Wittgenstein - PL599

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
5 30 (15) DR E Kanterian


Most students applying to register for this module will previously have taken the Part I modules ‘Introduction to Philosophy: Knowledge and Metaphysics’ and ‘Philosophical Thinking’, which are pre-requisites for progression to Part II of the Philosophy SH and JH programmes. If, exceptionally, they have not taken and successfully completed those Part I modules, students will be admitted to ‘Wittgenstein’ only at the convenor’s discretion. There are no other pre-requisites. Students registered for other degree programmes may apply to take the module, but some philosophical or relevantly similar background will be expected.

This module is naturally compatible with the stage 2 and 3 modules ‘Philosophy of Mind I and II’, ‘Sciences of the Mind’, Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence, Philosophical Logic, Philosophy of Language.





Please note: all Module Handbook information is subject to change pending faculty approval.

Wittgenstein is widely thought to have been the greatest philosopher of the 20th Century. This module will concentrate in depth on some of Wittgenstein’s work by focusing on selected passages of his writings. The actual passages or texts focused on from year to year may vary.

Julia Tanney’s interest in Wittgenstein began as an undergraduate when she was introduced to the ideas of Wittgenstein through the teachings of Philippa Foot, David Pears, and Rogers Albritton, and, as a graduate student, of Crispin Wright. She has taught the Philosophical Investigations for over 20 years in England and in France. She has produced several articles, including “Real Rules”, “Reason-Explanation and the Contents of the Mind”, “On the Conceptual, Psychological, and Moral Status of Zombies, Swamp-Beings, and other ‘Behaviorally Indistinguishable’ Creatures”, and “Self-Knowledge, Normativity, and Construction”, reprinted in Rules, Reason, and Self-Knowledge (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2012) which bring to bear Wittgenstein’s later philosophy on today’s theorizing in the philosophy of mind and action. This module uses the virtual world of Second Life to bring Wittgenstein’s primitive language games to life and to help students reflect on questions such as what it is to understand, think, intend, act for reasons, and to mean what we say.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

3-4 hours per week for 10 teaching weeks


Also available under code PL573 (Level H)

Preliminary reading

Indicative reading:

Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Blackwell) (Core Text)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

This module will aim:
1. to provide an in-depth look at selected topics in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy (content);
2. to enable the student to develop a particular method or skill in tackling philosophical ideas (research/content/methodology);
3. to provide the opportunity for student-based learning through individual study and research, (learning skills);
4. to provide the opportunity to hone listening skills and master a technique through class presentations, an on-line virtual learning environment, and discussions (learning skills);
5. to provide the opportunity for assessment of students' own learning achievements through reflective commentary on work submitted (personal learning development).
By the end of the module the student will have an understanding of, and be able to write and speak convincingly about:

6. ostensive learning, ostensive definitions, samples, rules, meaning, understanding, language-games, solitary languages, private languages, sensations.

7. the particular conceptions and distinctions that underlie the topics from the list above; e.g., ontology vs. language; causation vs. other types of ‘becausal’ explanation, denotational views of language vs. systematically misleading expressions, etc.
8. to engage critically in class and in a VLE;
9. to engage in oral and written philosophical argumentation;

10. to evince the ability to take responsibility for his/her own learning;

The module will thus contribute to the aims and objectives of the Philosophy programme by enabling students to acquire knowledge and understanding of important authors within the Western philosophical tradition, and to acquire familiarity with themes within the major areas of epistemology and metaphysics, and to engage in specific and in-depth analyses of some of the issues in these areas; in particular in the philosophy of language, philosophical logic, and mind. The module will give students practice in deploying their analytical and critical skills. It will also give them practice in working alone, thus enabling them to take their analytical and critical skills to situations that they will encounter once they have left the University.

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