Skip to main content

Instructor: Philip Bold. This course meets MTWRF 1:15 – 2:45 p.m. via remote synchronous (RS) instruction.

Wittgenstein on Language, Meaning, & the Limits of Philosophy

Philosophy has traditionally been in the business of addressing grand questions, like, “What is the fundamental nature of reality?”, “How do we know we’re not currently in an elaborate dream?”, “What is the nature of consciousness?”, or “Are humans able to make free choices, or merely slaves to the laws of science?”, among many others.

But in the early 20th century, philosophers began to approach philosophy through the lens of language. And this naturally led them to ask, “What do the questions in the previous paragraph even *mean*?” More dangerously: “Are these questions (i.e., the traditional questions of philosophy) meaningful *at all*? Or do they cross the boundaries of what we can meaningfully say or think about?”

This course will begin by presenting some of the traditional preoccupations of philosophers – with readings from Socrates, Plato, Descartes, David Hume, and John Locke.

Then we will study the (later) philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) – who thought that past philosophers had illictly crossed the boundaries of language, and that anyone seduced by their questions needs to be shown that these questions are quite simply nonsense, gobbledigook, mere blabber, and lacking answers because they say nothing at all.

If Wittgenstein is right, then this should be the first and *last* philosophy course that you ever take. But students will be encouraged again and again to come to their own judgments on this and related matters.

At least one previous course in philosophy is *highly* recommended, but not required. Feel free to email the instructor with any questions or concerns: