Fall 2019 - PHIL 451W D100

Advanced Topics in the History of Philosophy (4)

Roots of Analytic Phil

Class Number: 4770

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu, Th 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    AQ 2122, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    two 300 level PHIL courses.



May be repeated for credit. Writing.


Selected Topics: 19th Century Roots of Analytic Philosophy  

[Note: this course is to be taught concurrently with PHIL 855.]

Bertrand Russell’s “On Denoting” (1905) is universally regarded as one of the seminal papers in the philosophy of language and, without any doubt, the subsequent history of philosophy treats it as such. But anyone reading the paper will be struck by the fact that the topics Russell actually addresses and the problems he wants to solve are much more far-ranging than the proper understanding of definite descriptions, or as Russell puts it, of the definite article in English. Russell’s epistemological and metaphysical interests are clearly what is motivating his work.

There is good reason, then, to regard “On Denoting” not just as a pivotal article in the theory of reference, but as an introduction to a new way of doing philosophy, as introducing the method of linguistic analysis to solve a philosophical problem, thus ushering in the new era. It has been argued, with some justification, that the “On Denoting” marks the beginning of analytic philosophy.

We will examine what led Russell to write the paper, reaching back into the 19th century to locate the philosophical problems and techniques that motivated him.


This course may be applied towards the Writing Requirement (and the upper division Writing Requirement for Philosophy majors).


  • Assigned reading and participation 10%
  • Choice of: short paper (1000-1200 words) or a presentation on one of the readings 25%
  • Term paper proposal 5%
  • Term paper: draft 20%, final version 40% 60%





Students will be expected to come to class having done the assigned reading for each week and a participation grade of 10% will be based on how well prepared they are to participate in the class.



All reading materials will be available on Canvas.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Thinking of a Philosophy Major or Minor? The Concentration in Law and Philosophy? The Certificate in Ethics? The Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate?
Contact the PHIL Advisor at philmgr@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html