MA Political Science - Philosophy and Political Theory

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
History of Analytic Philosophy

Course unit fact file
Unit code PHIL60511
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


Analytic philosophy was (arguably) born at the beginning of the 20th Century, with Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore rejecting the idealism of Kant and Hegel and focussing instead on the close analysis of language. Since then, analytic philosophy has seen many phases and movements – from logical positivism, focussed in Vienna in the 1920s and 30s, through the ordinary language philosophy that flourished between the mid-1940s and the 1960s, to the expansion of analytic philosophy to cover the vast array of topics and issues we see today. This course takes a tour through some of the central texts and authors, such as Russell, Carnap and the Vienna Circle, Quine, Davidson and Lewis.


This course unit aims to exploit the breadth and depth of research expertise in the Philosophy DA in the history of analytic philosophy, by offering students a programme of study that is genuinely research-led and which connects with areas of staff members’ ongoing research. The course unit aims to introduce students to some central figures and classic texts in 20th-Century analytic philosophy, and to develop their ability to interpret those texts in the light of the historical context within which they were written.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to:

  • Understand and contextualise some key views and arguments of the philosophers and texts studied.
  • Develop their own critical responses to the texts discussed.
  • Present a sustained well-informed and well-organised argument on one of the topics covered.
  • Engage with one another in philosophical discussions a critical yet respectful manner.

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will take place in weekly two-hour seminars. Students will be assigned reading and preparatory questions for each seminar. Every two-hour session will consist of group-based discussion of the readings set, together with some contextualising from the seminar leader wherever appropriate. Meetings will normally start with a short student presentation, which summarises the assigned reading and raises questions for further discussion.

Students will also have the opportunity to discuss their private reading and writing assignments one-to-one with the tutor.

Assessment methods

3000 word essay - 100%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be available via Turnitin

Recommended reading

S. P. Schwartz, A Brief History of Analytic Philosophy: From Russell to Rawls (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Fraser Macbride Unit coordinator

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