Topics in Analytic Philosophy

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
04 October 2018


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

"Analytic Philosophy" is a (sometimes controversial) term that is commonly used to describe the dominant philosophical tradition in the English-speaking world for much of the 20th century. This module shall introduce students to some of the classic texts from this tradition and explore the philosophical techniques, arguments, and positions that were developed within it.

This year, we will focus on a range of classic topics in analytic philosophy of mind and analytic metaphysics. The overarching issue will be the place within nature of the sort of creatures we are. Different puzzles are raised by different aspects of who and what we are: as minds, as seats of consciousness, as selves, and as persons.

Topics will include:

* The mind and the mind-body problem: what is the relation between my mind and my body, especially my brain? Is my mind "in" my brain? Are events in my mind, such as sensations or thoughts, just correlated with physical events in my brain, or caused by them, or even identical to them?

* Consciousness: is every operation of the mind conscious, or can there be unconscious thoughts? When I am conscious of an external object, am I always also conscious of myself? How can conscious experiences be described and explained by the natural sciences, despite the fact that they are not publicly observable? Is there always a unity of consciousness? In what sense does being conscious give me a 'subjective' point of view on reality?

* Selfhood: what is a 'self'? Can a creature be a self without being conscious? Or without being conscious of itself? Is the knowledge a self can have of her own mental life special in some ways? From the "first-person perspective", do I know my own thoughts better, or differently, than I can ever know yours?

* Personal identity: what does it take to be a 'person'? What does it take for me to be the same person as the person I was twenty years ago, despite all the changes I have undergone? Could I survive a full-body transplant, as in James Cameron's Avatar? If so, is my identity over time based on psychological continuity rather than on the persistence of my body? Can a person split into two or more persons, e.g. in the case of brain bissection? Why does it matter to a person that she herself (rather than just someone who closely resembles her) persists through time?

Module aims

The aims of the module are:

1. to develop a familiarity with some of the major figures and themes of analytic philosophy;
2. to undertake a close assessment of selected classics from the analytic tradition;
3. to gain a precise understanding of at least one major theme or problem in analytic philosophy of mind or in analytic metaphysics;
4. to gain familiarity with some of the characteristic techniques of the analytic tradition, including (for example) conceptual and linguistic analysis, ordinary language philosophy, the use of thought experiments;
5. to develop the ability to critically analyse writings in the analytic tradition, and to produce argumentatively precise and robust critical analysis.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

1. identify major problems, themes and positions developed within the analytic tradition;
2. provide critical reconstructions of arguments and disputes associated with the analytic tradition;
3. write essays which provide both synopsis and critical assessment of positions and arguments from the analytic tradition;
4. explain select central concepts in analytic philosophy of mind and metaphysics;
5. follow and analyse the characteristically dense form of argumentation used in analytic philosophical writings;
6. construct clear argumentative essays analysing arguments and positions in the assigned readings.

Module information

Erasmus/IP students must have already taken an introductory module in Philosophy at their home institution.

Please note that this module will require a high level of commitment from the students enrolled. This will include keeping up with the pace of weekly readings, as assessed by an in-class test.

Learning and teaching methods

1 x 2-hour lecture and 1 x 1-hour seminar each week. The two-hour weekly lectures will typically be interactive: you are expected to have read the key text(s) for each week in advance, and to be active during class. In addition, you will be expected to prepare for an extended class discussion of the week's topic and readings during a one-hour seminar session each week. An in-class test will assess your engagement with the required readings. It is expected that you will read the essential texts, on which the test will bear, at the pace of the lectures and as part of your weekly preparation work for the seminars.


  • John Searle. (2002) 'Can Computers Think?', in Philosophy of mind; classical and contemporary readings, Oxford: Oxford University Press., pp.669-675
  • John Perry. (2008) Personal identity, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Sydney Shoemaker. (1996) 'Self-knowledge and “inner sense.” Lecture I: The object perception model', in The First-Person Perspective and Other Essays, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., pp.201-223
  • Dennett, D. C. (©1978) 'Where Am I?', in Brainstorms: philosophical essays on mind and psychology, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
  • Derek Parfit. (1971) 'Personal Identity', in The Philosophical Review. vol. 80 (1) , pp.3-27

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework In-Class Test 34%
Coursework Essay Draft (1600 Words) 06/03/2020 31%
Coursework 2000 Word Essay 20/04/2020 35%

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Marie Guillot



External examiner

Dr Thomas Joseph Stern
University College London
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 27 hours, 27 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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