steup, John Turri, and Ernest Sosa, eds. Contemporary Debates in Epistemology 2nd edition (Blackwell).


(a) Is epistemology a pastime which destroys its own subject matter?
(b) In what sense, if any, does knowledge depend on practical interests? (2018)

Does the context-sensitivity of the word ‘know’ tell us anything about knowledge itself? (2017)

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)




What is a priori knowledge? Do we have any? If so, how do we acquire it? Are there any contingent truths that can be known a priori?


*Carrie Jenkins (2008) 'A Priori Knowledge: Debates and Developments' in Philosophy Compass 3(3), pp. 436–450.

Philip Kitcher (1980) 'A Priori Knowledge' in The Philosophical Review, 89(1), pp. 3–23.

Laurence Bonjour and Michael Devitt (2014) 'Is There a Priori Knowledge?' in Matthias Steup, John Turri, and Ernest Sosa, eds. (2014) Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, 2nd edition (Wiley Blackwell).

Saul Kripke (1980) Naming and Necessity (Blackwell), pp. 34–39, 48-50, 53–58, 99-105, and 108-109. The relevant extracts are reprinted in Paul Moser, ed. (1987) A Priori Knowledge (OUP).


In getting a better grasp of this topic, I think it’s particularly helpful to understand how the notion of the a priori has figured in the history of philosophy. At the very least, you’ll want to look at Quine (1953). Though it doesn’t actually contain the expression “a priori”, it’s a renowned attack on what Bonjour calls moderate empiricism, and attempts to put a form of radical empiricism in its place. You’ll find good discussion of the issues in the first few chapters of Bonjour (1998), and a recent attempt to resuscitate moderate empiricism in the face of Quine’s attack in Boghossian (2003). In exploring contemporary work by other philosophers on the a priori, you should follow up the relevant references in Jenkins (2008). You’ll want to think, in the first place, about accounts of the a priori from the likes of Field and Peacocke, as well as Jenkins herself. Boghossian and Peacocke (2000) contains many key contributions to recent debate, including a paper by Kitcher reflecting on critical reaction to his (1980) paper. You’ll also want to think about Kripke, and alleged instances of contingent a priori truths. To that end, try Hawthorne (2002) and Chalmers (2008). (This is an issue that you’ll most likely encounter again if you do Philosophy of Mind, and certainly if you do Philosophical Logic.) Lastly, have a think a bit about whether the distinction between the a priori and the a posteriori is significant. Williamson (2013) is a recent paper arguing that it isn’t; Casullo (2015) is a response.

Laurence Bonjour (1998) In Defense of Pure Reason (Cambridge UP).

Paul Boghossian and Christopher Peacocke, eds. (2000) New Essays on the A Priori (OUP).

Paul Boghossian (2003) 'Epistemic Analyticity: A Defense' in Grazer Philosophische Studien 66, pp. 15-35. Reprinted in his (2008) Content and Justification: Philosophical Papers (OUP).

Alberto Casullo (2015) 'Four Challenges to the A Priori: A Posteriori Distinction' in Synthese 192(9), pp. 2701–2724.

David J. Chalmers (2008) 'Two‐Dimensional Semantics' in Ernie Lepore and Barry C. Smith, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language (OUP).

John Hawthorne (2002) 'Deeply Contingent A Priori Knowledge' in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65(2), pp. 247–269.

W. V. O. Quine (1951) 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism' in The Philosophical Review 60(1), pp. 20–43. Reprinted in his (1961) From a Logical Point of View, revised edition (Harvard).

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).


In what sense, if any, is a priori knowledge justified ‘independently of experience’? (2018)

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

(a) Are there any contingent truths that are knowable a priori?
(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)




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 (1986) On the Plurality of Worlds (Blackwell), Ch. 1. Reprinted in KK&S as 'A Philosopher's Paradise: The Plurality of Worlds'.

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).

