PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE

PHIL 406, Sec. 01: TTh 2pm-3:20pm in 142 Blair Hall
The College of William and Mary
Spring 2002



Instructor: James Woodbridge
email address: jawoo2@wm.edu
Course Webpage: http://faculty.wm.edu/jawoo2/wm/wmlang.htm
Office Hours: T 3:30pm-5pm, W 11am-12:30pm, and by appointment
Office: 126 Blair Hall
Office Phone: 221-2713
Dept. Phone: 221-2735

 


I. COURSE DESCRIPTION

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



II. REQUIRED CLASS MATERIALS

Books:

Ayer, A. J. Language, Truth, and Logic. New York: Dover Publications, 1952.
Kripke, S. Naming and Necessity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980.
Kripke, S. Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982.
Quine, W. V. O. Word and Object. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1960.
Stainton, Robert J. Perspectives in the Philosophy of Language: A Concise Anthology. Peterborough,
      Ontario: Broadview Press, 2000.

The books for the course are available at The William and Mary Bookstore located in the basement of Barnes and Noble in Merchant's Square. (They are also on reserve at the Library.)

There will also be a few photocopied required readings on reserve at Swem Library.

 


III. CLASS REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING SCHEME

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

Class Participation......................................................10%
Presentation................................................................15%
Paper...........................................................................40%
Final Exam..................................................................35%


About the Requirements:

Class Participation--One thing this requirement covers is your class attendance (if you don't attend class you can't participate in it). However, as this is a seminar course, to get an "A" for class participation you must do more than just show up; you have to contribute to class discussion. You are expected to show up having read the assignment for the day and ready to talk about it.

The Presentation--During the course of the term everyone must do one 15-20 minute presentation explaining one of the assigned readings for the course and raising questions about it. Bear in mind that this means some of you will have to present earlier in the semester.

The Paper--There are two options for the paper requirement for this course: 1) write one 15-20 page paper due at the end of the term; 2) write two 8-10 page papers, the first due in mid March, the second at the end of the term. I will distrubute topic suggestions, but (at least one of) your papers must involve independent research including at least one article outside of the assigned readings.

The Final Exam--There will be a timed (2 hour), in-class final exam given during the scheduled exam time for the class (May 7th). The final will consist of short answer questions and essay questions.



IV. CLASS FORMAT

This is a seminar class, so although I will present certain material (and you will each be giving a presentation at some point), most of the class should involve discussion. I hope that you will all form views about the topics we will address, and I want you to express and explore those views. It is endemic to philosophical inquiry that people's views on various issues will differ. You are encouraged to question your classmates (and me) when anyone says something you disagree with, but everyone should always keep in mind that disagreement and challenges are not personal attacks. 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 toward it.

 






V. TOPICS AND READINGS

Readings from books are listed by author, title, and chapter number. Readings from the Stainton anthology, Perspectives in the Philosophy of Language, are indicated by author, selection title, and "PPL" followed by page numbers in parentheses. 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. I recommend a first time straight through and then a second pass taking notes.

The course units and readings for them are as follows.

1. Sense and Reference
Frege, Gottlob. "Ueber Sinn und Bedeutung (On Sense and Reference)" (PPL 45-64)
Russell, Bertrand. "Descriptions" (PPL 65-74)
Russell, "On Denoting" (photocopy)
Strawson, P. F. "On Referring" (PPL 289-311)
Donnellan, Keith. "Reference and Definite Descriptions" (PPL 313-332)
Kripke, Saul. Naming and Necessity, Preface and Lectures I-II
2. Verificationism and Meaning Skepticism (I)
Ayer, A. J. Language, Truth, and Logic, Chapters 1-6
Quine, W. V. O. "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" (PPL 189-210)
Quine, Word and Object, Chapters 1, 2, 6
3. Truth-Conditional Semantics
Davidson, Donald. "Truth and Meaning" (PPL 75-92)
Davidson, "Radical Interpretation" (photocopy)
Davidson, "Reply to Foster" (photocopy)
Loar, Brian. "Two Theories of Meaning" (photocopy)
4. Normativity and Meaning Skepticism (II)
Kripke, Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, Chapters 1-3
5. Meaning, Intention, and Speech Acts
Grice, H. P. "Meaning" (PPL 127-136)
Grice, "Logic and Conversation" (PPL 271-287)
Austin, J. L. "Performative Utterances" (PPL 239-252)
Searle, John. "What Is a Speech Act?" (PPL 253-268)