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PPR.307: History of Twentieth Century Philosophy

Tutor: Dr Neil Manson
Term: Lent

Course Description

This course focuses upon some key aspects of the history of Twentieth Century Philosophy.  We start off by examining a “revolution” in philosophy at the very start of the C20 with the origins of analytic philosophy.  We then focus on Wittgenstein’s radical philosophy (or “anti-philosophy”).  Wittgenstein’s own philosophical development brings to the fore a deep schism, or tension, that has existed throughout C20 philosophy: the schism between those who hold that philosophy should align itself with natural science and mathematics, and those who reject this view.  We ask whether philosophy should seek to emulate the natural sciences and illustrate the tension between “scientistic” and “humanistic” philosophy via mid-C20 debate about the nature of  historical explanation.  The final two lectures look at the distinction between analytic and continental philosophy in C20, and upon the emergence of applied philosophy in the late C20, asking whether philosophy can ever really be “applied” to real-life problems.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Expound and critically assess the arguments and positions in Twentieth Century philosophy introduced in this module.
  • Set out some of the influential argumentation that has been developed in relation to the various issues and problems discussed in this module.
  • Begin an independent evaluation of these problems and be in a position to make some progress towards developing authoritative views of their own.


40% coursework and 60% exam.
Coursework: 1 essays of 3000 words. Exam: 2 hours.

Teaching Method

Lecture (1.5 hours) and seminar (1 hour) weekly.

Introductory Reading

Avrum Stroll    ‘Twentieth Century Analytic Philosophy’  in Richard H. Popkin (ed) The Pimlico History of Western           Philosophy (London: Pimlico Press, 1999)
Steve Schwartz,    A Brief History of Analytic Philosophy: From Russell to Rawls.  (Wiley 2012).
Marie McGinn's      Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Wittgenstein and the Philosophical Investigations (Routledge, 1997). 
Neil Levy              ‘Analytic and Continental Philosophy: Explaining the Differences’ Metaphilosophy 2003, 284-304

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