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 rest of Melia’s (2003) book is very helpful, and the rest of Lewis’s (1986) is essential. The second defends Lewis’s brand of modal realism from various objections, and the third presents objections to various rival views. The fourth and final chapter defends counterpart theory, his alternative to the view that there are transworld identities. Menzel (2013/16) provides an accessible overview of the issues surrounding Lewis-style realism, abstractionism or ersatzism, and combinatorialism—this last a view that is particularly associated with David Armstrong; see his (2004). Bricker and Melia (2008) is an accessible debate between proponents of concretism and ersatzism, with Bricker defending the former and Melia the latter. You should also look at important alternative approaches to modality. Rosen (1990) defends a fictionalist approach, while Melia (1992) is a critical discussion of 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. Kripke (1980) is the source of his influential Humphrey objection to Lewis-style realism, and argues that the so-called problem of trans-world identity, pressed by Chisholm (1967) among others, is a pseudo-problem. For more on this issue, see Mackie and Jago’s (2006/17) survey article for the Stanford Encyclopedia.

David Armstrong (2004) 'Combinatorialism Revisited', published as 'Theorie Combinatoire Revue et Corrigée' in J-M. Monnoyer, ed. La Structure du Mond: Objets, Propriétés, États et Choses (Vrin), pp. 185-198.

*Phillip Bricker and Joseph Melia (2008) 'Modality and Possible Worlds' in Ted Sider, John Hawthorne, and Dean W. Zimmerman, eds. (2008) Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics (Wiley Blackwell).

Roderick Chisholm (1967) 'Identity through Possible Worlds: Some Questions' in Noûs 1(1), pp. 1–8.

Kit Fine (1994) 'Essence and Modality' in Philosophical Perspectives 8, pp. 1–16. Reprinted in KK&S.

Saul Kripke (1980) Naming and Necessity (Blackwell), pp. 15-20 and 42-53.

*Penelope Mackie and Mark Jago (2006/17) 'Transworld Identity' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Joseph Melia (1992) 'Against Modalism' in Philosophical Studies 68(1), pp. 35–56.

*Christopher Menzel (2013/16) 'Possible Worlds' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Gideon Rosen (1990) 'Modal Fictionalism' in Mind 99(395), pp. 327–354. Reprinted in KK&S.


‘There could have been no concrete objects. Therefore, possible worlds are not concrete objects.’ Discuss. (2018)

Can modality be understood in terms of possible worlds, or does the notion of a possible world presuppose a prior understanding of modality? (2017)

‘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)




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. Reprinted in Robin Le Poidevin and Murray Macbeath, eds. The Philosophy of Time (OUP).

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).

NOTE: in addition to Mellor (1993), Le Poidevin and Murray Macbeath, eds. The Philosophy of Time (OUP) reprints McTaggart (1927), Lewis (1976), and various other useful papers on this topic.


For an introduction to the other main issues for this topic, you won’t do better than chapters 3 to 8 of Dainton (2010). Inspired by McTaggart, the issues are usually posed in terms of a distinction between A-theory and B-theory—though see Parsons (2002) for discussion of what the core commitments here really are. Zimmerman and Smart (2008) is an accessible debate, with Zimmerman defending the main A-theory, presentism, and Smart defending the B-theory. Beyond that, think about other A-theories, such as the so-called growing block and moving spotlight views. The papers by Correia and Rosenkranz and Braddon-Mitchell in Bennett and Zimmerman, eds. (2014) discuss the former; the latter was long regarded the poor relation among A-theories, but see Cameron (2015) for a recent and influential attempt to revive it. Prosser (2017) is a recent book-length defence of the B-theory, focused on explaining various aspects of our experience of time that seem to tell against the view. Another thing to think about is time travel. Is it possible? Does it pose a problem for particular views about time? Lewis (1976) argues that it’s possible. See also Vihvelin (1996) for discussion, and Wasserman (2017) for a recent book on the topic. Lastly, try Fine (2006), a fantastic, albeit rather tough-going paper discussing McTaggart, and offering an interesting interpretation of Dummett’s position.

Karen Bennett and Dean Zimmerman, eds. (2014) Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 8 (OUP).

Ross Cameron (2015) The Moving Spotlight: An Essay on Time and Ontology (OUP).

Kit Fine (2006) 'The Reality of Tense' in Synthese 150(3), pp. 399-414. A longer version appears as 'Tense and Reality' in his (2005) Modality and Tense: Philosophical Papers (OUP).

David Lewis (1976) 'The Paradoxes of Time Travel' in American Philosophical Quarterly, 13(2), pp. 145–152.

Josh Parsons (2002) 'A-Theory for B-Theorists' in The Philosophical Quarterly 52(206), pp. 1–20.

