Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION The unit explores some of the central ideas of Wittgenstein's later philosophy as presented in the Philosophical Investigations (1953), starting with the claim that 'for a large class of cases, though not for all,' the meaning of a word can be defined as its use in the language. For Wittgenstein, different words function in different ways, so that, in order to teach a language, one must train a person to produce and respond to words in the context of everyday life and activities -- as part of the 'language games' in which one is involved and through which speech and action are integrated. By using some of Wittgenstein's well-known examples, the unit will show how such integration works in practice. It will also show how Wittgenstein's views on language are inextricably linked to his claims in the philosophy of mind.

Study-unit Aims:

The unit aims to introduce students to the central themes of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, including his notions of language games, family resemblance, rule-following, and the way in which our actions and concepts are interwoven. A thorough discussion of the private language argument should also enable students to appreciate Wittgenstein's point that sensations and thoughts are necessarily linked to behaviour, and that, in his words, 'an inner process stands in need of outward criteria.' This does not mean either that any reduction of the mental to the behavioural is possible or that the psychological is not real.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- engage critically with the primary text;
- identify and review relevant secondary literature concerning the primary text;
- consolidate earlier knowledge in the field of analytic philosophy.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- identify and reflect upon key concepts and discussions in the Philosophical Investigations;
- present coherent arguments related to the topics in the Philosophical Investigations;
- write an assignment on the text under analysis.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Primary Text:

Wittgenstein, L. (1953) Philosophical Investigations. Trans. G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell.

Secondary Texts (Compulsory):

Baker, G.P. and Hacker P.M.S. (1990) Wittgenstein: Meaning and Mind. Oxford: Blackwell.
Hacker, P.M.S. (1996) Wittgenstein's Place in Twentieth Century Analytic Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell.
Grayling, A.C. (2001) Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Monk, R. (1990) Ludwig Wittgenstein. London: Jonathan Cape.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Robert Farrugia

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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.