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Wittgenstein & Philosophy - PHI00056M

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Thomas Baldwin
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2017-18

Module summary

Wittgenstein’s philosophical writings are among the most striking and influential contributions to philosophy from the 20th century. This module will provide an opportunity for students to engage in critical study of his most important writings.

Related modules

Pre-requisite modules

  • None

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2017-18

Module aims

The aims of the module are to enable students to develop:

(i) A critical understanding of Wittgenstein’s major philosophical writings – especially Tractatus, Philosophical Investigations, and On Certainty.

(ii) An appreciation of the significance of Wittgenstein’s contribution to philosophy during the 20th century, especially to the development of analytic philosophy.

Module learning outcomes

Students will have the opportunity to engage with the work of the most creative and thoughtful philosopher of the 20th century whose ideas continue to enter into discussions in many central areas of philosophy, most notably philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. In the course of his writings Wittgenstein developed a distinctive conception of philosophy, and by the end of the module students should be in a position to assess this conception in the light of their own experience of studying philosophy.

Subject content

  • Students should be able to display an in-depth and systematic understanding of Wittgensteins' conception of philosophy.

Academic and graduate skills

  • Students should be able to analyse complex areas of knowledge, displaying critical awareness; synthesise information and ideas from a variety of sources at the forefront of the discipline; evaluate research critically; and show originality in the discussion and application of ideas from the philosophical literature in developing their own arguments.
  • Students should show the ability to work autonomously and self critically on an extended essay that does beyond the core framework that is provided in lectures and seminars.

Module content

Provisional programme

Week 2: Frege, Russell, and the programme of the Tractatus

Week 3: Logic and representation; modality, showing and saying

Week 4: Philosophy and analysis; the return to Vienna and Cambridge

Week 6: The new programme – the Big Typescript and the Blue Book

Week 7: Meaning, use and truth; Rule-following

Week 8: Sensations, 1st person priority and the critique of psychology

Week 9: On Certainty; Philosophy, Culture and Value

Note that although there are no prerequisites for the module, some familiarity with logic and philosophy of language would be helpful.

Students attend relevant UG lectures and seminars (which are research-led) to provide a background in the general area of research, while working with the module convenor over the course of the term to define and develop a topic for independent research, on which they will write their assessed essay, which they will work on in parallel with the lecture/seminar course. They will be expected to produce a topic proposal and reading list by week 7, and a plan for their essay by week 10, and will have a minimum of two meetings with the module convenor to discuss ideas for an essay topic (before producing the proposal) and to discuss the essay plan (on production of the plan). These meetings are an absolute minimum, and it is expected that in practice students will make use of staff office hours regularly throughout the term to discuss their project with the module convenor. Module convenors may also choose to provide feedback on the essay proposal and reading list in person in a further one-to-one meeting, or to meet MA students as a group at the start of term to discuss the subject area and suggest topics for independent research.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay - 4000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay - 4000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive written or verbal feedback on the essay proposal and reading list at least two weeks after they submit it.

Students will meet their module tutor in week 10 to discuss their essay plan in person.

Students will receive feedback on the summative essay or re-assessment six weeks after they submit it.

Indicative reading

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Philosophical Investigations

On Certainty

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.