Moral Epistemology PHIL4059

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

Moral epistemology is the philosophical study of the existence and nature of moral knowledge. Questions in this area include: Do we have moral knowledge? What are the sources of moral knowledge? Is there anything distinctive about moral as opposed to non-moral knowledge? What might this tell us about the nature of morality? In this course we will consider some central topics in moral epistemology: reflective equilibrium, the epistemic role of moral intuitions, empirical challenges to intuitions, defeaters for moral knowledge, moral testimony, moral expertise, and moral forgetting.


18 x 1hr lectures; 4 x 1hr seminars as scheduled on MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in Philosophy and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into Philosophy, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





Essay (2000 words) - 30%

Examination (120 minutes duration) - 70%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:


■ gain a detailed knowledge and understanding of debates in moral epistemology.

■ develop analytical and critical skills, by considering key arguments and positions, and formulating their own.

■ consolidate and deepen their understanding of moral philosophy, by connecting the study of morality with issues in epistemology and philosophy of mind.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


■ clearly present a sustained and coherent argument in written form.

■ critically evaluate reflective equilibrium and moral intuition as ways of gaining moral knowledge.

■ explain and critically evaluate the significance of recent work in empirical psychology and neuroscience for moral epistemology.

■ explain and critically engage with questions concerning the susceptibility of moral knowledge to defeat.

■ critically evaluate the claim that moral testimony is a source of moral knowledge.

■ understand and critically engage with the claim that moral knowledge stands in a special relationship to forgetting.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.