Beginnings of Analytic Philosophy (PHIL 432.001)

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Instructor: Alan Nelson. This class meets on Tuesdays from 4:30 – 7:00 p.m. in Caldwell 213.

This course will be on the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. The prerequisites are two previous courses in philosophy and permission of the instructor (email anelson@unc.edu and include information about your previous philosophy courses for permission). This course requires more than ten pages of writing.

Wittgenstein is often regarded (in a recent poll of philosophers, for example) as “the most important philosopher in the last 200 years.” One reason for this assessment of his stature is the place he occupies in the “Beginnings of Analytic Philosophy.” The goal of this course is to learn enough about Wittgenstein’s philosophy so that you can form your own opinion. We’ll focus on his posthumously published masterpiece,Philosophical Investigations, but we will give some consideration to the context provided by his only published book, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and other philosophers such as Russell and Frege.

At the end of the course, we’ll apply what we have learned to examine some of Wittgenstein’s influence on contemporary thought. The topic is in the philosophy of neuroscience: Do neuroscientists and philosophers of neuroscience often mistakenly characterize the relevance of the science for understanding the mind? If so, how significant are these mistakes and what is their philosophical import? For this topic, we will get help from the debates contained in a recent book by Bennett, Dennett, Searle, and Hacker.

Alan Nelson’s webpage