Jason Bridges

Jason Bridges
Associate Professor, Admissions Chair 2021-22
Stuart Hall, Room 208
Office Hours: Winter Quarter: Thursdays, 5:00 - 7:00 pm (email bridges@uchicago.edu to schedule a slot)
University of California, Berkeley PhD (2001); Harvard University, BA, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa (1994)
Teaching at UChicago since 2001
Research Interests: Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Language

Jason Bridges received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 2001 and his BA from Harvard University in 1994. His primary research and teaching areas are the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. He also has interests in metaphysics and epistemology, the philosophy of action, the later work of Wittgenstein, and political philosophy. His main current projects are about reasons and rationality, and epistemic and semantic contextualism. He has also written on logical and structural difficulties in the "naturalization" of content, the relationship between content externalism and the rationality-involving character of psychological explanation, and issues concerning the attribution of mental states to animals. He is the director of the Philosophical Perspectives Core in 2021-22.

Selected Publications

"Skepticism and Beyond," Sképsis 7:14 (2016)

"The Search for 'the Essence of Human Language' in Wittgenstein and Davidson," forthcoming in Wittgenstein and Davidson on Thought and Action, ed. Claudine Verheggen (Cambridge University Press)

"Rule-Following Skepticism, Properly So-Called", in Varieties of Skepticism, ed. James Conant and Andrea Kern (DeGruyter, 2014)

"Meaning and Understanding", in A Companion to Wittgenstein, ed. John Hyman and Hans-Johann Glock (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017)

"Wittgenstein vs. Contextualism," in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations: A Critical Guide, ed. A. M. Ahmed (Oxford University Press, 2010)

"Dispositions and Rational Explanation", forthcoming in The Possibility of Philosophical Understanding, ed. Niko Kolodny and Wai-hung Wong (Oxford University Press)

"Does Informational Semantics Commit Euthyphro's Fallacy," Nous 60 (2006): 522-547

"Davidson's Transcendental Externalism," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (2006): 290-315

"Teleofunctionalism and Psychological Explanation," Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (2006): 403-321

"Rationality, Normativity, and Transparency," Mind 118 (2009): 353-367


Jason Bridges recorded lectures

Recent Courses

PHIL 26520/36520 Mind, Brain and Meaning

(LING 26520, LING 36520)

What is the relationship between physical processes in the brain and body and the processes of thought and consciousness that constitute our mental life? Philosophers and others have puzzled over this question for millenia. Many have concluded it to be intractable. In recent decades, the field of cognitive science--encompassing philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, linguistics and other disciplines--has proposed a new form of answer.  The driving idea is that the interaction of the mental and the physical may be understood via a third level of analysis: that of the computational. This course offers a critical introduction to the elements of this approach, and surveys some of the alternatives models and theories that fall within it. Readings are drawn from a range of historical and contemporary sources in philosophy, psychology, linguistics and computer science. (B) (III)

Jason Bridges, Leslie Kay, Chris Kennedy
2021-2022 Spring

PHIL 43114 Foundations of the Philosophy of Action

In this seminar we will explore a set of interrelated topics in the philosophy of action. These include: the purposive structure of practical reason, the nature of the relationship between means and ends, the idea of ‘practical inference’, and the place of causation in the understanding of intentional agency. Course readings comprise a manuscript by the course instructor in conjunction with a constellation of primarily contemporary writings on these topics. (III)

2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 29908/39908 Free Will

The ‘problem of free will’ is to reconcile our perception of ourselves as free agents with ideas about the structure of reality, and our place within it, that appear to belie that perception. The problem is old, of perennial interest, and, it would seem, wholly intransigent. We shall try to get as close as we can to understanding the root of the problem’s seeming intransigence. Our readings will be both historical and recent. Authors include Aristotle, Cicero, Aquinas, Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein, Anscombe, Strawson, and Frankfurt. Topics include logical necessity, time’s arrow, causation, natural law, motivation, compulsion, and moral responsibility. (A) (I)

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 40120 The Philosophical Investigations

A close reading of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. Topics include: meaning, explanation, understanding, inference, sensation, imagination, intentionality, and the nature of philosophy. Supplementary readings will be drawn from other later writings. (III)

2019-2020 Winter

PHIL 29601 Intensive Track Seminar

This seminar will explore an advanced topic in philosophy. It is required as part of the intensive track of the Philosophy Major.


Open only to third-year students who have been admitted to the intensive track program.


2019-2020 Autumn

PHIL 24004 Language, Meaning, and the Skeptical Denial of Human Knowledge

We will explore the connection between two abiding concerns of Western philosophy, and French philosophy in particular: the nature of linguistic meaning and skeptical worries about the possibility of knowledge.

