Fall 2021 - PHIL 855 G100

Selected Topics in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Philosophy (5)

Roots of Analytic Phil

Class Number: 7782

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 4:30 PM – 8:20 PM



Selected Topics:  19th Century Roots of Analytic Philosophy

[Note: this course is to be taught concurrently with PHIL 451W.]  

Important note regarding enrollment: All seats are reserved for Philosophy Graduate students. Enrollments from other departments will be considered only upon submission of the Graduate Course Add Form, and with instructor's permission. All such enrollments will be done in or after the first week of classes.

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.


Successful completion of this course will satisfy the "History of Philosophy Stream" distribution requirement toward the MA degree for Philosophy graduate students.


  • Assigned reading and participation 10%
  • A presentation on one of the readings 25%
  • Term paper proposal 5%
  • Term paper: draft 20%, final version 40% 60%


Course delivery: remote, synchronous. Online presence is required during scheduled lecture time.


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.



In order to complete this course, students must have access to a computer or other internet accessing device that permits streaming video, word processing and teleconferencing with Zoom.


All reading materials will be available on Canvas. 

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.