00399 - Theoretical Philosophy

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Affordable and clean energy Decent work and economic growth Life on land

Academic Year 2019/2020

Learning outcomes

After completing the course the student is able to identify some of the key moments of philosophical thought and to adopt a synoptic view of them. He is able to place the philosophers in their historical context and to understand their thinking in contemporary philosophical discourse. He knows the problematic nature of the concepts of meaning, reference and truth.

Course contents


The course will examine the critical theory of the experience of Ernst Mach (1838-1916), one of the greatest philosophers and scientists between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from which take the cue both contemporary empiricism, positivistic and post-positivistic epistemology. In particular, we will examine the most mature and important text of Mach's philosophy, Knowledge and Error (1905), with which he concludes his philosophical path to affirm an antimetaphysical and antidogmatic vision of the world.

Distribution of topics in lectures:

of the 30 lectures available,
• 3 will be dedicated to a historical-philosophical excursus on the theories of knowledge of the late XIX sec.;
• 5 will be dedicated to Mach's critique of mechanism and to his analysis of sensations;
• 22 will be dedicated to the discussion and commentary of the text of Ernst Mach, Knowledge and Error.


Start of lectures and place

The lectures will begin on Monday, September 23, 2019, in classroom D, via Centotrecento 18, and will be held every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 to 7 pm.


Obligatory readings::

  • Ernst Mach, Knowledge and Error, Einaudi, Turin 1982. The text will be available in the "teaching material"; for those wishing to purchase the paper volume, a new edition is available: Mimesis, Milano 2017, but the numbering of the pages does not correspond to that of the Einaudi 1982 edition, which will be referred to during the lessons.
  • Slides and notes edited by the teacher, progressively available in the "teaching material".


Additional readings (not obligatory, but recommended only for non-attendings):

  • A. D'Elia, Ernst Mach, La Nuova Italia, Firenze 1971 (available in the "teaching material");
  • L. Kolakowski, La filosofia del positivismo, Laterza, Roma-Bari, 1974.
  • Further bibliographical indications will be provided at lecture. In any case, the obligatory texts + the slides and notes prepared by the teacher (to which special attention must be paid) are sufficient to successfully pass the exam.
  • NOTE: in the text of Mach, Knowledge and error (especially in the second part from pp. 228 onwards of the PDF provided in the teaching material), there are numerous examples of a scientific, technical and mathematical nature that it is not necessary to know in detail: it's enough to understand the overall meaning and, above all, to refer to the slides (explanatory sheets) which summarize the philosophically most relevant points of Mach's discourse in this regard.

Teaching methods

Lectures, reading and commentary on texts and on primary sources, discussion on specific issues.

Assessment methods

Oral test with verification of specific historical and philosophical knowledge and of the level of assimilation and processing critical-conceptual content (See "Evaluation board". Each entry has a maximum of 10 points, for a total of 30 + possible laude).

Assessment criteria and thresholds of evaluation:

30 cum laude: Excellent as to knowledge, terminology and critical expression.

30: Excellent, knowledge is complete, well articulated and correctly expressed, although with some slight faults.

27-29: Good, knowledge comprehensive and satisfactory, essentially correct expression .

24-26: Fairly good, knowledge present in significant points, but not complete and not always expressed with correctness.

21-23: Sufficient, knowledge is sometimes superficial, but the guiding general thread is included. Expression and articulation incomplete and often not appropriate

18-21:.Almost sufficient, but knowledge present only on the surface. The guiding principle is not included with continuity. The expression and articulation of the speech show important gaps.

<18: Not sufficient, knowledge absent or very incomplete, lack of guidance in discipline, expression seriously deficient. Exam failed.


Teaching tools

Overhead Projector with PC.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Luca Guidetti