Philosophy of Language
How is language related to reality? According to simple referentialism, nouns refer to objects, adjectives refer to properties, verbs refer to actions, and sentences refer to events; moreover, sentences are related to reality by being either true or false. In short, language is about reality and it even reflects the structure of reality. What's more, by understanding its nature we can unravel metaphysical mysteries.
In this course we will scrutinize referentialism. We will investigate theories of reference, theories of truth and meaning, and alternatives to such theories. The goal is threefold. (1) You will leave this course with sophisticated insight into the workings of language. (2) You will appreciate its significance to metaphysics and other branches of knowledge. (3) You will acquire vocabulary and conceptual tools necessary for practicing current philosophy.
Policies & Grading
- participation. You are to read the assignments and think about them before coming to class, and you are to attend classes.
- GRADED ASSIGNMENTS. For undergraduates: eight homework papers will be assigned, of up to 1000 words each, with the lowest score being dropped. Together your papers will count for 75% of your total grade, and the final exam for 25%. In addition there may be announced quizzes. For graduate students: same, plus a research paper of 2000-2500 words. The research paper must make use of at least one secondary source; see me.
- DUE DATES. Late work will be accepted according to the following schedule. Slightly late: if you submit homework within one class period after itís due, and if itís the first time youíre late, it will automatically be excused. (For instance, homework due on Tuesday will be accepted on Thursday without penalty unless youíve already used your "free card".) Moderately late: if you submit homework within one week after itís due, it will be graded down by one full letter and returned without comments. Very late: work late by more than seven days will not be accepted. Note: the final exam date is inflexible.
Required: William Lycan, Philosophy of Language (Routledge, 1999).
Required: Christopher Gauker, Words without Meaning (MIT, 2003).
Required: Gottlob Frege, "On Sense and Reference" (in Hornsby and on-line).
Rec: Jennifer Hornsby, ed. Readings in Philosophy of Language (Blackwell, 2005).
Date Reading Assignment Notes W: Jan 18 Lycan ch 1 M: Jan 23 Lycan ch 2 HW 1 due W: Jan 25 Lycan ch 3 M: Jan 30 Lycan ch 4 W: Feb 1 Lycan ch 5 HW 2 due M: Feb 6 Lycan ch 7 W: Feb 8 Lycan ch 8 M: Feb 13 Lycan ch 9 W: Feb 15 Lycan ch 10 M: Feb 20 Gauker ch 1 HW 3 due W: Feb 22 Gauker ch 2 M: Feb 27 Gauker ch 3 W: March 1 Lycan ch 6 M: March 6 Lycan ch 11 HW 4 due W: March 8 Lycan ch 12 M: March 13 ------ SPRING BREAK W: March 15 ------ SPRING BREAK M: March 20 Frege W: March 22 ------ No class Wednesday M: March 27 Lycan ch 13 HW 5 due W: March 29 Gauker ch 4 M: April 3 Gauker ch 5 W: April 5 Gauker ch 6 M: April 10 Gauker ch 7 HW 6 due W: April 12 Gauker ch 8 M: April 17 Gauker ch 9 W: April 19 Lycan ch 14 M: April 24 Gauker ch 10 W: April 26 Gauker ch 11 HW 7 due M: May 1 Gauker ch 12 May 5, 2-5:00 HW 8 due;
Final Exam, rm 204 AH
Homework 1 (1000 words): How many words are in the English language? How many sentences? You will be graded on your ability to reframe the questions precisely and either to justify your answers or to describe a sound method for answering the questions.
Homework 2 (750 words): Answer questions 3 and 4 as found on p. 33 in the textbook.
Homework 3 (1000 words): Define "horse" and define "insult"; justify your definitions.
Homework 4 (1000 words): Summarize Gauker, ch 3.
Homework 5 (1000 words). Write an essay on illocutionary force. Suggestions:
- Discuss the mood problem and possible solutions.
- Distinguish locutions, illocutions, and perlocutions. Are the distinctions valid?
- Think of one or a few performatives, not in the book, and identify their felicity conditions (constitutive and regulative rules).
- What is Cohen's problem? Argue for one solution.
Homework 6 (500 words): Answer question 1 or 2 from textbook, p. 202.
Homework 7 (1000 words): Summarize Frege, "On Sense and Reference".
Homework 8 (750 words): Analyze at least one example of figurative language for each of three theories of figurative language from the textbook. In each case, what, if anything, does the theory miss? Regular work due at the exam; for those eligible, grace-period work will be accepted until noon on Monday after the exam.
Syllabus subject to change.
Return to homepage