Syllabus for Knowledge, Perception and True Belief: Plato's Theaetetus

Kunskap, perception, och sant omdöme: Platons Theaitetos


  • 7.5 credits
  • Course code: 5FT112
  • Education cycle: Second cycle
  • Main field(s) of study and in-depth level: Theoretical Philosophy A1N
  • Grading system: Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
  • Established: 2020-03-10
  • Established by: The Department Board
  • Applies from: week 31, 2020
  • Entry requirements: Eligible is the person who fulfills the requirements for a bachelor's degree in the humanities or has a corresponding foreign degree.
  • Responsible department: Department of Philosophy

Learning outcomes

After completing the course the students are expected to:

  • have an overview of the main argumentative moves in Plato's Theaetetus
  • know how to locate this classic in, and its relevance for, epistemology.
  • be familiar with the relevant philosophical context and some of the most important later influences.
  • acquire skills to read, understand and assess historical texts on philosophy.
  • have and employ skills to interpret and criticize Classical philosophical theories and arguments.


The course functions both as an advanced course within epistemology and an introduction to one of epistemology's early classics, Plato's Theaetetus. The dialogue starts from the question "What is knowledge?" and proceeds to a detailed discussion and critique of three views: that knowledge is perception; that knowledge is true judgement; that knowledge is true judgement with an account. Besides its role in the development of the so-called "knowledge as justified true belief" -theories, the dialogue has influenced many important philosophers from Bishop Berkeley and Ludwig Wittgenstein to one of its English translators, John MacDowell. While the main concerns of the dialogue are epistemological, it also contains discussions, for example, on relativism, on radical ontological flux, on paradoxes of false judgement, and on parts and wholes. Throughout, the reader can witness the activity of argumentation: interlocutors and Socrates defending, probing, testing, and criticising the suggested views.

The focus of the course is on the arguments and theories discussed, but attention will also be paid to the literary aspects of the dialogue, in so far as they seem philosophically relevant. Why does Plato end the dialogue in aporia, puzzlement, rather than a positive result or dogmatic statement? If this is Plato's main work on epistemology, why does it not mention the so-called theory of recollection (anamnêsis)? If knowledge by the end of the dialogue appears as a difficult concept and a very demanding state to acquire, what can we learn about lower cognitive activities towards knowledge or wisdom - about inquiry and about teaching philosophy?


Lectures and discussion. The lectures will be interactive and students are expected to participate and contribute.


One longer essay and one shorter assignment. A student's active participation and good performance in class may be a positive factor in the overall assessment of the student's work for the course.

Master's students are expected to write somewhat longer and more comprehensive essays than C-level students, and the requirements concerning scholarly quality are higher.

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the University's disability coordinator.

Reading list

Reading list

Applies from: week 27, 2020

Some titles may be available electronically through the University library.

Reading list

  • Plato, ; Brown, Lesley McDowell, John Theaetetus

    Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014

    Find in the library

  • Plato., ; McDowell, John Henry Theaetetus [Elektronisk resurs]


    Find in the library