30413 - Philosophy Laboratory (1) (G.H)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Philosophy (cod. 9216)

Learning outcomes

The student learns to read and critically analyze philosophical texts and to write a philosophical essay.

Course contents

General information

The Philosophy Workshop has three main purposes: education to philosophical writing and editorial conventions; introduction to the use of bibliographic resources; introduction to how to read a philosophical classic and how to produce a short philosophical essay about it.

The success of workshops ideally requires regular attendance of all students at all meetings. In order to be admitted to the final exam and achieve a pass, students will need to have attended at least 12 out of 15 classes (24 hours out of 30).

Students can choose from several proposals of Philosophy Workshops. Programmes and teachers’ names are available on the website of the First Cycle Degree/Bachelor in Philosophy (corsi.unibo.it/1cycle/Philosophy). Up to 40 students may attend each laboratory. Classes will be given in Italian or in English, as indicated by each teacher on their laboratory web pages.

Further instructions on how to enrol in laboratories will be issued in due course. Please refer to the Laurea in Filosofia website for updates.

Attendance — both face-to-face and online, if streaming is activated — will be verified by signature on sign-in sheets or by log-in online. In the light of several deplorable episodes of signature falsification in recent years, in the event that it is proved that even a single signature has not been made by the corresponding student, that student will be excluded from the final exam and will have to wait until the next year to attend the Workshop again. The same standards will hold for students submitting written exams which are totally or partially copied from published sources or digital texts.

Only in the event of certified inability to attend the Workshop are students allowed to arrange an alternative programme with the relevant teacher of the module in question. Such cases include:

- working students who cannot obtain specific permission to attend the Workshop. These students shall inform the teacher at the beginning of the module and provide a declaration of their employers stating their inability to attend.

- students who are participating in exchange programmes (Erasmus, Overseas, etc.). These students shall promptly provide documentary evidence to the teacher showing their inability to attend on grounds of residence abroad.

For attending students, assessment will consist in the submission and discussion of a short essay on the philosophical text discussed in the Workshop attended. The essay will be evaluated both for form and for content. During the laboratory, teachers will provide instructions on how to write the final essay, and all students are requested to download and study the manual of philosophical writing, which can be found at corsi.unibo.it/laurea/Filosofia/laboratorio-di-filosofia-norme-per-la-redazione-del-saggio-finale (in Italian).


TEXT: Saul Kripke, Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language (1982)

Course syllabus

The topic of scepticism about meaning - in particular Wittgenstein's paradox of following a rule - will be addressed through the milestone work of Saul Kripke.

The problem of following a rule can be described in the following terms. It is natural to think that in every human activity there is a difference between correct and incorrect practice. The correctness or incorrectness of the moves we make in a practice thus seems to be determined, in part at least, by rules that, in some way, guide our actions in relation to the purpose of the practice. But if there are rules, there are also facts about what the rules require, facts that, if we are able to be part of this practice because guided by these rules, we must be able to learn and apply by acting in relation to them. Thus linguistic practice also seems to have to incorporate this distinction: assent to a certain assertion, expressed in a language one understands, may or may not be correct. It thus seems that the possibility of linguistic practice obliges us to conceive of what constitutes the correctness or incorrectness of an assertion independently of one's disposition towards it. Hence, there must be, in relation to the rules that preside over the correctness of linguistic practice -let us call them semantic rules-, facts about what the semantic rules require, facts that, if we are able to use a language because we are guided by the relevant semantic rules, we must be able to learn and apply by acting in relation to them.

The central question is therefore: how is it possible to be guided by the semantic rules of the language we understand? It seems that three conditions must be fulfilled (Wright 2007) 1 :

1) the semantic rules must instruct conditions independently of the speakers, otherwise there would be no real guidance based on them (objectivity condition) - what fact can make this condition operative so that it is already established, prior to each use, that a competent speaker must act and respond in a certain way in order to use the language competently?

2) If our linguistic practice is guided by semantic rules, there must be facts about the identity of the specific rule we intend to follow that distinguish it from other rules (relevance condition)-but how can there be such facts if what we have said and done is compatible with having intended to follow an indefinite number of different rules?

3) Assuming that semantic rules have their own independence and specific identity, how can we account for our ability to be sensitive to what these rules require? How can we be guided by these rules?

There are two different response strategies to these questions:

(i) the comunitarian strategy according to which following a semantic rule is grounded, in some way that has to be specified, in being part of a linguistic community;

ii) the Platonist strategy according to which rule-following is grounded in the existence of rules independent of the linguistic community.

Both strategies have problems being stabilised. The comunitarian strategy seems to exclude that the correctness of an evaluation regarding our judgement on the use of an expression can be independent of any other judgement: that is, it seems to exclude that an evaluation can be correct or correct independent of what we think about it. The Platonist strategy, on the other hand, seems to make it mysterious how a rule that is totally independent of us can be grasped and followed.

In this course we will read Kripke's book that explains how Wittgenstein, first formulating the problem in these terms in Philosophical Investigations (1953), addressed the issue and how the question can be seen in more abstract terms as a philosophical paradox. Mention will be made of how the problem has subsequently been addressed in contemporary analytical philosophy through the study of some of the most important contributions - in particular Saul Kripke, John McDowell, Paul Boghossian and Crispin Wright.


Saul Kripke, Wittgenstein su regole e linguaggio privato, Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 2000.

Teaching methods

The philosophy workshop will begin with three meetings devoted to a brief introduction to philosophical essay writing and the style of doing philosophy by problems. One meeting will be devoted to bibliographical research and the illustration of university databases, one meeting to argumentative analysis, and one meeting to writing an argumentative text.

This will be followed by three lectures introducing the workshop topics.

After a break dedicated to studying the content, in the following meetings you will divide into groups and present to the class some of the arguments of the text, established in agreement with the lecturer. In the course of the workshop, I will provide some outlines of possible topics.

Assessment methods

Two elements are required to achieve suitability:

1) the presentation and discussion of aspects of the text assigned by the lecturer; this part will take place in small groups during the last meetings of the workshop;

2) a written paper, between 2000 and 3000 words in length (excluding bibliography); this exercise will be individual and will be handed in to the lecturer by uploading it on Compilatio (the linki will be on the Almaesami roll call).

The paper will focus on the topics of the workshop, taking up the aspects that each person will have illustrated in the group presentation, or choosing others as desired. The texts must be written in correct Italian (or English if needed) and comply with the drafting rules that will have been learnt during the first part of the workshop.

People with disabilities and DSA

Persons with disabilities or specific learning disorders are entitled to special adaptations in relation to their condition, subject to assessment by the University Service for Students with Disabilities and DSA. Please do not contact the lecturer, but contact the Service for an appointment. The Service will determine what adjustments are appropriate. Further information can be found at site.unibo.it/studenti-con-disabililita-e-dsa/it/per-studenti.

Teaching tools

Perusall (perusall.com) for a social reading of the text.

Office hours

See the website of Sebastiano Moruzzi