Problems of Analytic Philosophy

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Christian List and Dr Anna Mahtani


This course is available on the BSc in Philosophy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


Pre-requisites: PH103 Reason, Knowledge and Values.

Course content

Short description: Some central topics in metaphysics, the philosophy of mind and action, epistemology, and the philosophy of language. Topics may vary by year. More detailed description: The aim of this course is to give an overview of some central themes in analytic philosophy, drawn from several areas: metaphysics, the philosophy of mind and action, and the philosophy of language. We will discuss questions such as the following:

Metaphysics: Is "physicalism" -- the thesis that everything is ultimately produced by physical processes -- philosophically defensible? Are there any features of the world that go beyond physical ones? Is the world deterministic? Could there be true randomness? What is the nature of causation and causal laws? What is the role of time? What is it for one object (or person) to persist through time?

Mind and action: What does it mean to have a mind? What is an intentional agent? How can we make sense of the emergence of human and animal minds against the background of a physical world? What is consciousness, and how does it relate to physical properties?

Language: How do some patterns and noises have meaning? How do some words refer to objects in the world? How do we manage to imply things by what we say? And how can we handle the problem of vagueness?

Our emphasis will be on developing a sharp understanding of key concepts, arguments, and the logical relationships between different ideas, rather than providing an encyclopaedic historical or exegetical coverage. We aim to give students a conceptual toolbox for a rigorous analysis of some classic philosophical questions.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

Lectures are taught alongside PH501 postgraduate students.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to participate actively in their classes and to write 3 formative essays, each with a 2000 word limit. None of these may be a draft of the summative assignment.

Indicative reading

Bertrand Russell, Problems of Philosophy (Any Edition); A.P. Martinich & D. Sosa (eds.), Analytic Philosophy: An Anthology; David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind; W.V.O. Quine, From a Logical Point of View; Jaegwon Kim, Physicalism, or Something Near Enough; John Searle, Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization, William Lycan (2nd Edition): Philosophy of Language; Rosanna Keefe, Theories of Vagueness; Mark Sainsbury: Paradoxes.


Exam (67%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (33%, 2000 words) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
First 24.3
2:1 71.4
2:2 4.3
Third 0
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: Philosophy

Total students 2016/17: 17

Average class size 2016/17: 9

Capped 2016/17: No

Lecture capture used 2016/17: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 69%



Reading list (Q2.1)


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