Beginnings of Analytic Philosophy (PHIL 432)

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Instructor: Alan Nelson. Topic: Wittgenstein. This seminar meets on Thursdays from 4:00 – 6:30 p.m. in Caldwell 213. PHIL 432 has as prerequisite two previous courses in Philosophy and is especially recommended for Philosophy majors and graduate students.

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 related works by Russell, Ayer, Carnap, etc..

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?  For this topic, we will get help from a recent book by Bennett, Dennett, Searle, and Hacker.

Alan Nelson’s webpage