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Carnap (Phil 507.01/609.02)

Course Description

Rudolf Carnap (1891–1970) was one of the leading philosophers of the 20th Century. After studying physics and philosophy in Germany, Carnap taught philosophy in Vienna, Prague, and—after emigrating to the United States in 1935—at the University of Chicago and UCLA. His contributions to philosophy of science, semantics, logic and probability theory helped define the major philosophical problems of the 20th century and set unprecedented standards for approaching them with clarity and rigor.

Required Text

Readings will be distributed in electronic format through the course website.


Six short writing assignments (250 words max., 5% each for a total of 30%, graded on pass/fail basis), a final paper (2500–4000 words max., 40%), and an in-class presentation on the topic of your paper (10–15 minutes, 10%). Class participation counts for 20% of your grade. There will be no exams.

The aim of the short writing assignments is to get you engaged with the readings before they are discussed in class. A short writing assignment consists in a one-page writeup of something you think of while you do the reading. It can be a question together with an attempted answer, a worry, a short note on a connection between the reading for that week and some other topic (from this or another class). Ideally, it would be something that can form the basis of a discussion in class. You have to turn in six such short essays. You can choose when you submit them, and on what you want to write. You have to complete at least two of these assignments in weeks 1–6, and at least two in weeks 7–12.