Simon Prosser (2017) Experiencing Time (OUP).

Kadri Vihvelin (1996) 'What Time Travelers Cannot Do' in Philosophical Studies 81(2-3), pp. 315–330.

Ryan Wasserman (2017) Paradoxes of Time Travel (OUP).

*Dean Zimmerman and J. J. C. Smart 'Time' in Ted Sider, John Hawthorne, and Dean W. Zimmerman, eds. (2008) Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics (Wiley Blackwell).


‘While the past seems settled, the future seems open.’ What is the best explanation of this apparent asymmetry? (2018)

(a) Is backward time travel possible if, and only if, time is circular?
(b) Why does time, but not space, seem to pass? (2017)

‘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)




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


*Roxanne Marie Kurtz (2006) 'Introduction to Persistence: What’s the Problem?' in Sally Haslanger and Roxanne Marie Kurtz, eds. (2006) Persistence: Contemporary Readings (MIT Press). Referred to below as H&K.

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 and in H&K.

Ted Sider (2001) Four Dimensionalism (OUP), Ch. 4, esp. §§6 and 9.

Sally Haslanger (2003) 'Persistence through Time' in M. J. Loux and D. W. Zimmerman, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics (OUP).


H&K is a very useful collection, containing various classic pieces, and is a great place to start if you’re working on the topic in more depth, as are three, more or less introductory surveys: Balashov (2012), Effingham (2012), and Gallois (2005/16). For more on the argument from coincidence or co-location, see McGrath (2007). And see Koslicki (2003) for more on Sider’s argument from vagueness. Sider and Hawthorne (2008) is a nice, accessible debate over whether objects have temporal parts. Hofweber (2009) argues that there’s no genuine problem of change, a view to which I’m fairly sympathetic. So too is Iris Einheuser (2012), who agrees that there’s not, but argues that there’s nevertheless a meta-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.

*Yuri Balashov (2012) 'Persistence' in Craig Callender, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time (OUP), pp. 13-40.

*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.

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

Thomas Hofweber (2009) 'The Meta-Problem of Change' Noûs 43(2), pp. 286-314.

Kathrin Koslicki (2003) 'The Crooked Path from Vagueness to Four-Dimensionalism' in Philosophical Studies 114(1/2), pp. 107–134.

Matthew McGrath (2007) 'Four-Dimensionalism and the Puzzles of Coincidence' in Dean W. Zimmerman, ed. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 3 (OUP).

Ofra Magidor (2016) 'Endurantism vs. Perdurantism: A Debate Reconsidered' in Noûs 50(3), pp. 509-532.

Ted Sider and John Hawthorne (2008) 'Persistence' in T. Sider, J. Hawthorne, and D. W. Zimmerman, eds. Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics (Wiley Blackwell).


Is it ever true to say of two atoms that they once were, or will be, numerically identical? (2018)

Is the property of being-F-at-t a relational property? How does this affect the argument from temporary intrinsics? (2017)

‘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)

(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?
(b) Are there any good reasons to prefer the view that objects persist by perduring rather than by enduring? (2015)




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.

Sydney Shoemaker (1984) 'Personal Identity: A Materialist Account' in Sydney Shoemaker and Richard Swinburne Personal Identity (Blackwell). Reprinted in Peter van Inwagen and Dean Zimmerman, eds. (1998) Metaphysics: The Big Questions (Blackwell).

Derek Parfit (1984) Reasons and Persons (OUP), Ch. 12: 'Why Our Identity is Not What Matters'.

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), besides Olson’s paper, also contains the papers by Williams and Parfit, a helpful editors’ introduction, and various other important papers on this topic. I refer to it below as M&B.


If you’re working on this topic in more depth, Locke’s discussion in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Bk II, Ch. 27) is essential reading, as are the famous replies from Thomas Reid and Joseph Butler. These are usefully collected, along with various other pieces, in Perry, ed. (2008). You’ll also want to think a bit about Williams. For some discussion, see the piece by Nozick in M&B, Noonan (1982), and John Perry’s piece ‘Williams on The Self and the Future’ in Perry, ed. (2008). Otherwise, you should focus on Parfit and animalism. M&B contains a number of pieces discussing Parfit: those by Lewis, Korsgaard, Unger, Sosa, Martin, Schechtman, and Johnston, as well as Parfit’s own ‘The Unimportance of Identity’. Lewis’s response is particularly important, and will seem less ad hoc if you’ve encountered his views on persistence more generally. For discussion of animalism, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Snowdon (1990) is an important statement and defence of the position. For other discussions, see Olson (2004), Shoemaker (2008), Madden (2011), and the collection, Blatti and Snowdon, eds. (2016)—the last containing a piece by Parfit arguing against animalism. For a recent book on personal identity, aimed at undergraduates, try Kind (2015).

