Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Analytic Philosophy (Phil 307)

Phil 307 is a historical introduction to analytic philosophy. Official, printable outlines can be found at the end of this page.

Winter 2013 official outline

Course Description

This course will focus on some questions central to 19th and early 20th cenutry analytic philosophy.  Analytic philosophy is so-called because it often focuses on anaysis of concepts: the attempt, through philosophical investigation, to elucidate some every-day or scientific concepts, such as: number, physical object, existence, and concept itself. In early analytic philosophy this often takes the form of an investigation of ways of speaking, e.g., an investigation of what we mean when we say “The number of moons of Mars is 2,” “There is a table before me,” or “The golden mountain does not exist.”  This is inextricably tied up with traditional philosophical questions about the nature and extent of knowledge (e.g., of mathematics or of the external world) or the existence of universals.

We will study in particular the ideas of 19th century German mathematician and philosopher Gottlob Frege, who influenced 20th century British philosopher Bertrand Russell, and the Logical Empiricst philosophers of the so-called Vienna Circle (popularized in the English-speaking world first by A. J. Ayer). From them, 20th century analytic philosophy has inherited a preoccupation with logic, language, and mathematics.  In this course, we will study some of the writings of these early analytic philosophers.  We’ll read three books, in addition to several papers: Frege’s Foundations of Arithmetic concerns the content of mathematical propositions and the grounds of their truth.  Russell’s Our Knowledge of the External World  is an early example of applying formal, logical analysis to traditional questions of epistemology and metaphysics.  The logical empiricists were decisively influenced by these views, and in turn very influential for the development of analytic philosophy, so we’ll also study their views, specifically as outlined in A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic.

Required Texts

We will read the following books, which are available in the University bookstore (and some also online):

A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic (Dover)
Gottlob Frege, The Foundations of Arithmetic, trans. J. L. Austin (Northwestern)
Bertrand Russell, Our Knowledge of the External World (Routledge)

The texts are avialable in the UofC bookstore. Selected additional texts will be made available electronically.

Writing Assignments

There will be 4 short writing assignments (10% each, or 40% of the final grade; 200 words max) and two papers (700 words max; 20\% each).  You will be given a choice of topics for the papers.  You must hand in both papers and at least two short writing assignments in order to pass the course.


There will be two online quizzes (5% each). There is no registrar-scheduled final exam in this course.


Class participation counts for 10% of your final grade.  Your participation will be assessed on the basis of your contribution to discussion in class and on the course website.  (If you are shy and don’t want to speak in class, 4 posts with substantive philosophical content in the online discussion forum will earn you an A for this part of the final grade.)  However, if all of your posts occur within one 7-day period, at most 3 of them will be counted toward your participation mark.  Only posts before the due date of the final paper count.

Historical Note

Prior to Fall 2006, Phil 307 was just called “Analytical philosophy” and had this description:

An introductory survey of some of the fundamental concepts and techniques of contemporary philosophical analysis. Topics and figures to be discussed will include definition, meaning and reference, the analytic-synthetic distinction, the nature of philosophical analysis, Frege, Russell, Carnap, Quine, and Kripke.

The current calendar description of Phil 307 reads:

An introduction to Philosophy through the study of a period in its history. A selection of philosophers from Mill to Quine, such as Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Ayer, Camap and Austin will be discussed.

I’ve taught Phil 307 both as a historical course in line with the current description, and as an introduction to the philosophy of language as suggested by the previous description. We now offer a separate course in philosophy of language (Phil 471), Phil 307 is now an introduction to the history of analytic philosophy.

Official Outlines

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