20th century philosophers had an especially keen interest in language. This orientation was of a piece with the broader intellectual and aesthetic current of “modernism”, in which the means through which human beings engage in communicative and expressive activity becomes the subject matter of that very activity.

In much of the arts and humanities, the modernist drive to scrutinize communicative and expressive media was motivated by misgivings about traditional modes of representing the world and the self, and suspicion of the longstanding cultural confidence in the accuracy and power of these modes. But philosophy was a different case. For philosophy had already been struggling for millennia with doubts about the possibility of accurate representation, just as it had been struggling for that long with puzzles about the possibility of knowledge, and the objectivity of truth, and even the intelligibility of existence itself. Against the backdrop of this difficult history, the message of modernism seemed one of promise. Philosophers thought that attention to the means of human expression, especially to language, could prove the key to dissolving the skeptical puzzles that had heretofore dogged their attempts to achieve a satisfactory understanding of our place in the world as knowers, thinkers, and agents.

We will take as our test case one such skeptical puzzle, perhaps the most famous one. This is the argument of ‘external-world skepticism’, according to which we can know nothing at all about the world around us. Some of the most famous and influential presentations of external-world skepticism are due to two French writers of the early modern period—Montaigne and Descartes—and we will begin by examining their texts.

In the remainder of the course, we will look at three attempts to solve the problem of external-world skepticism through reflection on the nature of language. The first is logical empiricism, which aimed to show that purported statements of skepticism or of other sweeping philosophical doctrines are meaningless. The second is ordinary-language philosophy, according to which arguments for skepticism depend upon distortions of our ordinary practices of offering and assessing claims of knowledge. The third is the contemporary movement of contextualism, which traces the skeptical threat to a failure to grasp the pervasive context-sensitivity of meaning. We will ask in each case whether the claims made about the nature of language can be sustained, and whether they really do have the power to defeat the skeptical challenge.

No philosophical background is presupposed. The texts we read will be challenging (in addition to Montaigne and Descartes, they include Carnap, Quine, Wittgenstein, Austin, Cavell and Laugier), but we will talk carefully through the basic ideas needed to begin to appreciate what these writers might be after. (B)


Open to students who have been admitted to the Paris Humanities Program. This course will be taught at the Paris Humanities Program.


2018-2019 Spring

PHIL 43113 Causation and Necessity

We examine attempts to achieve a satisfactory philosophical understanding of causation, of necessity, and of their interconnection. One organizing theme of our reflections is the contribution of these categories to the idea of 'the natural world'; another is their bearing on the idea of the will. Readings are both historical and recent, drawn from Aristotle, Cicero, Aquinas, Hobbes, Leibniz, Wittgenstein, Davidson, Anscombe, D. Lewis, and J. Woodward. (II)


2018-2019 Winter

PHIL 22199/32199 Cognition

(LING 26520)

That we think, that we remember past events, that we perceive objects in the world around us, that we feel pain and other sensations, that we have emotions, that we formulate plans and work to put them into action - these are among the most quotidian, undeniable realities of human life as we know it and experience it. And yet philosophers and scientists have long struggled to find a place for such "mental" phenomena within a conception of the world as natural and un-mysterious. In recent decades, the interdisciplinary field of cognitive science has proposed a new form of solution to this age-old quandary. We will explore foundational questions raised by the cognitive-scientific approach. Readings are drawn from a range of historical and contemporary sources in philosophy and psychology. (B)

Jason Bridges, L. Kay, C. Kennedy
2017-2018 Spring
Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 20120/30120 Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations

(FNDL 20120)

A close reading of Philosophical Investigations. Topics include: meaning, explanation, understanding, inference, sensation, imagination, intentionality, and the nature of philosophy. Supplementary readings will be drawn from other later writings. (B) (III)

At least one Philosophy course.

2017-2018 Winter
History of Analytic Philosophy

PHIL 50100 First Year Seminar

This course meets in Autumn and Winter quarters.

Enrollment limited to first-year graduate students.

2017-2018 Winter

PHIL 50100 First Year Seminar

This course meets in Autumn and Winter quarters.

Enrollment limited to first-year graduate students.

2017-2018 Autumn

PHIL 40101 Naturalism

Contemporary philosophy is preoccupied with the problem of "naturalism". Across the spectrum of fields and subfields, philosophers represent themselves as striving to show how their chosen subject matter can be fit into a "naturalistic" conception of the world. What is it to conceive the world in this way? Can we make satisfactory sense of what we are after, or think we are after, here? Why should it be thought the burden of philosophy to show that such a conception is attainable? How does this vision of philosopher's purpose differ, if at all, from others at work in past traditions of philosophical practice? We will explore these questions through a wide range of readings, mostly drawn from the philosophy of mind, with a bit of meta-ethics at the end of the course. (III)

2016-2017 Autumn

For full list of Jason Bridges's courses back to the 2012-13 academic year, see our searchable course database.