Philosophy 190

Fall 2020

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
190 Proseminar: Analytic/Synthetic Mancosu TuTh 2-3:30 Barrows 50

The analytic/synthetic distinction has played a major role in philosophy, especially after Kant made the thesis that there are synthetic a priori judgements the cornerstone of his philosophy. Kant contrasted sentences like “all bodies are extended” (analytic) and “all bodies are heavy” (synthetic). While abandoning the details of the Kantian explication(s) for the distinction, many thinkers after Kant still thought there was something very important about the distinction: “all bachelors are unmarried” (analytic), some of these thinkers claimed, only requires semantic/conceptual mastery to be assessed as true or false whereas determining the truth value of “all bachelors wear trousers” (synthetic) requires checking how reality is. A major turning point in the fortunes of the notions in question came with Quine’s influential claims concerning the unviability of the distinction in the middle of the twentieth century. After Quine’s criticisms there seemed to be little prospect that the analytic/synthetic divide could be salvaged. But post-Quinean developments have shown that the distinction, while subject to much philosophical debate, still plays a role in several core areas of philosophy (logic, mathematics, language, epistemology, mataphysics, among others). The seminar will investigate the importance of the analytic/synthetic distinction in some classical philosophers (Kant, Bolzano, Frege, Carnap), Quine’s criticisms, and the more recent philosophical discussions as to the problems and prospects facing a reassessment of the notions of the analytic and the synthetic. Readings by, among others, Kant, Bolzano, Frege, Carnap, Quine, Putnam, Kaplan, Boghossian, Wright, Boolos, and Williamson.

Admission by application only: If you are interested in taking the course, please write the instructor ( and briefly outline your background in philosophy (listing the courses already taken) and explain why you are interested in this seminar. Philosophy majors who are seniors and juniors will be given priority. The deadline for applications is Friday, June 15. Enrollment capacity for the course is 15 students.

Prerequisites: Phil 12A (or equivalent) and Phil 25B.

Previously taught: SP20, FL19, SP19, FL18, SP18, FL17, SP16, FL15, SP15, FL14, SP13.