Philosophy 115: Seminar on Philosophical Methods

Autumn 2002

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Where: Philosophy seminar room (H&SS 7077)
When: Wednesday, 10-12:50

Instructor: Jonathan Cohen ( (omit text in caps, which reduces automated spam))
office: (858) 534 6812

Office hours: Mondays 2:00-4:00, in H&SS 7066 (and by appointment; please feel free to call)


The three required books for the course are absolute classics of 20th century analytic philosophy.
These books cover topics in philosophy of science, metaphysics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. All of them were enormously important in the sense that they raised powerful challenges against fundamental assumptions in several areas of philosophy, and in many cases managed to overturn prevailing philosophical opinion (no small feat, given how infrequently philosophers are convinced by arguments!). Moreover, these works introduced new philosophical tools and methods that have figured extremely widely in argumentation in all areas of philosophy since their publication. In short, these books are philosophical must-reads.

I am told they are currently on sale at the bookstore; in addition, copies have been placed on reserve at Geisel.

Course Overview:

This upper-division, majors-only course provides intensive instruction in the methods of philosophy and philosophical writing; it is designed to tune up your critical capacities and raise the level of your philosophical reading and writing skills in a hurry.

As such, it will be a demanding course. You'll be required to keep up in the reading (a relatively small number of pages, but those pages are filled with dense arguments), write a short expository paper almost every week, and meet every week for a tutorial with either me or the TA. I realize that this is a lot of work for you; it will also be a lot of work for the instructors. But this intensive instruction is extremely effective in making students into much better readers and writers of philosophy.

The course is ideally suited to philosophy majors who want to improve their writing -- whether in order to do better in other undergraduate philosophy (and non-philosophy) courses, to prepare for graduate school in philosophy, or just to get more out of reading and thinking about philosophy. It would also be excellent preparation for students who hope to take the LSAT.


There will be approximately 8 short papers (each around 6 pages). Your grade will be determined mainly by your performance on these papers, but I'll use class/tutorial participation to decide borderline cases. N.B.: You must hand in all assigned papers and attend all tutorials to receive a passing grade for the course.

Please familiarize yourself with the University's policies on academic honesty; you will be held to them.

Tentative Schedule:

Weeks 1-4Goodman, ch. I-IV
Weeks 5-7Quine, ch. I-II
Weeks 8-10Kripke, lectures I--III