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Origins of Analytic Metaphysics

At the turn of the twentieth century, analytic philosophy emerged from a series of remarkable innovations in logic, the philosophy of language, and epistemology to become the dominant philosophical tradition in the English-speaking world. These innovations, many of which can be traced back to the pioneering work of Russell and Moore, profoundly influenced all areas of philosophy, and paved the way for much of contemporary philosophy.

This course surveys the roots of these innovations by examining the main themes and methods that dominate early analytic philosophy, as well as the major figures who engaged with them, all with an eye toward the legacy left upon philosophy as it is practiced today. To that end, this course aims to provide students with a detailed, critical understanding of several key debates in the history of analytical philosophy, the sources of many of its defining problems, as well as some of its most instructive failures. Topics to be covered include (but are not limited to) the rejection of absolute idealism, problems about the nature of reference and meaning, logical positivism and its eventual failure, ordinary language philosophy, the analytic/synthetic distinction, and the revival of analytic metaphysics.

Through an appreciation of the historical development of the tradition and familiarity with the methods associated with it, students will become familiar with several key debates in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, and philosophy of mathematics. Over the course of the semester, students will gain a solid grounding in the history of analytic philosophy, as we progress chronologically through representative texts from that period, using them as catalysts and constituents for ongoing investigations and debates.

Course Materials