Course description: This course covers Russell’s philosophy in roughly the first two decades of the twentieth century. We shall focus in particular on the ways in which his views in metaphysics and epistemology developed in relation to his work on logic and the philosophy of mathematics, and especially the emergence of logical atomism from within his attempts to establish logicism, the thesis that mathematical truths are logical truths. Themes include the nature of logic, classes, numbers, relations, propositions, logical form, logical constructions, truth and falsity, judgment and acquaintance. If we have time, we’ll also discuss the influence of, and on, early Wittgenstein. Prerequisites: Graduate student standing with background in formal logic, or consent of instructor.

Contact info: My office is South College E319. My office hours are Mondays 3pm–4pm, Wednesdays 11am–noon, and by appointmentby appointment (which you can make online at My email address is

Moodle page: Course readings, grades, etc., are available on the UMass Moodle LMS, available at: Registered students should have access to our page; if you need guest access, let me know.

Requirements: Your final course grade is based on the following requirements: in-class participation (20%), weekly reading assignments (30%), and a final term paper or book reviews (50%).

Weekly reading assignments: You are expected to carefully read the selected texts for each session before the seminar meeting and come prepared to discuss them. To facilitate this, each week you are expected to write a 1–3 page essay in which you (1) summarize the required reading, (2) identify any criticisms or points of discussion (including points in need of clarification). These essays are due at the start of class on the day we will be discussing the relevant readings.

Each will be graded on a 1–5 scale, with 1 representing a barely acceptable essay, 2 representing a deeply problematic essay that misrepresents Russell’s views or commits other abuses of philosophical method, 3 representing an essay that is slightly lacking in some area, but generally acceptable, 4 representing a good essay that performs the desired tasks as expected, and 5 representing an essay with substantial and original insight. (You should never expect to receive anything above 4. A student receiving a 4 on every assignment should still expect a good grade for this portion. I will only award a 5 to an essay that surpasses my expectations.)

In determining your grade, I will take into account only your 9 highest scores of 12 possible essays. This means you may either drop your three lowest scores, or simply not write three essays (or combine the two options).

Term paper or book reviews: You are also to choose between the following two options:

Term paper (15–25 pages): The paper should constitute critical and original discussion either of the interpretation of Russell’s works or the philosophical issues they raise. The amount of outside research done for the paper is left to your discretion, but a careful search of the relevant secondary material is strongly recommended. – OR –

Book reviews: Read TWO books written on or about Russell’s philosophy during the relevant period (or a closely related topic) and, for each, prepare a lengthy academic-style book review (6–10 pages each) in which you summarize the book, and evaluate it in terms of both the accuracy of its interpretation of Russell, and its other philosophical merits.

Incompletes: Per departmental policy, graduate students in philosophy taking incompletes must complete all course requirements by 11:59pm January 21, 2019.

Course schedule: subject to change.

10 Sept Course introduction
17 Sept “The Regressive Method of Discovering the Premises of Mathematics”; Klement, “Russell’s Logicism”
24 Sept “Mathematics and the Metaphysicians”; The Principles of Mathematics, Preface; chaps. I–III
1 Oct The Principles of Mathematics, chaps. IV–VI, XI, XVI and §§426–27; Moore, “The Nature of Judgment”
(Tu) 9 Oct The Principles of Mathematics, chap. X; §§348–49; Appendices A & B; Beginning of Frege–Russell correspondence, 1902
15 Oct “On Denoting”; “The Existential Import of Propositions”
22 Oct “The Substitutional Theory of Classes and Relations”; “On ‘Insolubilia’ and their Solution by Symbolic Logic”
29 Oct “The Nature of Truth” (1905); “On the Nature of Truth” (1907); “On the Nature of Truth and Falsehood” (1910)
5 Nov Principia Mathematica, Introduction (1910)
(We) 14 Nov “Analytic Realism”; “Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description”; “The Philosophical Importance of Mathematical Logic”
26 Nov The Theory of Knowledge manuscript, selections
3 Dec Our Knowledge of the External World, chaps. II and VII; “The Philosophy of Logical Atomism”, lecture VIII
10 Dec Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus; “Vagueness”; “Logical Atomism”