Stephan Blatti and Paul Snowdon, eds. (2016) Animalism (OUP).

*Amy Kind (2015) Persons and Personal Identity (Polity Press).

Rory Madden (2011) 'Externalism and Brain Transplants' in Karen Bennett and Dean Zimmerman, eds. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 6 (OUP).

Harold Noonan (1982) 'Williams on “The Self and the Future”' in Analysis 42(3), pp. 158–163.

Eric Olson (2004) 'Animalism and the Corpse Problem' in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82(2), pp. 265–274.

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.

Paul Snowdon (1990) 'Persons, Animals, and Ourselves' in Christopher Gill, ed. The Person and the Human Mind: Issues in Ancient and Modern Philosophy (OUP). Reprinted in Tim Crane and Kati Farkas, eds. (2004) Metaphysics: A Guide and Anthology (OUP).

Are you an animal? What, if anything, does your answer imply about the metaphysics of personal identity through time? (2018)

Is it easier to survive fission than to survive fusion? (2017)

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)




What is the most promising philosophical account of the relation between causes and their effects?


*Michael Loux and Thomas Crisp (2017) Metaphysics, 4th edition (Routledge), Ch. 6.

David Hume (1748) An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, §VII. Various editions, and available online:

J. L. Mackie (1965) 'Causes and Conditions' in American Philosophical Quarterly 2(4), pp. 245–264 (skip §§5-7). Reprinted Sosa and Tooley, eds. (1993) Causation (OUP), referred to below as S&T, and in KK&S.

Elisabeth Anscombe (1971) 'Causation and Determination' in her (1981) Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind: Collected Philosophical Papers, Volume 2 (Blackwell). Reprinted in S&T and 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, S&T, and KK&S.


The literature for this topic is huge. Unless you’re studying him for Early Modern Philosophy, you needn’t worry too much about the ins and outs of the scholarly debate over Hume’s views on causation, but you will want to look at discussion of the other Core Readings, especially the Mackie and the Lewis. For discussion of Mackie, see the first paper by Jaegwon Kim in S&T and Scriven (2007). For discussion of Lewis, see the second paper by Kim in S&T, as well as the papers by Horwich and Bennett. In order to overcome difficulties with his (1973) view, Lewis developed a different counterfactual theory, which is presented in his paper ‘Causation as Influence’ in Collins, Hall, and Paul, eds. (2004). Menzies (2001/14) provides a great overview of the issues surrounding these and other counterfactual approaches. You should also have a look at other approaches to causation. Perhaps the main one is the interventionist approach, a non-reductionist counterfactual approach that draws on the work of the computer scientist Judea Pearl. Woodward (2001/16) is a good introduction. Pearl and Mackenzie (2018) is an accessible account of Pearl’s work. If you’re interested in probablistic approaches, see in the first instance Hitchcock (1997/2018). Another approach worth looking at is the physical process acccount defended by the likes of Wesley Salmon. See his paper in S&T, though perhaps the best introduction is his (2002). His view has fallen out of favour somewhat recently, however. Part of its appeal was the promise of an account of preemption cases, but on further examination, it’s not so clear. There’s some nice discussion of this and other issues in Hall (2009). The other pieces in S&T are recommended; indeed, the editors’ introduction and the papers by Davidson and Tooley are all essential reading. Lastly, try Psillos (2003) for a good, more or less book-length overview of the issues. It’s a little too advanced to count as genuinely introductory, but provides detailed discussion of the Core Reading and other important approaches, including interventionism.

John Collins, Ned Hall, and Laurie Paul, eds. (2004) Causation and Counterfactuals (MIT Press).

*Ned Hall (2009) 'Causation' in Frank Jackson and Michael Smith, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy (OUP).

Christopher Hitchcock (1997/2018) 'Probabilistic Causation' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Peter Menzies (2001/14) 'Counterfactual Theories of Causation' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

*Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie (2018) The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect (Penguin).

