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Instructor: Alan Nelson. This course meets W 4:00 – 6:30 p.m. in CW 213.

This will be a course on the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein mainly focusing on his later work. The prerequisite is two previous courses in philosophy; Phil 155 (Logic) is recommended. 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.” The goal of this course is to learn enough about Wittgenstein’s philosophy to see why many people find Wittgenstein so important. Our primary text will be the 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 early analytic philosophers such as Russell and Frege.

Depending on students’ interests, our study of the Philosophical Investigations might lead to an examination of additional writings by Wittgenstein or of Wittgenstein’s influence on recent philosophy.

Undergraduate students will write a number of short reaction papers, a take-home midterm, and a combination take-home/in class final.

For Graduate students, this course satisfies the Distribution Requirement in MODERN philosophy.


PHIL graduate students: Please refer to our Handbook (page 6, #9) for further information regarding distribution requirements.

Registration is restricted to PHIL grad students and PHIL majors/minors. All others interested in enrolling should contact Prof. Alan Nelson. Please email him at for assistance.

Recommended prerequisite: PHIL 155 and 2 additional PHIL courses.