Language and Mind:
(mostly) classics in 20th c. philosophy

a group contract
Spring Qtr. 2003-2004
Faculty: Charles Pailthorp


Program Description

During the first four weeks, students studied Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, selections from Locke’s Essay on Human Understanding, Kant’s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics in its entirety, and then selections from The Critique of Pure Reason. Kant’s critical idealism set the stage for the transformation of “the problem of knowledge” into first a critique of mind and then a critique of language. Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic served as a brief for “logical positivism,” which completed preparation for close work on three seminal mid-century works in analytic philosophy: Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, and Wilfrid Sellars’ “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind.” Sellars’ careful recapitulation of the history of Western epistemology provided closure for one of the most significant developments in Western philosophy, treating mind as an “ingrowth” of language rather than language as an “outgrowth” of mind - the so-called “linguistic turn.”

Students worked intensively in seminar two full days a week, taking turns as discussion leaders who had prepared by “pre-seminaring” on their own. Each week those not leading seminar wrote short essays on assigned topics, either posting them on the web for peer review or submitting them for faculty critique. Seminars were carried out in two groups of about a dozen students each.

Most students completed an independent project on a topic of their own choosing. Some of these projects were closely tied to the assigned curriculum; others were tangential but addressed to topics that had drawn the student to the curriculum in the first place. Project work was ongoing throughout the quarter: students met weekly to present and discuss what they were learning.

The Evergreen State College
Last Updated: 06/02/2004