Phil. 176


20th Century

Anglo-American Philosophy


Philosophy 176

Spring Semester 2017

Prof. Dowden









Let's face it. There are three kinds of people in the world: the kind who are good at a course like this, and the kind who are not.


Catalog description:

PHIL 176. Twentieth Century Anglo-American Philosophy. Rise of the analytic tradition in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy represents a turn toward common sense, science, language, logic and rigor. Readings will cover the philosophical movements of common sense, logical atomism, logical positivism, ordinary language philosophy and more recent analytical philosophy. Graded: Graded Student. Units: 3.0 [A more detailed description of this course is at the bottom of this page.]



There are no prerequisite courses, although it is recommended that this not be your first course in philosophy. Phil. 128 (History of Modern Philosophy) is the best course to have taken.

Our course will presuppose that you have already learned a few philosophical skills. Specifically, (1) you know how to read a philosophy article [as opposed to, say, a novel], compose a summary or abstract of it, and also extract the author's thesis from that article. A thesis is a sentence or two that states the main point the author is trying to make. (2) You know how to detect an argument by analogy even if it doesn't use any form of the word "analogy." (3) You know how to construct a philosophical essay, including writing a draft, revising the draft, using quotations, citing outside sources of ideas, and avoiding plagiarism.

The most valuable skill that you bring to our course is illustrated in the following transcript of a radio conversation between a large U.S. naval ship and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland.

Big Ship vs. Little Ship?

Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision with us.

Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.

Americans: This is the Captain of a U.S. Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.


Canadians: This is a light house. Your call.

Hopefully, the Captain changed course. Critical thinkers like us will alter our beliefs in light of new evidence. Inflexible thinkers won't.




Contemporary Analytic and Linguistic Philosophies, Second Edition, edited by E. D. Klemke, Prometheus Books, 2000. Available in the Hornet Bookstore and elsewhere ($7.19 used on



Your grade will be determined by three essays and a final exam. Here are the due dates and relative values of the assignments:

  • Essay 1 due Thursday, Febrary 2, 2017 (week 2) (10%).
  • Essay 2 due Thursday, March 9 (week 7) (30%).
  • Essay 3 due Thursday, April 20 (week 12) (30%).
  • Final exam Tuesday, May 16, 10:15 A.M. (week 16) (30%).

There are no multiple-choice or true-false questions in this course. It is recommended that you follow the Department's writing guidelines posted at  

There will be no class on Thursday, April 6 because of the Nammour Philosophy Symposium.


Schedule of topics and reading assignments:

See the detailed weekly schedule. Some material requires your having computer access to SacCT.

Class attendance:

Class attendance is optional, but you are responsible for material covered in class that is not in the readings.



My office is in Mendocino Hall, room 3022, phone 278-7384. My weekly office hours for Spring Semester 2017 are Tuesday and Thursday 11:45-1:00 and online in SacCT every Wednesday evening 8-10 p.m. Feel free to stop by in person during the Tuesday and Thursday office hours or call at any of those times. If those hours are inconvenient for you, then we can arrange an appointment for an alternative time. Also, you can always send me e-mail any time at 



Student outcome goals:

The hope is that by the end of the semester you will have achieved the following goals:

  • acquired an overview of the problems and positions taken by the major philosophers and philosophical movements in 20th century Anglo-American philosophy.
  • developed your skill at doing philosophical analysis in the analytic style on the topics that were of interest to analytic philosophers in the 20th century.
  • be able to tell whether passages were written in the style of analytic philosophy and be able to say why you were able to tell.
  • improved your skill at writing a persuasive essay that does not commit the fallacy of confirmation bias.



To add the course if the course is full, sign up on the waiting list that is distributed during the first meeting of the class.

