Philosophy 321 - 20th Century Theories of Knowledge, Reality and Meaning

  • Fall, 1999, MWF 1:55P - 2:50P, Hall of Languages 215
  • Ted Sider, HL 537, xt. 5817,,
  • Office Hours: Tuesday 1:00-2:00; Thursday 2:00-3:00

Contemporary philosophy concerns many of the same issues that have always concerned philosophers. What is the world really like? What do we know about it? What is distinctive about contemporary Anglo-American, "analytic", philosophy is its use of certain tools (such as formal logic), its focus on language, and its rigorous analytical style. Contemporary work in this tradition can be best understood by understanding how the tradition originated.

This course will provide an introduction to the history of 20th century philosophy, focusing specifically on analytic philosophy, and more specifically on the core areas of Metaphysics, Epistemology, and the Philosophy of Language. While there will be some attempt to provide historical perspective, the course will not primarily be focused on historical issues (e.g., tracing the lineage of ideas, connections with earlier periods in the history of philosophy, historical comprehensiveness); it will rather be focused on understanding the issues themselves with which 20th century philosophers have grappled.


Exam times and paper due dates will be announced in class; study guides for exams and paper topics will be distributed in class.

  • Two or three exams, worth a total of 60% of the grade
  • Short paper, worth 10%
  • Medium paper, worth 20%
  • Class participation, worth 10%


  • Morris Weitz, 20th Century Philosophy: The Analytic Tradition (on sale at the Orange Bookstore, in the Marshall Square Mall)
  • Bertrand Russell, The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (Orange Bookstore)
  • Course packet (Copy center in the Marshall Square Mall)


This schedule is tentative; changes will be announced in class.

  1. Introductory remarks (skim "General Introduction", in Weitz)
    1. Areas of philosophy
    2. Brief remarks on the history of philosophy
  2. Epistemology
    1. Idealism vs. Realism
    2. Moore: "The Refutation of Idealism" (Weitz)
    3. Moore: "Proof of the External World" (Packet)
    4. Russell: "The Relation of Sense Data to Physics" (Weitz)
    5. Quine: "Posits and Reality" (packet)
    6. Chisholm: "The Problem of the Criterion" (packet)
  3. Metaphysics
    1. Russell: The Philosophy of Logical Atomism
    2. Carnap "The Rejection of Metaphysics" (Weitz)
    3. Lewis: "The Paradoxes of Time Travel" (packet)
  4. Philosophy of Language
    1. Frege: "On Sense and Reference" (Packet)
    2. Russell: "Descriptions" (Weitz)
    3. Kripke: "A Puzzle about Belief" (Packet)
  5. Ordinary Language Philosophy
    1. Wisdom: "Philosophical Perplexity" (Weitz)
    2. Ryle: "Descartes' Myth" (Weitz)
  6. Philosophy of Science
    1. Hempel: selection (packet)
    2. Goodman: selections from Fact, Fiction, and Forecast (packet)