PHIL 229.001 – 20th-Century Western Philosophy

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Instructor: Chris Dorst. This course meets MWF 8:00 – 8:50 a.m. in CW 103.

This course will be a critical examination of some of the major developments in Western philosophy in the 20th century.  In particular, we will focus on the school of “ordinary language philosophy.”  Ordinary language philosophers thought that philosophical questions should be addressed by carefully examining the language used to express them.  So, for example, take the question, “Is the mind identical to the brain?”  An ordinary language philosopher would address this question by looking at how we ordinarily use the words “mind,” “brain,” and “identical.”  The hope would be that once we are clear on the ordinary use of these terms, the original question is revealed to be either trivial or confused.

We will read both proponents and opponents of ordinary language philosophy, including Frege, Russell, Ayer, Austin, Ryle, and Wittgenstein.   We will consider a variety of philosophical questions, such as “What is meaning?”, “How do we know there is an external world?”, and “Are we justified in believing that other people are conscious?”