Philosophy: What We Can Know

Ref: C2342551

This course gives students the opportunity to explore philosophical debates what we can know and some of the attempted answers. Knowledge of philosophy is not expected, only curiosity and a willingness to think. The course will cover : the meaning of “I don’t know” – subject, person, practical task; observational knowledge – experiential learning and philosophical analysis; influential philosophical theories of knowledge – scepticism, realism, phenomenalism, idealism; knowledge as “justified true belief” and critiques; Popper and falsifiability; types of knowledge : from experience; abstract; knowledge as pattern or habit; practical knowledge; wisdom; the limits of (human) knowledge – to include theories arguing that limits are socially constructed (e.g. Sara Hardin) and theories positing structural limitations to human knowledge (logical – self-referential systems problem – or neurological); wisdom – to start from Aristotelian understanding.

Course aim

Most people have asked themselves what we can really know. This course introduces students to key philosophical debates about what we can know and gives them the opportunity to practice and refine their thinking and debating skills.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • explain at least two different meanings of ‘knowledge’
  • give an outline of at least two different philosophical theories of knowledge
  • give examples of at least two different types of knowledge
  • state which arguments regarding what we can know you find more and less convincing – one each, with reasons for your view
  • give an account of an insight gained or a view or judgement better expressed or expressed differently as a result of the course

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • B Dupre, 50 Philosophy Ideas you really need to know (Quercus) chapters 1 – 6, 33 N Fearn, Philosophy. The latest answers to the oldest questions ((Atlantic Books 2005), ch 5 a 10

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • suggested further reading : Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (online), ‘knowledge’ and ‘epistemology’ Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosoph (online), ‘knowledge’, ‘epistemology’, ‘wisdom’

Download full course information sheet

Philosophy: What We Can Know

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This course is not available for online enrolment.


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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