GREAT PHILOSOPHERS: WITTGENSTEIN

PHIL 310, Sec. 1001: MW 11:30am-12:45pm in WRI C321
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Spring 2015


Professor: James Woodbridge
email address:
Course Webpage: http://faculty.unlv.edu/jwood/unlv/Phil310S15.htm
Office Hours:  M 2:30pm-4pm, T 12:30pm-2pm, and by appointment
Office: CDC 426
Office Phone: 895-4051
Dept. Phone: 895-3433

I. COURSE DESCRIPTION

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was one of the most important and original philosophers of the 20th Century. His first book, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (the only one published in his lifetime, in 1921), helped reorient philosophy to focus on language in addressing philosophical questions and offered a philosophical foundation for the new logic that Gottlob Frege (1848-1925) and Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) had introduced. It rapidly became a philosophical classic and a major inspiration to analytically minded philosophers, such as the Logical Empiricists. With the publication of the Tractatus, Wittgenstein himself quit philosophy, believing that he resolved all of its central problems. He did not return for eight years, when, partly due to his own dissatisfaction with his earlier work, along with frustration over misinterpretations of it, he developed a radically different approach to philosophy and the understanding of language. This new perspective is most fully explored and applied in his Philosophical Investigations (published posthumously in 1953); it launched "ordinary language" philosophy and has remained a touchstone for philosophers who emphasize the importance of understanding the nature of language in addressing many philosophical issues. In this course, we will begin with a brief introduction to the philosophical and logical framework that Frege and Russell developed and then work carefully through both the Tractatus and the Investigations. Wittgenstein's work is undeniably challenging. His aphoristic style is highly compressed, and his ideas are very subtle and complex. Our aim is to work through his texts slowly and carefully in order to reach the fullest degree of understanding we can, while still exploring both periods of Wittgenstein's work.

II. REQUIRED CLASS MATERIALS

Books:
Wittgenstein, L. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 2nd Edition. London: Routledge Classics, 2001.
Wittgenstein, L. Philosophical Investigations, Revised 4th Edition. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
[Recommended: Monk, R. Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. New York: Penguin, 1991.]

The books for the course are available at The UNLV Bookstore.
There will also be some initial online readings available via WebCampus.

III. CLASS REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING SCHEME

Requirements.............................................Percent of Final Grade

Class Participation......................................................15%
First Paper...................................................................30%
Second Paper...............................................................30%
Final Exam..................................................................25%

About the Requirements:

Class Participation--This requirement covers a couple of things things. First, there is your contribution during class. Class attendance is thus necessary. However, to do well you must do more than just attend. You are expected to show up having read the assignment for the day and ready to talk about it. Second, everyone must make at least six contributions to the Electronic Discussion Board (accessible through WebCampus) during the term: three before March 14th and three after.

The First Paper--There will be a 6-8 page paper due in mid March. Paper topics will be distributed 12 days before the paper is due.

The Second Paper--There will be a second 6-8 page paper due in late April. Again, topics will be distributed 12 days before the paper is due.

The Final Exam--There will be a timed (2 hour), in-class final exam given on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 10:10am in our regular classroom. The final will consist of a choice of essay questions.

Note: All course requirements must be satisfactorily completed in order to pass the course. More than 3 unexcused absences reduces your final grade by 1/3 of a letter grade, more than 5 is a full letter grade deduction, more than 8 is automatic failure of the course.


IV. CLASS FORMAT

This course involves close reading of two major philosophical texts, so while I will provide a framework for discussion of the material, our class meetings should also include a lot of student discussion, not just me lecturing. I hope that you will all have views about how to understand the readings, and I want you to express and explore those views whenever possible. Given the subtle and complex nature of the texts, it is likely that people's views on how to interpret them will differ. You are encouraged to question your classmates (and me) whenever anyone says something you disagree with, but on either side of this sort of exchange, everyone should always keep in mind that expressing disagreement is not a personal attack. Philosophical discussion thrives under this kind of interaction and often stems from disagreement. At the same time, philosophical discussion aims at reaching some sort of agreement. We probably won't reach agreement every time, but we should aspire towards it.



V. CLASSROOM ETIQUETTE

In recent years it has become necessary to make a further comment about classroom etiquette. Engaging in activities like text messaging, surfing the web, checking Facebook, tweeting, IMing, etc. during class is entirely inappropriate. In fact, it is extremely rude and highly disrespectful of our joint enterprise of teaching and learning. Whether you are sitting in the back and presume you are not interfering with anyone else is irrelevant. It is not a question of what you are caught doing; it is a matter of what you do, noticed or not. I expect everyone to behave appropriately during class, engaging with our cooperative project and refraining from inappropriate activities at all times.


V. READING ASSIGNMENTS

Readings from Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus are listed as 'TLP' followed by a range of aphorism numbers. Readings from Philosophical Investigations are listed as 'PI' followed by a range of aphorism (not page) numbers. Online readings are listed by author and title and labeled "online". Recommended reading from Ray Monk's biography, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius are listed as 'Monk' with chapter numbers.

A note about the readings: As you well know, philosophical writing is often subtle and difficult. This is especially true of Wittgenstein's writing, given their subtle and somewhat technical nature; all of the assignments should be read at least twice. It also helps to take notes on paper while reading.

The reading schedule for the course is as follows.

1. Philosophical/Logical Background

  • Jan. 26: Morris, M. "The Legacy of Frege and Russell," Ch. 2 of Routledge Philosophy
                          Guidebook to Wittgenstein and the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (online)
                     [Recommended: Monk, Ch. 1-3.]
  • Jan. 28: Kenny, A. "The Legacy of Frege and Russell" and "The Criticism of
                          Principia," Ch. 2 and 3 of Wittgenstein (online)
  • 2. Early Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922)
  • Feb. 2: TLP Russell's Introduction, Preface, 1-2.063 [Recommended: Monk, Ch. 4-6]
  • Feb. 4: TLP 2.1-3.144
  • Feb. 9: TLP 3.2-3.5
  • Feb. 11: TLP 4-4.0641
  • Feb. 18: TLP 4.1-4.4661
  • Feb. 23: TLP 4.5-5.254
  • Feb. 25: TLP 5.3-5.476
  • Mar. 2: TLP 5.5-5.5571
  • Mar. 4: TLP 5.6-6.1224 [Recommended: Monk, Ch. 7-8]
  • Mar. 9: TLP 6.123-6.3432 [Recommended: Monk, Ch. 9]
  • Mar. 11: TLP 6.35-7
  • 3. Later Wittgenstein: Philosophical Investigations (1953)
  • Mar. 16: PI Editorial Preface, Preface, 1-27 [Recommended: Monk, Ch. 10-12]
  • Mar. 18: PI 28-49
  • Mar. 23: PI 50-88 [Recommended: Monk, Ch. 13-16]
  • Mar. 25: PI 89-133
  • Apr. 6: PI 134-184 [Recommended: Monk, Ch. 17-20]
  • Apr. 8: PI 185-219
  • Apr. 13: PI 220-315
  • Apr. 15: PI 316-362
  • Apr. 20: PI 363-411 [Recommended: Monk, Ch. 21-24]
  • Apr. 22: PI 412-465
  • Apr. 27: PI 466-546
  • Apr. 29: PI 547-610
  • May 4: PI 611-693 [Recommended: Monk, Ch. 25-27]
  • May 6: PI (PPF, Part xi, 111-224)
  • *The instructor of this course reserves the right to change any aspect of the syllabus, with the understanding that any such changes will be announced in class.