Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Wittgenstein: Language, World, and Ethics


Course Schedule:

June 3 – July 5, Monday/Friday 10:10 AM - 12:30 PM EDT

Professor: Garris Rogonyan
Semester: Spring 2024
Subject: PHIL
Course Level: 200
Number of Bard Credits: 1
Course Title: Wittgenstein: Language, World, and Ethics
Max Enrollment: 22
Schedule: 5 weeks (June 3 –  July 5), Monday; Friday 10:10 AM – 12:30 PM EDT
Cross-Listing(s): no
Language of Instruction: Russian

Ludwig Wittgenstein is an outstanding and prominent figure, not only in philosophy, but also in contemporary culture in general. It is no coincidence that he attracts the attention of writers, artists, and filmmakers. For philosophers, however, Wittgenstein is important because he has largely shaped the face of modern philosophy. In terms of importance, Wittgenstein can be compared to such thinkers as Kant, Hegel or Nietzsche. It was thanks to him that the so-called “linguistic turn” took place in philosophy and in the humanities in the twentieth century. Indeed, according to Wittgenstein, understanding the nature of our language is the key to our understanding of the world, ourselves, and the meaning of our lives.

Whether in the trenches of World War I, in Cambridge, or in a lonely cabin on a Norwegian fjord, Wittgenstein never stopped grappling with the philosophical problems that plagued him, never satisfied with the results he achieved. In this sense, he was the tragic figure of an intellectual hero, confronting alone the complexity and confusion of the world. In many ways, this also predetermined the inimitable style of his philosophizing – an agonizing dialogue with himself in which clarity and relief come only sporadically. Needless to say, during his lifetime he was called a genius. Since then, many of his examples (a talking lion, a duck-rabbit illusion, a beetle in a box) have become memes and part of philosophical folklore, while his concepts (“language games”, “family resemblance”, “life forms”) became colloquialisms. All modern philosophy can be defined as “after Wittgenstein” philosophy. An acquaintance with Wittgenstein’s main ideas can help us understand the way in which contemporary culture and society self-reflect.

This course focuses on the “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” and the “Philosophical Investigations”. Its main topics are language, knowledge of the world, the philosophical method, and ethics. Moreover, the course considers the influence of music and fiction on Wittgenstein’s philosophical ideas. No prior training or knowledge of philosophy required.

Guidelines for the Statement of Purpose:

Craft a reflective statement of purpose explaining your interest in the Smolny Beyond Borders online course. The file should be saved with your name and course title as the filename and uploaded accordingly. Your statement’s clarity and substance will significantly influence our selection. Convey your motivations and aspirations for this course succinctly but thoroughly. Kindly write your statement in the course’s Language of Instruction.

Application Portal Instructions:

1) Use the Latin alphabet for all entries on the portal, including your name. If the Language of Instruction is Russian, you may use Cyrillic only within the Statement of Purpose file, and the title of the file should still be in English.
2) Refrain from using email addresses associated with Russian or Belarusian educational institutions.
3) While completing the “Required Information” section, ensure you fill in the “Province” field for your address.
4) Provide an address outside Russia or Belarus in both the “Required Information” and “Geographic Location Confirmation” sections of the “Online Course Application”. This ensures we can send your transcript.
5) You must press the “Sign” button twice during the application.
6) If you hold a bachelor’s degree, select “4th+” in the “Academic Year (online)” section.
7) Applicants either unaffiliated or affiliated with educational institutions in Russia and Belarus should list ‘Smolny Beyond Borders’ as their educational institution.
8) In the student ID section, enter ‘SBB’.
9) Consider drafting your motivation letter ahead of time. Save it as a separate file with this format: LastName_FirstName_CourseTitle for a smoother application process.

Slides of the Course Presentation:

Video of the Course Presentation: