Introducing Wittgenstein's Later Philosophy


What gives these squiggles meaning? What is meaning exactly? And what is the mind? These questions can quickly generate puzzlement and confusion, leading to all sorts of philosophical theories. In particular, we may be quickly drawn to the view that the mind is an inner realm necessarily inaccessible to others, and that meaning is a private process that takes place in that inner realm. These pictures then generate classic philosophical problems, such as: How can I know whether there Is a world outside my mind? and: How can I know that anyone else has a mind?

According to Wittgenstein, once we start to think philosophically, we can quickly become enthralled by 'pictures' of meaning and mind that then hold us captive. Wittgenstein's aim is to break the spell these pictures cast over us. What we require are not solutions to these classic philosophical problems, but a kind of therapy so that we come to recognise that they are actually pseudo-problems. We look at many concrete illustrations of how Wittgenstein's approach can be applied.

We will also look at Wittgenstein's work on religious language, and his suggestion that our failure to recognise how religious language is used generates deep philosophical puzzlement about God and faith.

Programme details

Courses starts: 30 Sep 2022

Week 1:  Introducing Wittgenstein's approach: Philosophical Problems as Pseudo-Problems

Week 2:  Family Resemblance vs. Socrates' Method of Counter-Examples

Week 3:  Meaning as an Inner Accompaniment to The Public Use of Language

Week 4: The Mind as a Peculiarly Private Realm

Week 5:  The Private Language Argument

Week 6: To What Does 'Pain' Refer? The Beetle in The Box

Week 7:  The Rule-Following Paradox

Week 8:  Scepticism About The External World

Week 9:  Religious Language - comparing 'God exists' and 'Electrons exist'.

Week 10:  The Strengths and Weaknesses of Wittgenstein's approach


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £238.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Stephen Law

Stephen Law is Director of both Philosophy and the CertHE at Oxford Dept. of Continuing Education. He was previously Reader in Philosophy at Heythrop College University of London, and  before that, a Junior Research Fellow at The Queen's College, Oxford. He holds D.Phil and B.Phil degrees in Philosophy from the University of Oxford He is the author of many introductory books in philosophy including The Complete Philosophy Files and The Philosophy Gym: 25 Short Adventures in Thinking.

Course aims

To give students a good understanding of Wittgenstein's later, radical approach to philosophical problems.

Course Objectives

Students should be able to outline the 'picture' of mind and meaning that Wittgenstein rejects, and explain some of his key reasons for rejecting it.

Students should be able to explain Wittgenstein's approach to dealing with philosophical problems and how it differs from an approach focussed on providing solutions.

Students should be able to provide illustrations of how Wittgenstein attempts to dissolve philosophical problems rather than solve them.

Teaching methods

Lectures with plenty of opportunity for class discussion and Q&A.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • understand some of Wittgenstein's key reasons for rejecting the picture of the mind as peculiarly private place.
  • grasp why Wittgenstein rejects the picture of meaning as in inner accompaniment to the outer use of words.
  • explain what 'family resemblance concepts' are and their importance to Philosophy.

Assessment methods

Students will be expected to write one short essay (1,500 words maximum)

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

This course assumes no background knowledge of Wittgenstein's work, or of philosophy.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)