Controversies in Contemporary Philosophy


1. Acquire basic knowledge of various authors, themes and controversies that are central to the last 80 years of the analytic philosophical tradition.
2. Develop the ability of critical and autonomous reading of central texts in Contemporary Philosophy.
3. Refine the ability to identify philosophical questions and problems, with a special focus on their contemporary relevance and urgency,
4. Grasp the diversity of possible perspectives and answers to such questions and problems, while understanding the role of disagreement and controversy at the heart of philosophical activity.
5. Develop the capacity to recognize recurrency and innovation, continuity and rupture, compatibility and conflict, in the (re-)emergence, formulation and treatment of such questions and problems.
6. Produce a careful investigation of one of the course’s central problems/discussions, culminating in the writing and public discussion of an original essay.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Nuno Carlos da Silva Carvalho Costa Venturinha


Weekly - 3

Total - 280

Teaching language



Not applicable.


CARNAP, R. (1931a) Überwindung der Metaphysik durch logische Analyse der Sprache. Erkenntnis 2: 219-241; (1959) The Elimination of Metaphysics Through Logical Analysis of Language (tr. A. Pap). In A. J. Ayer (ed.) Logical Positivism, 60-81. New York: The Free Press; (2017) Superação da metafísica através da análise lógica da linguagem (tr. B. Sylla). In B. Sylla (ed.) Filosofia da Linguagem: Uma Antologia, 287-309. V. N. Famalicão: Húmus.

CARNAP, R. (1931b) Die physikalische Sprache als Universalsprache der Wissenschaft. Erkenntnis 2: 432-465; (1934) Physics as a Universal Science (tr. M. Black). In The Unity of Science, 31-101. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.

CONANT, J. (2001) Two Conceptions of Die Überwindung der Metaphysik: Carnap and Early Wittgenstein. In T. McCarthy & S. C. Stidd (eds.) Wittgenstein in America, 13-61. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

HEIDEGGER, M. (1976 [1929]) Was ist Metaphysik? In Wegmarken: Gesamtausgabe, vol. 9, 103-122Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann; (1998) What is Metaphysics? (tr. D. F. Krell). In Pathmarks, 82-96. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

WITTGENSTEIN, L. (1922, 1933) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (tr. C. K. Ogden). London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.; (1987) Tratado Lógico-Filosófico (tr. M. S. Lourenço). In Tratado Lógico-Filosófico – Investigações Filosóficas, 1-158. Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.

Teaching method

The teaching method adopted for the class combines readings and commentaries on texts in seminar along with discussion of student papers.

Evaluation method

Besides an essay that summarizes the themes running through the seminar (60%), each student is required to write a review of a contemporary article or book chapter, which addresses one such theme, that will be presented and discussed in class (40%).

Subject matter

The Overcoming of Metaphysics

This seminar takes as its starting point the controversy surrounding Carnap's article "The Elimination of Metaphysics Through Logical Analysis of Language". In this article, Carnap relies on Wittgenstein's Tractatus to argue that "the so-called statements of metaphysics are meaningless (sinnlos)", amounting to "pseudo-statements". Carnap illustrates this with examples from Heidegger's text "What is Metaphysics?" and extends his criticism to other authors, whose works mirror the "meaninglessness (Sinnlosigkeit) of all metaphysics". This view is also found in "Physics as a Universal Science", which will give rise to a controversy between Carnap and Wittgenstein. Among other issues, Wittgenstein – who had sharply distinguished between Sinn, Sinnlosigkeit and Unsinn – will lay emphasis on the fact that "[his] critique of metaphysics also refers to the metaphysics of our physicists". The seminar concentrates on these two conceptions of the overcoming of metaphysics, which are diametrically opposed to the conception developed by Heidegger himself under the same banner, and aims to analyse them in the light of the controversial interpretation put forward by Conant at the beginning of this century.


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