Stathos Psillos (2003) Causation & Explanation (Acumen), Part I.

Wesley Salmon (2002) 'Causation' in Richard Gale, ed. The Blackwell Guide to Metaphysics (Blackwell).

Michael Strevens (2007) 'Mackie Remixed' in J. K. Campbell, M. O'Rourke, and H. S. Silverstein, eds. Causation and Explanation (MIT Press).

James Woodward (2001/8) 'Causation and Manipulability' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:


If a short-circuit starts a house fire, which triggers a sprinkler system that puts out the fire, did the short-circuit cause the failure of the house to burn down? (2018)

If x prevents y from preventing c from causing e, does this make x a cause of e? (2017)

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)



Coming soon.


‘A belief is justified only if it is justified by a mental state with propositional content. The only mental states with propositional content are beliefs. Therefore, immediate justification is impossible.’ Discuss. (2018)

Can one provide a foundationalist justification for foundationalism itself? (2017)

Should one try to ensure one’s beliefs rest on certain foundations? (2016)

‘One is justified in holding a belief B only if one has some reason to think it likely to be true. A reason to think B likely to be true cannot be anything other than some other belief or beliefs that indicate the truth of B. So there is no viable foundationalism that does not collapse into a form of coherentism.’ Discuss. (2015)




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).


Does the best explanation of observed regularities imply the existence of unobserved regularities? (2018)

(a) Can induction inform us about the past?
(b) Can it ever be the case that the observation of a non-raven confirms ‘All ravens are black’ to a greater extent than does the observation of a black raven? (2017)

‘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, if anything, do illusion and hallucination tell us about the nature of perception?


*Tim Crane and Craig French 'The Problem of Perception' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Howard Robinson (1994) Perception (Routledge), Ch. II and VI. If you have time, Ch. VII is also worth a look.

Michael G. F. Martin (2008) 'Perception' in Frank Jackson and Michael Smith, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy (OUP).

Adam Pautz (2010) 'Why Explain Visual Experience in Terms of Content?' in Bence Nanay, ed. Perceiving the World (OUP), pp. 254–309.


Classic work on this topic includes the pieces by Anscombe, Strawson, and Peacocke that are reprinted in Noë and Thompson, eds. (2002). Harman (1990) and Tye (1992) are two more recent classics, both defending intentionalism and appealing to the idea that visual experience is in a certain sense transparent; see Martin (2002) for some critical dicussion of this. For more on disjunctivism, see in the first place the various pieces collected in Byrne and Logue, eds. (2009). Then take a look at Nudds (2009), a short survey piece on recent work on naïve realism and disjunctivism. For more on the arguments from illusion and hallucination, try the historically informed and sympathetic discussion in Smith (2002). Another thing to think about are so-called causal theories of perception. For discussion, see the papers by Grice, Lewis, and Snowdon in Noë and Thompson, eds. (2002). You’ll also find discussion of this in Ch. 7 of Fish (2010), a book aimed at undergraduates that covers all the main issues, and a good starting point for further study.

Alex Byrne and Heather Logue, eds. (2009) Disjunctivism: Contemporary Readings (MIT Press).

*William Fish (2010) Philosophy of Perception: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge).

Gilbert Harman (1990) 'The Intrinsic Quality of Experience' in Philosophical Perspectives 4, pp. 31–52.

Michael G. F. Martin (2002) 'The Transparency of Experience' in Mind and Language 17(4), pp. 376–425.

Alva Noë and Evan Thompson, eds. (2002) Vision and Mind: Selected Readings in the Philosophy of Perception (MIT Press).

Matthew Nudds (2009) 'Recent Work in Perception: Naïve Realism and its Opponents' in Analysis 69(2), pp. 334–6.

A. D. Smith (2002) The Problem of Perception (Harvard UP).

Michael Tye (1992) 'Visual Qualia and Visual Content' in Tim Crane, eds. The Contents of Experience (Cambridge UP).


‘One sees if and only if the scene before one’s eyes causes matching visual experience.’ Discuss. (2018)

Given that light travels at a finite speed, does this imply that we do not visually perceive how things are now but how they were? (2017)

‘In perception one is directly aware of mind-independent objects with size, shape and other perceptible qualities.’ Is there compelling reason to abandon this common sense view? (2016)

What is the significance of the possibility of perceptual illusions for the epistemology of perception? (2015)




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).

Tyler Burge (1993) ‘Content Preservation’ in The Philosophical Review 102(4), pp. 457-88. Reprinted in SKF&M.
Elizabeth Fricker (1995) ‘Telling and Trusting: Reductionism and Anti-Reductionism of Testimony’ in Mind 104(414), pp. 393-411.
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.
Paul Faulkner (2000) ‘The Social Character of Testimonial Knowledge’ in Journal of Philosophy 97(11), pp. 581-601.
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.


Must S know that p for T to know that p on S’s say-so? (2018)

Can one acquire a priori justification by means of testimony? (2017)

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

(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.
(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)



Coming soon.


Can two epistemic peers with the same evidence rationally disagree? (2018)




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.
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.
Kristie Dotson (2011) ‘Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing’ in Hypatia 26(2), pp. 236–257.
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:


‘Epistemic injustice is just the unjust distribution of epistemic goods. Therefore, there is no distinctive phenomenon of epistemic injustice.’ Discuss. (2018)

Is someone who is committing an epistemic injustice epistemically irresponsible? (2017)

What is epistemic injustice? (2016)

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


Coming soon.


Is scepticism about other minds fundamentally different from skepticism about the external world? (2017)

‘One’s knowledge that other conscious persons exist broadly similar to oneself is based on an inference to the best explanation.’ Do you agree? (2016)

‘There are no reasons to be sceptical about the existence of other conscious persons that are not equally reasons to be sceptical about the existence of mind-independent solid objects with size, shape and location.’ Do you agree? (2015)

Is there any plausible account of the nature of mind which would make knowledge of other minds possible? Does an acceptable account of mind have to make such knowledge possible? (2014)




What, if anything, is the fundamental difference between one’s knowledge of one’s own mind and one’s knowledge of other minds?


*Brie Gertler (2003/15) 'Self-Knowledge' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Sydney Shoemaker (1994) 'Self-Knowledge and "Inner Sense": Lecture I and Lecture II' in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 54(2), pp. 249-69 and 271–290. Reprinted in his (1996) The First-Person Perspective and Other Essays (CUP).

Timothy Williamson (2000) Knowledge and its Limits (OUP), Ch. 4.

Richard Moran (2001) Authority and Estrangement (Princeton UP), esp. Ch. 1.

Alex Byrne (2005) 'Introspection' in Philosophical Topics 33(1), pp. 79–104. Reprinted as Ch. 2 of his (2018) Transparency and Self-Knowledge (OUP).


Gertler’s Stanford Encyclopedia entry is a condensed version of her (2011) book, which is an invaluable guide to the further literature on this topic. She roughly divides accounts of introspection into two kinds, empiricist (or, broadly speaking, perceptual) and rationalist. Her own view, defended in Ch. 4, and in Fumerton (2005), is a form of empiricism, and treats introspection as a form of acquaintance. This view incorporates elements of epistemic internalism. Another empiricist approach, stemming from Locke and, among contemporary philosophers, David Armstrong, is more congenial to externalists, especially reliabilists, and is defended by Lycan (1996). Rationalism is well-represented in the Core Reading, but it’s useful to contrast Moran’s approach with that of Burge (1996), as well as that of neo-Wittgensteinian expressivists, like Bar-On (2004). Williamson’s anti-luminosity argument has generated a lot of discussion. Srinivasan (2015) defends Williamson, and is a good place to start. Ch. 5 of Knowledge and its Limits, developing the argument against the KK principle, is also important reading. For a recent discussion of this, making use of the transparency thesis defended by Moran (and Byrne), see Das and Salow (2018). Lastly, Wright, Smith, and Macdonald, eds. (1998) and Smithies and Stoljar, eds. (2012) are excellent collections of specially commissioned papers on this topic, the latter containing a very useful editors’ introduction and a couple of papers (by Eric Schwitzgebel and Fred Dretske) arguing for scepticism about the distinctiveness of self-knowledge.

Dorit Bar-On (2004) Speaking My Mind: Expression and Self-Knowledge (OUP).

Tyler Burge (1996) 'Our Entitlement to Self-Knowledge' in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 96, pp. 91–116.

Nilanjan Das and Bernhard Salow (2018) 'Transparency and the KK Principle' in Noûs 52(1), pp. 3–23.

Richard Fumerton (2005) 'Speckled Hens and Objects of Acquaintance' in Philosophical Perspectives 19(1), pp. 121–138.

*Brie Gertler (2011) Self-Knowledge (Routledge).

William Lycan (1996) Consciousness and Experience (MIT Press), Ch. 2. Reprinted in Ned Block, Owen Flanagan, and Guven Guzeldere, eds. (1997) The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates (MIT Press) as 'Consciousness as Internal Monitoring'.

Declan Smithies and Daniel Stoljar, eds. (2012) Introspection and Consciousness (OUP).

Amia Srinivasan (2015) 'Are We Luminous?' in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 90(2), pp. 294–319.

Crispin Wright, Barry C. Smith, and Cynthia Macdonald, eds. (1998) Knowing Our Own Minds (OUP).


(a) Are there any mental states such that one is always in a position to know whether one is in them?
(b) Do you have the same evidence as your brain-in-a-vat counterpart? (2018)


Coming soon.


Are necessarily co-extensive properties identical? (2018)

When x instantiates F, is there a relation of instantiation that is instantiated by x and F? (2017)

(a) ‘The best explanation for the similarity of various metals is that they all contain free electrons. The best explanation for the similarity of various cubic things is that they all instantiate the universal cubicity.’ Are these claims on a par? Does the latter give us good reason to believe that the universal cubicity exists?
(b) ‘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)

Is there a useful distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic properties? (2015)




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.

What might it mean to say that a kind is ‘socially constructed’? Are racial kinds socially constructed in this sense? (2018)

Are races social kinds or natural kinds? (2017)

(a) ‘The best explanation for the similarity of various metals is that they all contain free electrons. The best explanation for the similarity of various cubic things is that they all instantiate the universal cubicity.’ Are these claims on a par? Does the latter give us good reason to believe that the universal cubicity exists?
(b) ‘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)


Coming soon.


(a) Are there tables or only atoms arranged table-wise?
(b) Is it possible for objects of the same kind to coincide? (2018)

‘It is not vague how many things exist. Therefore, it cannot be vague whether composition occurs.’ Does this establish that composition cannot be vague? (2017)

‘There are at least as many distinct sets of conditions under which objects compose to form another as there are distinct kinds of composite object.’ What can be said in favour of this view? Is it correct? (2016)

‘There is no good solution to the special composition question. So we should accept universalism about composition.’ Is this a good argument? (2015)


Coming soon.


Are any dispositions extrinsic? (2018)

Is it possible that an object that is disposed to M when S does not in fact M when S? If so, does this refute counterfactual analyses of dispositions? (2017)

Can the claim that an object is disposed to M when C be explained in counterfactual terms? (2015)



Coming soon.


Does externalism about justification imply that one can have knowledge despite disregarding available evidence? (2017)

‘Externalist accounts of knowledge implausibly imply that a subject can know that P even if they are being unreasonable in believing that P.’ Is this so? (2014)

(a) Does an externalist account of justification just change the subject?
(b) ‘Any episode of belief-formation is an instance of countless processes, some reliable and some unreliable.’ Does this observation doom reliabilism? (2013)

Can a subject have a justified belief that p if there is another subject with all the same evidence whose belief that p is not justified? (2012)


Coming soon.


(a) Are there any mental states such that one is always in a position to know whether one is in them?
(b) Do you have the same evidence as your brain-in-a-vat counterpart? (2018)

‘This sceptical doubt…with respect to…the senses, is a malady, which can never be radically cur’d, but must return upon us every moment.’ (HUME) Is it rational, or is it a pathology, constantly to doubt the veracity of one’s senses? (2016)

(a) Are there any reasons to think that ‘know’ is context-sensitive, other than its potentially affording a response to scepticism?
(b) ‘The best responses to the problem of external world scepticism ultimately concede a lot to the sceptic.’ Discuss. (2014)

Could you be dreaming and still have the same evidence that you currently have? (2012)




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.


(a) How important is the concept of luck in epistemology?
(b) Is knowledge prior to belief? (2016)

Can one know that one has hands while not being in a position to know that one is not a handless brain in a vat? Why might the issue seem important? (2013)

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

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




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


*Francesco Berto and Matteo Plebani (2015) Ontology and Metaontology: A Contemporary Guide (Bloomsbury), esp. Part 1—though if you have time, Part 2 is well worth reading too.

W. V. O. Quine (1948) 'On What There Is' in The Review of Metaphysics 2(5), pp. 21-38. Reprinted in his (1980) From a Logical Point of View, 2nd edition, revised (Harvard UP) and in KK&S.

Rudolf Carnap (1950) 'Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology' in Revue Internationale de Philosophie 4, pp. 20-40. Reprinted in his (1956) Meaning and Necessity, 2nd edition (University of Chicago Press) and in KK&S.

Peter van Inwagen (1998) 'Meta-Ontology' in Erkenntnis 48(2/3), pp. 233–250. Reprinted in his (2001) Ontology, Identity, and Modality (CUP).

Stephen Yablo (1998) 'Does Ontology Rest on a Mistake?' in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supp. Vol. 72, pp. 229–261. Reprinted in his (2010) Things (OUP) and in KK&S.


In working further on this topic, you could do worse than work through the chapters of Part 2 of Berto and Plebani (2015), looking more closely at individual papers defending the views they discuss. Try the paper by Kris McDaniels in Chalmers, Manley, and Wasserman, eds. (2009) for an example of the Ontological Pluralism discussed in Ch. 4, and Linnebo (2012) for an example of Neo-Fregeanism. For the Neo-Carnapianism discussed in Ch. 5, try Hirsch (2002), Thomas Hofweber’s paper in Chalmers, Manley, and Wasserman, eds. (2009), and Thomasson (2008). Fictionalism, discussed in Ch. 8 of Berto and Plebani (2015), is defended by Stephen Yablo in the piece above. For Meinongianism, discussed in Ch. 7, try Crane (2011). Fine (2012) is an example of the Grounding Approach discussed in Ch. 8. You’ll find other various useful papers in Chalmers, Manley, and Wasserman, eds. (2009), along with a handy editors’ introduction. Two other recommendations: Lewis and Lewis (1970), a dialogue between two philosophers discussing whether there are holes, is a must-read, while Effingham (2013) is a fantastic introductory book, aimed at undergraduates and discussing issues of meta-ontology in relation to debates in specific areas of metaphysics. It can be profitably read in working further not just on meta-ontology, but also on topics such as POSSIBLE WORLDS, TIME, and PERSISTENCE.

David Chalmers, David Manley, and Ryan Wasserman, eds. (2009) Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology (OUP).

Tim Crane (2011) 'Existence and Quantification Reconsidered' in Tuomas Tahko, ed. Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics (CUP). Reprinted in his (2013) The Objects of Thought (OUP).

*Nikk Effingham (2013) An Introduction to Ontology (Polity).

Kit Fine (2012) 'Guide to Ground' in Fabrice Correia and Benjamin Schnieder, eds. (2012) Metaphysical Grounding (CUP).

Eli Hirsch (2002) 'Quantifier Variance and Realism' in Philosophical Issues 12(1), pp. 51–73. Reprinted in his (2010) Quantifier Variance and Realism (OUP).

David Lewis and Stephanie Lewis (1970) 'Holes' in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 48(2), pp. 206–212. Reprinted in KK&S.

Øystein Linnebo (2012) 'Metaontological Minimalism' in Philosophy Compass 7(2), pp. 139–151.

Amie Thomasson (2008) 'Existence Questions' in Philosophical Studies 141(1), pp. 63–78.


What, if anything, ground truths about what grounds what? (2018)

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)


Coming soon.


What is the distinction, or alleged distinction, between primary and secondary qualities? Are there any good reasons to conclude that secondary qualities do not exist? (2016)

Is there any interesting distinction between properties such as colour and taste versus properties such as shape and mass? (2015)

Is there any interesting sense in which colours are mind-dependent? (2014)

What is the difference, if any, between primary and secondary qualities? (2011)



Coming soon.


Are there any fundamental negative facts? (2017)

‘Facts are what statements (when true) state.’ (STRAWSON) Would this contention render facts implausibly dependent on what we do, and can, say? (2016)

Is the correspondence theory of truth the only account according to which statements are true or false in virtue of how the world objectively is? (2013)

What are the strengths and weaknesses of deflationism about truth? (2011)