PHIL 425/625, Sec. 1001: MW 1pm-2:15pm in CBC C219
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Fall 2014

Professor: James Woodbridge
email address:
Course Webpage:
Office Hours:  M 2:30pm-4pm, T 12:30pm-2pm, and by appointment
Office: CDC 426
Office Phone: 895-4051
Dept. Phone: 895-3433


This course provides an introduction to analytic philosophy of language by examining a number of topics emphasized in the twentieth century. These topics include speech-act theory and intention-based accounts of meaning, Frege's distinction between sense and reference, Russell's theory of descriptions, descriptive and causal theories of reference, verificationism, the analytic/synthetic distinction, truth-conditional semantics, and the normativity of meaning and ensuing skeptical worries. Among the thinkers we will study are J. L. Austin, John Searle, H. P. Grice, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, A. J. Ayer, W. V. O. Quine, Donald Davidson, Saul Kripke, and Robert Brandom.



Ayer, A. J. Language, Truth, and Logic. New York: Dover Publications, 1952.
Martinich, A. P. and Sosa, D. (eds.) The Philosophy of Language (Sixth Ed.). Oxford: Oxford
     University Press, 2012.

The books for the course are available at The UNLV Bookstore.

There will also be several online readings available via WebCampus.


Requirements.............................................Percent of Final Grade

Class Participation......................................................10%
First Paper...................................................................30%
Second Paper...............................................................30%
Final Exam..................................................................30%

About the Requirements:
Class Participation--This requirement covers a couple of things things. First, there is your contribution during class. Class attendance is thus necessary. However, to do well you must do more than just attend. You are expected to show up having read the assignment for the day and ready to talk about it. Second, everyone must make at least six contributions to the Electronic Discussion Board (accessible through WebCampus) during the term: three before October 20th and three after.

The First Paper--There will be a 6-8 page paper due in mid October. Paper topics will be distributed 12 days before the paper is due.

The Second Paper--There will be a second 6-8 page paper due in late November. Again, topics will be distributed 12 days before the paper is due.

For PHIL 625--Students enrolled in the graduate course will write a single 15-18 page paper that will be due when the Second Paper for PHIL 425 is due. An initial draft of the first part of the paper must be submitted in mid October.

The Final Exam--There will be a timed (2 hour), in-class final exam given on Monday, December 8, 2014 at 1pm in our regular classroom. The final will consist of a choice of essay questions.

Note: All course requirements must be satisfactorily completed in order to pass the course. More than 3 unexcused absences reduces your final grade by 1/3 of a letter grade, more than 5 is a full letter grade deduction, more than 8 is automatic failure of the course.


This is an upper-level philosophy course, so while I will present a lot of the material, our class meetings should also include a lot of student discussion, not just lectures. I hope that you will all have views about the theories we are going to examine, and I want you to express and explore those views whenever possible. It is typical of philosophical topics that people's views on them will differ. You are encouraged to question your classmates (and me) whenever anyone says something you disagree with, but on either side of this sort of exchange, everyone should always keep in mind that expressing disagreement is not a personal attack. Philosophical discussion thrives under this kind of interaction and often stems from disagreement. At the same time, philosophical discussion aims at reaching some sort of agreement. We probably won't reach agreement every time, but we should aspire towards it.


In recent years it has become necessary to make a further comment about classroom etiquette. Engaging in activities like text messaging, surfing the web, checking Facebook, tweeting, IMing, etc. during class is entirely inappropriate. In fact, it is extremely rude and highly disrespectful of our joint enterprise of teaching and learning. Whether you are sitting in the back and presume you are not interfering with anyone else is irrelevant. It is not a question of what you are caught doing; it is a matter of what you do, noticed or not. I expect everyone to behave appropriately during class, engaging with our cooperative project and refraining from inappropriate activities at all times.


Readings from books are listed by author, title, and chapter number. Readings from the Martinich and Sosa anthology, The Philosophy of Language, are indicated by author, selection title, and "M&S" followed by chapter number, in parentheses. Online photocopied readings are labeled as such.

A note about the readings: As you well know, philosophical writing is often subtle and difficult. This is especially true of the reading assignments for this course, many of which are also somewhat technical; most of them should be read at least twice. It also helps to take notes on separate paper while reading.

The course units and readings for them are as follows.

1. Speech Acts, Intention, and Meaning

Austin, J. L. "Performative Utterances" (M&S 22)
Searle, J. R. "The Structure of Illocutionary Acts" (M&S 23)
Grice, H. P. "Meaning" (M&S 21)
Searle, "What is a Speech Act?" (online)
Grice, "Logic and Conversation" (M&S 24)
2. Sense and Reference
Frege, Gottlob. "On Sense and Reference" (M&S 2)
Frege, "The Thought: A Logical Inquiry" (M&S 27)
Russell, Bertrand. "On Denoting" (M&S 8)
Russell, "Descriptions" (M&S 9)
Kripke, Saul. "From Naming and Necessity"(M&S 4)
Putnam, Hilary. "Meaning and Reference" (M&S 5)
3. Verificationism and Holism
Ayer, A. J. Language, Truth, and Logic, Chapters 1-6
Quine, W. V. O. "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" (M&S 32)
4. Truth-Conditional Semantics
Davidson, Donald. "Truth and Meaning" (M&S 30)
Davidson, "Radical Interpretation" (online)
Davidson, "Reply to Foster" (online)
Loar, Brian. "Two Theories of Meaning" (online)
5. Meaning and Normativity
Kripke, "From On Rules and Private Language" (M&S 38)
Brandom, Robert. "Objectivity and the Normative Fine Structure of Rationality," Ch. 6 from Articulating Reasons (online)
Brandom, "Inferentialism and Some of its Challenges" (online)
*The instructor of this course reserves the right to change any aspect of the syllabus, with the understanding that any such changes will be announced in class.