Early 20th Century Analytic Philosophy: The Vienna Circle [syllabus]
(Caltech, winter semester, 2023)
In the beginning of the twentieth century, a small group of intellectuals — the members of the “Vienna Circle” — founded a movement that became known as logical empiricism. Many of these figures saw themselves as at the vanguard of a new enlightenment, aspiring to shape the world according to rational principles. This course begins with an introduction to the foundational shifts in logic, geometry, and physics that inspired logical empiricism. We then turn to leading figures of the movement, including Moritz Schlick, Rudolf Carnap, and Otto Neurath, and consider their novel approaches to the philosophy of language as well as their attacks on traditional forms of metaphysics. Finally, we turn to the internal and external pressures that led to the unravelling of the Vienna Circle, including the murder of Schlick and the flight of the remaining logical empiricists across the globe.
Philosophy & Science [syllabus]
(Pittsburgh, spring semester, 2019)
Philosophy and science have been deeply intwined throughout the history of rational inquiry. (Not so long ago what we now call “science” was called “natural philosophy”.) In this course we reflect on questions such as the following. What distinguishes a “scientific” approach from other ways of engaging with the natural world? To what extent are we justified in believing our best scientific theories? What is the nature of progress in science? How do social, political, or cultural influences affect scientific practice? You will have the opportunity to choose a particular scientific field — atomic physics, evolutionary biology, or psychology — and use case studies in the history of science as a lens through which to study the philosophy of science.
The Tractatus and Early Analytic Philosophy [syllabus]
(Pittsburgh, spring semester, 2018)
Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is a major foundational text in analytic philosophy. It was read line by line by the members of the “Vienna Circle” — a group of the leading philosophers, scientists and mathematicians of the early twentieth century — and it remains an inspirational, puzzling, and deeply controversial text today. This course aims to give you the resources to begin to interpret the Tractatus for yourself. You will have a chance to explore the rich historical and philosophical background of early analytic philosophy and gain a critical understanding of major topics in more contemporary debates.
Further courses that I have taught include:
- Introduction to Logic (Fall 2019 and Spring 2019) [syllabus]
- Problems of Philosophy (Spring 2017)
- History of Ancient Philosophy (Fall 2016)
- Philosophy and Public Issues (Fall 2017)
- Introduction to Logic (Spring 2015; Fall 2014)
- Philosophy and Science (Spring 2013)
- History of Modern Philosophy (Fall 2012)