To drop the course during the first two weeks, do it online; no paperwork is required. After the first two weeks, it is harder to drop, and a departmental paper form is required, namely the "Petition to Add/Drop After Deadline." As with any university course, make sure you are dropped officially (by the university computer system, or by the instructor, or by the Philosophy Department secretary); don't simply walk away into the ozone or else you will get a "WU" grade for the course, which is counted as an "F" in computing your GPA (grade point average).


Late assignments, and make-up assignments:

I realize that during your college career you occasionally may be unable to complete an assignment on time. If this happens in our course, contact me as soon as you are able. If you provide a good reason for missing an assignment (illness, accident, and so forth), then I'll use your grade on the final exam as your missing grade. There will be no make-up tests nor make-up homework.

I do accept late assignments with a grade penalty of one-third of a letter grade per 24-hour period beginning at the class time the assignment is due. Examples.  If you turn in the assignment three hours after it is due, then your A becomes an A-. Instead, if you turn in the same assignment 30 hours late, then your A becomes a B+.  Weekends count, so turn in your late work by email if possible (no need to follow up with a paper copy).  No late work will be accepted after the answer sheet has been handed out (often this will be at the next class meeting) nor after the answers are discussed in class, even if you weren't in class that day. Late essays may be submitted either by email attachment or on paper, but do not use both methods of submission.


Computers and cell phones:

No photographing or recording during class is allowed without permission of the instructor. During class, turn off your cellphone's ringer. Your computers may be used only for note taking, and not for browsing the web, reading emails, or other activities unrelated to the class. If you use a computer during class, then please sit in the back of the room or in a side row so that your monitor won't distract other students.



If you have a documented disability and require accommodation or assistance with assignments, tests, attendance, note taking, and so forth, then please see me early in the semester so that appropriate arrangements can be made to ensure your full participation in class. Also, you are encouraged to contact the Services for Students with Disabilities (Lassen Hall) for additional information regarding services that might be available to you.


Honesty and Plagiarism:

You are expected to be honest in your academic work. For more details, visit the link  at, and consider taking the Library‚Äôs tutorial on avoiding plagiarism at:



Please do not eat and drink during class, except for water. You are welcome to leave class (and return) any time if the need arises.

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Course Description:

The 20th century was the century in which the field of philosophy changed more than any previous century. Our course will survey the major movements of 20th century analytic philosophy. In that century, analytic philosophy became the dominant way that philosophy was done in English-speaking countries, and it remains so today. The course will highlight both what the 20th century Anglo-American analytic philosophers considered to be their central issues and how they went about resolving the issues.

So, here is what we will be doing, in order:

  • We will begin our course by briefly examining absolute idealism, which is committed to the belief that reality is basically spiritual or mental. Its style of doing philosophy was heavily influenced by Hegel.
  • Then we will investigate the British revolt against absolute idealism that was led by Moore and Russell. It is called common sense philosophy. Of this, Russell said in his autobiography, "that Moore and I rebelled against both Kant and Hegel. ...I felt...a great liberation, as if I had escaped from a hot house onto a windswept headland."
  • Next we will consider the "linguistic turn" that started with Frege and Russell.
  • This is followed by Russell's and Wittgenstein's metaphysics of logical atomism.
  • We will turn next to logical positivism.
  • Taking a turn away from logical positivism, the later Wittgenstein and Gilbert Ryle developed a revolutionary way of doing philosophy via conceptual analysis [in order to let the philosophical fly out of the fly-bottle, so to speak]. This technique came to be called ordinary language philosophy, and it emphasized the study of the way non-philosophers speak.
  • Then we will investigate more recent analytical philosophy.

Because pragmatism is considered to be a pre-analytic tradition, it will not be a focus for our course. The four main areas of philosophy are epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and logic. The latter two areas will receive the least attention in our course.



Two closing thoughts:

"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children." 
                        --Albert Einstein

"Philosophical issues are decided by good reasoning rather than opinion polls."
                        --Dale Jacquette


Contact me at if you would like more information about the course.


The web address of this file is

updated: Jan. 24, 2017