PHIL 109 -- Origins of Analytic Philosophy
Winter 2009

Instructor:    Clinton Tolley
   office:   HSS 8061
   hours:   tba
   phone:  2-2686
   email:   ctolley [at]

Teaching Assistant:   {to be determined}
   office:   ---
   hours:   ---
   phone:  ---
   email:   ---


Time:        11:00am--12:20am
Location:  Warren Lecture Hall (WLH) 2206 [map]

Required textbooks

{available at Groundwork Books}

Bertrand Russell, The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1918)
 Open Court, 1985

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921)
 Pears/McGuinness, tr., Routledge, 2001

A.J. Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic (1936/46)
 2nd ed., Dover, 1956

** additional required readings to be made available on WebCT from:

Recommended textbooks


{also available at Groundwork Books}

Course description

The main questions we will address include: What would it mean for 'analysis' to be the proper method of philosophy?  What are the prospects for such a proposal?  What are the tools (logical? conceptual? linguistic? psychological?) to be used in distinctively philosophical analysis?  Can a philosophy grounded in, and limited to, analysis claim to be 'first' philosophy, if it has to presuppose that there is something there to be analyzed, and if it has to presuppose the validity of its own method to provide knowledge?  Among all that is 'there' already prior to analysis (the world? our minds? language? science?), what is to be the primary focus of analysis?  How can analysis ever lead to new knowledge (tell us something we don't already implicitly know), or is it ultimately and essentially conservative?  Why should analysis be the only valid method for all forms of philosophical inquiry (even, say, in ethics and aesthetics)?  If we cannot conceive of certain traditional philosophical questions and projects (in, say, metaphysics) as ones which can be resolved through analysis, what should we say about them?  Would this mean that the questions themselves are invalid or meaningless?  But then why would we have been tempted to ask them in the first place, and so frequently throughout the history of philosophy?

We will try to answer these questions by working through proposals made by the central figures in
the historical development of the tradition which has come to be known as 'analytic' philosophy: Gottlob FREGE (1848–1925), G.E. MOORE (1873–1958), Bertrand RUSSELL (1872–1970), Ludwig WITTGENSTEIN (1889-1951), Rudolf CARNAP (1891–1970), A.J. AYER (1910–89), and W.V. QUINE (1908–2000).

Prerequisite: upper-division standing or consent of instructor.

: May be repeated for credit with change in content and approval of the instructor.

Course requirements

mid-term exam (1500 words); due 5th week
final paper (2500 words); due exam week

Schedule of readings


Reference links

Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy entries (requires sign-in)

Overview of 'analytical philosophy'
Gottlob Frege
G.E. Moore
Bertrand Russell
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Rudolf Carnap
A.J. Ayer
The Vienna Circle
W.V. Quine

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entries

Gottlob Frege
G.E. Moore
Bertrand Russell
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Rudolf Carnap
A.J. Ayer
The Vienna Circle
W.V. Quine

Course URL

last updated: November 16, 2008