Phil 735: Advanced Studies in Epistemology


Course Number Phil 735.001 and .002 (fall 2023) (was originally listed as Phil 433)
Title Advanced Studies in Epistemology
Credit Hours 3 credits
Course Description See below
Prerequisites None
Target Audience Philosophy graduate students and others with comparable preparation and instructors’ permission
Class Times and Location Wed 1:00–3:30 pm in Caldwell 213
Instructional Format In-person, mix of structured presentation and group discussion
Instructors Professor Matt Kotzen, email
and Professor Jim Pryor (he/him), email
Teaching Assistants None
Course Website
Instructors’ Office Hours See below
Course Texts Readings provided by web links

Canvas Site, Zoom, and Regular Updates

There is no Canvas webpage for this course.

Zoom links for any course meetings you need to attend remotely, and for Professor Kotzen and Pryor’s office hours can be retrieved from this restricted page.

This front web page won’t be updated frequently. Regular announcements, readings, and presentation notes will be posted at this page instead.

Course Description

This seminar will survey mathematical tools, basic results, and some major philosophical issues in formal epistemology. The main frameworks we’ll discuss are:

  1. modal representations of belief and knowledge, in the tradition of von Wright and Hintikka;

  2. models of belief in terms of evolving sets of sentences/propositions, the most prominent of these being the AGM model; and

  3. Bayesian models of confidence.

Throughout, we’ll discuss promising applications and challenges for these frameworks. We’ll also consider some questions at the interface of formal and informal epistemology, such as what is the relation between degrees of confidence and all-or-nothing attitudes like belief and agnosticism; when and why it’s helpful to represent beliefs as deductively closed and always consistent; and what it means for something to be evidence for a hypothesis.

Time permitting, we may also discuss: classical statistics and its relation to Bayesianism; Lewis’s triviality result about “conditional propositions”; extensions of Bayesianism to allow defeasible updating, or imprecise probabilities, or infinitesimal probabilities.

For philosophy grads, this course counts towards the “Logic and Philosophy of Science” distribution requirement. Refer to our Graduate Handbook (in the June 2023 edition, #8 and #9, starting page 5) for more information. (But this course is an exception to the usual correspondence between areas and course numbers listed there.)

Target Audience

The intended audience for this seminar are philosophy graduate students, no matter their specific backgrounds and interests. It’s not meant only for those who have or want to focus on formal epistemology. That said, the literature on some of these topics tends towards being more technical. We’ll do all we can to make the issues and discussion as accessible to as many participants as possible.

Students who aren’t philosophy grads should discuss their preparation with the instructors and need their permission to enroll.


The course is offered by:

Professor Kotzen’s office is Caldwell 101B. He can best be reached by email, at

Professor Kotzen’s office hours are on Tues and Thurs 3-4:30.

Professor Pryor’s office is Caldwell 108A. He can best be reached by email, at

Professor Pryor’s office hours are on Mondays starting at 11 am (until at least noon, sometimes I can go later), and Wednesdays from 11-1 pm. If you’re unable to meet in person, we can also arrange to meet by Zoom. The Zoom link for his office hours can be found on this restricted page. Feel free to drop into office hours to discuss anything you like about our course. I’m happy to talk about paper ideas, your homeworks, continue discussion, and so on. If you do come to my office and I’m already speaking with someone, make sure that we know that you’re waiting for us to finish.

Course Requirements and Expectations

The University advises you that a 3 credit course should be expected to demand 9–12 hours of work per week on average, including the time for classroom meetings. For our course, that means in a standard week (when no homework is due) you should still expect to be devoting about 7 hours to this course outside of our in-class meetings. This includes reading (and re-reading, analyzing, and taking notes on) the assigned texts, reviewing any presentation notes, coming to our office hours, discussing the issues with other students, and so on. When you’re working on homeworks, a final paper or preparing for the final exam you should expect to need more time.

It is essential that you attend the class meetings regularly. Material not in the readings will often be presented there, and useful background and framing for many of the readings will also be provided.

The University’s Class Attendance Policy can be found here. In brief, they authorize absences only for some University activities, religious observances, disabilities, significant health conditions including pregnancy, and personal or family emergencies. If these include your situation, then consult these links:

  1. The University Approved Absence Office (UAAO) provides information and FAQs for students related to University Approved Absences.

  2. Students can be excused because of disability, pregnancy, or religious observance, as required by law and approved by Accessibility Resources and Service (ARS) and/or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC).

  3. Students can be excused for significant health conditions (generally, these will require you to miss classes for five or more days) and/or personal/family emergencies, as approved by the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS), Gender Violence Service Coordinators, and/or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC).

If you need to miss class because of a more temporary illness, just email to let us know. If you need to miss class for other kinds of reasons (like a job interview or to attend your mother’s wedding), ask us about it well in advance. Given the course format, and since we only meet once a week, there isn’t much room for absences. If you do miss a class, you will be responsible for catching up with missed content; and permission to miss a class doesn’t excuse you from deadlines for work due before or after the class.

If you need to stay home during any of our class meetings, try to attend the meeting by Zoom instead.

We won’t prohibit the use of laptops or tablets for taking notes, though we strongly discourage this. We’ll post summaries of the main outlines of our presentations, so you won’t need to write everything down during our meetings. You should be reviewing those presentation notes outside of class anyway. An effective use of your time in the classroom is to focus on following our presentations and any class discussion, and actively raising questions when you don’t. If you must have a device open in class, don’t browse the web, or read/send texts or other social media during our meetings. It’s pretty clear to everyone when you are doing this, and it’s rude and distracting to your instructors and your classmates.

When you join our class meetings, you are expected to have read any material assigned for that day, and to be ready to discuss it and/or ask questions about it.

It is essential that you ask questions when things in the readings or our presentations or our group discussion are unclear, and be ready to participate when we have class discussions. We’ll expect you to actively engage with each other in class, and encourage you also to actively engage with each other outside the classroom, for example in study groups or to work together on homeworks. Talking about philosophy is one of the best ways of learning how to do it. Your overall participation will contribute substantially to your grade for the course. See this page on participation for more details. (This course won’t have separate “discussion sections” as that page assumes; we’ll integrate discussion into the main meetings.) If you don’t plan to participate earnestly, you should not take this course.

There will be reading assignments for most class meetings. These readings tend not to be long, but they all require close study. You should read them carefully before we discuss them in class, and you’ll need to read them more than once. For most of the readings, you won’t understand the material sufficiently with just a single reading. A good strategy would be to read the assignment once before we discuss it, and then go back and read it again after we’ve discussed it. If you don’t plan to do this, you should not take this course. We’ll often post summaries of material we presented in class. You should read these materials carefully and expect that you’ll have to read many of them more than once, too.

Here is a detailed explanation of how you’ll be expected to read philosophy papers.

There will be homeworks due at several points during the semester. These must be turned in (in-person or by email) on the following Fridays: Sept 15, Sept 29, Oct 20, and Nov 17 Sept 22, Oct 13, Nov 3, and Dec 1. There will also be a take-home final exam due on Friday Dec 15 at 4 pm, which is the time scheduled for our final exam. Instead of the exam, we will meet at that time to review the exam and discuss outstanding philosophical issues that emerged during the semester.

Homeworks cannot be turned in late, as we’ll be posting sample solutions after you submit them.

The take-home exam will resemble the homeworks in some respects, but may cover material from the whole course. In addition to technical problems, it may include some short essays and short-answer questions.

Instead of a final exam, students can choose instead to write a 3000-word final paper — but to do this they must discuss the topic with the instructors and get their approval by Fri Oct 27 at latest. This paper would be due at the same time as the take-home final is. If a topic is not approved by this deadline, you will default to the required exam.

Philosophy grads who choose to take the seminar in “Reduced Writing” mode will be expected to prepare all of the readings, participate fully when we have group discussion, and do the four homeworks for the course. They won’t have to take the final exam (or write the substitute paper).

The University Honor Code applies to all course assignments, exams, and petitions for absences or rescheduling. In brief, this means students are expected to refrain from “lying, cheating, or stealing” in the academic context. For more information or to clarify which actions violate the honor code, consult with your instructors,, and/or The Instrument of Student Judicial Governance.

What constitutes “lying, cheating, or stealing” depends on the academic activity.


This schedule lists due dates for assignments and the rough order of our topics. See this other page for course announcements, specific readings, presentation notes, and any minor tweaks to the schedule. Check that page frequently.

Meeting 1 / Wed Aug 23
Sets, tuples, functions, relations
Consequence, proof, and conditionals
No assigned reading
Wed Aug 30
Classes cancelled
Meeting 2 / Wed Sept 6
Modal logics and their semantics
Using modal logic to model belief and knowledge
Logical omniscience
Static vs dynamic analyses
Read for this session: Meyer, “Epistemic Logic,” from Blackwell Guide to Philosophical Logic (in section 9.5, skip all but the first two pages)
Wed Sept 13
Classes cancelled
Meeting 3 / Wed Sept 20
More on the use of modal logic to model belief and knowledge
Read for this session:
First homework due Fri Sept 22
Meeting 4 / Wed Sept 27
Belief revision systems like AGM
Read for this session:
Meeting 5 / Wed Oct 4
More on AGM
Read for this session:
Meeting 6 / Wed Oct 11
Different interpretations of “probability”
Probability as a model of rational confidence
Read for this session: Titelbaum book, Ch 2 and Ch 3
Second homework due Fri Oct 13
Meeting 7 / Wed Oct 18
More on Probability, including translating between Bayesian formalism and informal concepts
Read for this session: Titelbaum book, Ch 4 and Ch 5
Meeting 8 / Wed Oct 25
Jeffrey Conditionalization
Read for this session:
Meeting 9 / Wed Nov 1
Decision Theory
Read for this session: Thoma’s entry in OHFE
Meeting 10 / Wed Nov 8
Dutch Book arguments
Read for this session:
Third Homework due Friday Nov 10
That’s also the last day for a paper topic to be approved; otherwise exam
Meeting 11 / Wed Nov 15
Accuracy-oriented arguments for probabilism
Read for this session:
Wed Nov 22
Thanksgiving Break, No classes
Meeting 12 / Wed Nov 29
Indifference and Imprecise Probabilities
Read for this session:
Fourth homework due Friday Dec 1
Meeting 13 / Wed Dec 6
Read for this session:
Fri Dec 15
Take-home exam due before Final Exam Session at 4–6 pm

Syllabus Updates

The instructors reserve the right to make changes to the syllabus, including assignment due dates. These changes will be announced as early as possible so that students can adjust their schedules.


We welcome your input about the course at any time. You are welcome to approach us directly. We’ll also provide opportunities for anonymous evaluation and feedback during the term.