Gillian Russell

Philosophy Professor

Phil 432: Beginnings of Analytic Philosophy (Spring 2020)

(Updated in response to Coronavirus changes. All meetings and office hours will now take place using Zoom.)

Class times Wednesdays 4-6.30pm, Caldwell 213

Course Website:

Course Instructor:

  • Professor Gillian Russell
  • Office hours: Wednesdays 1.30-2.30pm, Fridays 1.30-2.30pm.
  • Office Location: Caldwell Hall, 203
  • Email: gillian UNDERSCORE russell AT unc DOT edu

This is a 400 level undergrad/grad course in the history of analytic philosophy. We will study some of the central themes and theories of analytic philosophy in the 20th century, in the process reading many classic articles (and one book.) We’ll start with Moore and Russell’s work at Cambridge at the turn of the century, and proceed through Wittgenstein, the Vienna Circle and Logical Positivism, Ordinary Language Philosophy, and Grice, and finish with Quine. The course will offer opportunities to develop skills in reading and writing philosophy.


The assigned readings for the course are listed in the syllabus below and most will be made available online (either with a link from this page or – if marked “(e)” – via our library course reserves site, which you can access through Sakai.)

One exception is Wittgenstein’s book Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which we will read in full. The campus bookstore should have copies, and you can easily order it from online booksellers, or borrow it from the library. If you read German and would like a copy with the German and English translation side-by-side, I recommend this version:

If you don’t read German, it will be cheaper to get this version, which uses the same C.K. Ogden translation as the text above:

I recommend reading the book itself before reading Russell’s introduction. That way you can see for yourself whether you think the introduction is fair.

Many of the readings will be primary sources, but I will also recommend some secondary material for you to look at. Graduate students should ensure they have read any listed secondary reading associated with their paper topics.

8th January: Intro session and overview

No pre-assigned reading

15th January

No class today – I’ll be away giving a talk at Cambridge University.

22nd January: Moorean Epistemology

G. E. Moore – “A Defence of Common Sense” (1925) (e)
G. E. Moore – “Proof of an External World” (1939) (e)

29th January: Russell on Descriptions

B. Russell – “On Denoting” (1905)

5th February: Russell’s Logical Atomism

B. Russell – Selections from The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1918) (e)

12th February: Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) – L. Wittgenstein

19th February: Logical Positivism (I) – Verificationism

R. Carnap – “The Elimination of Metaphysics through Logical Analysis of Language” (1932)
C. Hempel – “Problems and Changes in the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning” (1950)(e)

Also recommended: selections from A.J. Ayer – Language, Truth, and Logic (1936) (e)

26th February: Logical Positivism (II) – Analyticity

R. Carnap – “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology” (1950) (e)
R. Carnap – “Meaning and Synonymy in Natural Languages” (1955) (e)

Recommended additional reading: L. S. Stebbing – “The Method of Analysis in Metaphysics” (1932)

4th March: Quine on Analyticity and Verificationism

W.V. Quine – “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” (1951)(e)

Also recommended:
W.V. Quine – “Truth by Convention” (1936) (e)
W.V. Quine – “Carnap and Logical Truth” (1960) (e)

11th March – Spring Break

No class

18th March – Spring Break (again!)

Optional Zoom meeting to check in about all the coronavirus changes.

25th March – Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations

Selections from the Investigations (1953) (e)

1st April: Ordinary Language Philosophy

J.L. Austin – selections from How to do things with words (1955) (e)

N. Malcolm – “Moore and Ordinary Language” (1952) (e)

8th April: Waismann on Analyticity and Open Texture

F. Waismann – “Analytic-Synthetic” (1949–1953) originally in Analysis, but repreinted in How I See Philosophy (e) Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6

15th April – H.P. Grice and the theory of implicature

H.P. Grice – “Logic and Conversation” (1975) (e)

Recommended additional reading: Chapter 9 of Soames’ Philosophical Analysis in the 20th Century volume 2: The Age of Meaning, “Language Use and the Logic of Conversation” (e)

22nd April – Quine on Meaning

W.V. Quine – chapter 2 of Word and Object (1960) (e)


1. If you are an undergraduate student…

Assessment will be by way of three short papers (500 words/2 pages each) and one long one (2000 words or approximately 8 pages – in lieu of a final exam). There are no exams. I will give out prompts for all four papers, but you may also write on a question of your own provided you agree it with me first.

Assignment Length Due Date
Paper 1 500 wrds/2 pages Wednesday 5th February 20%
Paper 2 500 wrds/2 pages Wednesday 26th February 20%
Paper 3 500 wrds/2 pages Wednesday 18th 25th March April 1st 20%
Paper 4 2000 wrds/8 pages Wednesday 22nd 29th April 40%

2. If you are a graduate student in philosophy…

You will write one paper on a topic of your choice, due on the last day of classes Wednesday 29th April.

3. Others…

If you are neither an undergraduate student nor a graduate student in philosophy, but you would still like a grade for the course, you may choose either of the assessment tracks 1 and 2 above. Please free to come and talk to me about the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Honor Code

All students must be familiar with and abide by the Honor Code, which covers issues such as plagiarism, falsification, unauthorized assistance or collaboration, cheating, and other grievous acts of academic dishonesty. Violations of the Honor Code will not be taken lightly.

The Center for Student Success and Academic Counselling

Located in the Student Academic Services Building, the CSSAC offers support to all students through units such as the Learning Center and the Writing Center.

Reasonable Accommodations Policy

Any student in this course who has a disability that may prevent them from fully demonstrating their abilities should contact Disability Services as soon as possible to discuss accommodations.

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