Course Description

Course Name

Analytic Philosophy

Session: VDNS3121

Hours & Credits

18 Credit Points

Prerequisites & Language Level

Taught In English

  • There is no language prerequisite for courses at this language level.


Discusses the founders of analytic philosophy, especially Moore, who tried to vindicate both common sense and the objectivity of goodness, and Russell, who tried to reduce mathematics to logic.

This paper deals with the founding fathers of analytic philosophy, a style of philosophising that arose in opposition to absolute idealism (the idea, derived from Hegel, that diversity is a delusion and that reality is fundamentally spiritual), which was once the philosophical orthodoxy in the British Empire. We discuss G.E. Moore (1874-1958), who tried to vindicate common sense and argued for an indefinable property of goodness; Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), who tried to reduce mathematics to logic and denied the existence of an absolute good; the young Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), who thought he had solved all the problems of philosophy and tried to relegate talk of goodness to the realm of the unsayable; and the logical positivists of Vienna, who thought that what cannot be verified is factually meaningless and that to talk about goodness is just to express feelings of approval. We shall also discuss some of their opponents and critics, such as the pragmatist William James (1842-1910), who thought that truth is what pays; and the two executioners of logical positivism, the Austrian Karl Popper (1902-1994) and the American Willard Van Orman Quine (1908-2000). Some knowledge of these thinkers is essential for a full understanding of contemporary analytic philosophy.

Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course, students will acquire:
-A critical understanding of the ideas, theses and themes discussed in this paper
-Some knowledge of the works of the leading analytic philosophers of the early 20th century, of the philosophy of logic and the philosophy of mathematics
-Enhanced logical, analytical, communicative and writing skills

Course Structure
Two 2-hour lecture/seminars per week, two essays and a final exam.

-In-class contributions: Attendance, class discussion and sometimes an optional presentation 5%
-Internal assessment: Students will write two essays during the paper. They can choose from a list of topics prepared by the lecturer.
-First essay (2,200 words maximum) 20%
-Second essay (2,600 words maximum) 25%
-Final exam: Students will sit a 3-hour, 3-question exam at the end of term. The exam is divided into two sections. Students must answer at least one question from each of the two sections 50%

Charles Pigden 221/321 Course book (available from uniprint or as a pdf on Blackboard)
Scott Soames (2003) Analytic Philosophy in the Twentieth Century, I The Dawn of Analysis, Princeton, Princeton University Press. (Essential)

*Course content subject to change