Philosophy 390

Contemporary Anglo-American Philosophy

Professor: William Sweet
Office: 518 Nicholson Hall Tower
Telephone: 867-2341     E-mail:
Office Hours:
9.15 am - 12 pm, Wednesday and Thursday; 2.15-5 pm, Wednesday, and by arrangement.
This class is scheduled to meet in the 'T1/T2' time block (Tuesday and Thursday at
3.45-5 pm)

Philosophy 390 Exam – Friday, April the 15th, 2 - 5, Room 24 Nicholson

Office Hours

Friday, April 8

1.30 to 3

Monday April 11

11 to 1

Tuesday April 12

12 to 2

Wednesday April 13

(priority to Phil / N  330)

11 to 1

Thursday April 14.

12 to 2

Calendar Description:  Examines the work of 20th-century philosophers in the English-speaking world, notably Russell, A.J. Ayer, Wittgenstein, Searle, and Rawls. Six credits.

Prerequisites: Philosophy 100. Normally this course is taken by students in their third or fourth year.

Course format: The format will be a combination of lecture, discussion, and seminar presentation.

Course Outline:

The object of this course is to present and identify some of the leading currents of philosophy in the English-speaking world in the 20th century.

 Term 1: Anglo-American Philosophy to 1950

 1. Introduction: Empiricism, Pragmatism, and Idealism

a. General Introduction
b. William James, from Pragmatism (1907) [“What Pragmatism Means”; “Pragmatism’s Notion of Truth.”]
c. F.H. Bradley, from Appearance and Reality

2. G.E. Moore [the Origins of “Common Sense Analysis” and “Ordinary Language” Philosophy]

a. “The Refutation of Idealism,” 1903
b. *“The Subject-matter of Ethics” from Principia Ethica
c. *“Reply to Langford”

 3. Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell

*G. Frege “On Sense and Reference”
*Bertrand Russell, one of : *“On Denoting”, *“On the Relation of Universals and Particulars”, *“Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description”, excerpts from The Philosophy of Logical Atomism

 4. Ludwig Wittgenstein - I
                Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

 5. A.N. Whitehead

- presentation of some themes from Process and Reality

6. Rudolf Carnap, A.J. Ayer, and Karl Popper

a. Carnap, “The Elimination of Metaphysics Through Logical Analysis of Language.”
b. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic, chs. 1* and 6 “Critique of Ethics and Theology.”
c. Popper,
Ch. 1, The Logic of Scientific Discovery


Term 2: Anglo-American Philosophy, 1950 –  (tentative)

 1. Ludwig Wittgenstein – II

selections from Philosophical Investigations; Lectures and Conversations; Culture and Value

 2. "Oxford" Philosophy

a. Gilbert Ryle, “Descartes’ Myth,” from The Concept of Mind
b. Peter Strawson, *“On Referring”
c. J.L. Austin, *“A Plea for Excuses”
d. H.L.A. Hart, selections from The Concept of Law

 3. Other Reactions to early 20th century "Empiricist" Philosophy

a. W.V.O. Quine, *“On What there Is”
b. W.V.O. Quine, *“Two Dogmas of Empiricism”
c. H. P. Grice & P. F. Strawson, *"In Defence of Dogma."

 4. Questions of Meaning and Truth

a. Donald Davidson “Truth and Meaning”
b. Hilary Putnam “Meaning and Reference”

 5. Questions of Knowledge and Justification

a. Edmund Gettier, *“Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?”
b. Alvin Plantinga, e.g., Warrant and Proper Function

6. Contemporary Pragmatism

Richard Rorty, "Introduction: Pragmatism and Philosophy" from Consequences of Pragmatism;
"Pragmatism, Davidson, and Truth," from Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth.

 7. Contemporary Metaphysics

            Charles Taylor, from Sources of the Self




Method of Evaluation:

           Short written assignments / class presentations (one per term) 20 %
           1 page commentaries (biweekly) 10 %
           Christmas examination 20 %
           Major essay based on a class presentation (15-20 pages) 25 %
           Final examination 25 %