The SDG Web PageMy PictureMy e-mail addressMITPY3004: PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE

Semester 2: February-May 2004.

Number of students for 2004: 50 (approx).


Course Organiser and Lecturer: Patrick Greenough

Seminar leaders: Daniel Nolan and Stephen Read (click here to access info about Dr. Read's seminars)


WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE?

Every branch of philosophy is characterised by three things:

(1) the questions asked and the puzzles posed,

(2) the answers and responses given, and

(3) what counts as a good answer or response to these questions and puzzles.

So, what sort of questions do we ask in the philosophy of language? The central questions are the following definitional (or conceptual) questions: (a) what is language? (b) what is meaning? (c) what is understanding? (d) what is communication?

In endeavouring to answer these definitional questions, we in turn find ourselves asking the following more specific questions:

(a) Is what way is language a rule-governed activity? What is a rule? What is the relationship between language and thought? Could there be thought without the possibility of speech? Is thought simply 'silent speech' ¾ an inaudible whispering in the head? In what way does our view of language shape how we look at the world? How does language represent? Could there be a private language? Can the study of language provide the key to solving all philosophical problems? What is common to all possible languages?

(b) Why do some sounds/inscriptions have meaning and others do not? How do words relate to the world? What different types of meaning are there? What is the distinction between metaphorical and literal discourse? What are the primary bearers of meaning? Where are meanings located? What is the relationship between meaning and use? Can the concept of truth illuminate the concept of meaning? Is the concept of meaning a concept we can do without in explaining the success of language? Should we be sceptics about meaning?

(c) What counts as mastery of a language? In what does knowledge of meaning consist? Does it consists simply in knowing how to use expressions correctly? If meanings are abstract then how can a grasp of what a word means take place at all since humans are not abstract? Is knowledge of meaning necessary for understanding language? How does a theory of meaning relate to a theory of understanding?

(d) What different types of communication are there? Is communication just the transmission of thought? What is the difference between the communication of information and other sorts of communication? Is language essential to communication?

We could, of course, endeavour to study the philosophy of language by studying these and other relevant questions, one by one, (and in the right conceptual order). But there is a better way ..... The best way to gain a philosophical insight into the nature of language is to begin our investigation by endeavouring to solve a host of language puzzles. In so doing, various answers to the key questions (be they good, bad, or indifferent) will come soon enough ....


COURSE OVERVIEW: LANGUAGE PUZZLES

Russell famously said that a theory of logic [and language]:

may be tested by its capacity for dealing with puzzles, and it is a wholesome plan, in thinking about logic [and language], to stock the mind with as many puzzles as possible, since these serve much the same purpose as is served by experiments in physical science (Russell 'On Denoting', 1905).

This course is entirely Russellian in spirit: it's puzzle-driven. Each week we will look at different set of puzzles concerning the key concepts of meaning, reference, and understanding. Some of these puzzles are related, such as the riddles of reference encountered in lectures 1-4 (namely, the problem of empty names, the old Platonic riddle of non-being and being, Frege's identity puzzle, and Frege's substitution puzzle, together with Russell's puzzle of the excluded middle). Other puzzles and paradoxes stand on their own ¾ such as Wittgenstein's rule-following paradox (lecture 7). All genuine philosophical puzzles and paradoxes bring philosophical questions into relief. Most of these puzzles we will encounter are very deep and intractable and admit of no uncontroversial solution, while others are merely illustrative ¾ in solving them we gain a better philosophical understanding of the nature of language. The aim of the course, then, is not to spoon feed you received facts and wisdom which must then be duly regurgitated in lectures, but rather to get you to think, analyse, and evaluate for yourself by tackling the key puzzles and paradoxes. In so doing, you will gain an insight into the deepest questions in philosophy.

It's no accident that this course is a core course; indeed, many people take the philosophy of language to be prior to all other branches of philosophy. In the early to mid 20th Century, philosophy underwent what has come to be called The Linguistic Turn. Roughly, this was the (heterogeneous) movement which held that philosophical problems could be solved by rigorous and detailed analysis of language (both natural language and formal, invented language). In more recent years, people have tended to think that the philosophy of language, while central, has no uniquely privileged position in philosophy. (That's roughly the line I shall take.) Nonetheless, we'll find that some of the puzzles encountered in this course connect with key issues and concepts in the philosophy of art (metaphor and representation), in the philosophy of mind (thought, understanding, representation), in metaphysics (existence, object, identity, necessity, essentialism), in epistemology (understanding, belief, contextualism), and the philosophy of logic (substitution, opacity, identity). Indeed, it's part of the explicit purpose of this course to draw these connections where possible.


LECTURES and LECTURE SCHEDULE

Lecture 1: Language puzzles (9th February).

Lecture 2: Frege and the riddles of reference (16th February).

Lecture 3: Russell and the riddles of reference (23th February).

Lecture 4: Kripke and the causal theory of names (1st March).

Lecture 5: From Kripke to Putnam (8th March).

Lecture 6: Quine's qualms about meaning (15th March).

Lecture 7: The riddle of rule-following: Kripkenstein's monster (22nd March).

Lecture 8: Truth-and Meaning (12th April).

Lecture 9: Speech Acts and Moorean paradoxes (19th April).

Lecture 10: Saying and implicating (26th April).

Lecture 11: The mystery of metaphor (Tuesday 4th May, 1-2pm, School 1).

Please note:


LECTURES: TIME AND PLACE

Day: Monday.

Time: 12pm

Place: School I

Enrolment: Monday 9th February, 12pm (at first lecture).

Please note three things:

(1) The 2 week vacation is from Sat 27th March to Sunday 11th April (there are of course no lectures/seminars in those two weeks).

(2) Lecture 8 takes place on Easter Monday (12th April) as the University does NOT close on that day.

(3) The University is closed on Monday 3rd May (May Day Bank Holiday) and Lecture 11 will be on a different day, namely Tuesday 4th May 1-2pm, School I).


SEMINARS


SEMINAR SCHEDULE AND SET READING

Seminar 1 (week 2): Gottlob Frege: 'On Sense and Reference' (in set text).

Seminar 2 (week 3): Bertrand Russell: 'On Denoting' (in set text).

Seminar 3 (week 4): Saul Kripke: Naming and Necessity, Lecture 1, excerpts (in set text).

Seminar 4 (week 5): Hilary Putnam: 'Meaning and Reference' (in set text).

Seminar 5 (week 6): W. V. O. Quine: 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism' (in set text).

Seminar 6 (week 7): Saul Kripke: 'On Rules and Private Language' (in set text).

Seminar 7 (week 8): Donald Davidson: 'Truth and Meaning' (in set text).

Seminar 8 (week 9): Paul Grice: 'Logic and Conversation' (in set text).

Seminar 9 (week 11): A. P. Martinich: 'A Theory for Metaphor' (in set text).

Please Note: There are no seminars in week 10 as this is the week when the undergraduate reading party is held.


SEMINAR GROUPS

Group 1: 2pm-3pm Tuesdays, Room 104, Edgecliffe. (Stephen Read)

Group 2: 2pm-3pm Thursdays, Room 104, Edgecliffe. (Stephen Read)

Group 3: 2pm-3pm Fridays, Room G03, Edgecliffe. ( Daniel Nolan)

Group 4: 3pm-4pm Fridays, Room G03, Edgecliffe. (Daniel Nolan)


HANDOUTS


ASSESSMENT

Please Note: It is expected that you will be familiar, and will comply, with the regulations given in the booklet:

Honours Programmes In Philosophy: Information for Students 20032005.


WHAT WE EXPECT OF YOU

Please note: You should consult your email every few days as it is assumed by all course lecturers, seminar instructors, and tutors that email is the default method of communication.


COURSEWORK ESSAY


COURSEWORK ESSAY QUESTIONS

(1) What are the virtues and vices of the causal theory of reference?

(2) Critically compare and contrast Russell’s and Frege’s conception of proper names

(3) Are proper names just disguised definite descriptions?

(4) ‘There is no more to meaning than reference’. Critically discuss.


THE SET TEXT


ADDITIONAL READING

Please Note:

VERY USEFUL TEXTS IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE (most useful first):

USEFUL COMPANIONS IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE:

USEFUL ANTHOLOGIES IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE (most useful first):

USEFUL SURVEY ARTICLES:

SEMINAL BOOKS IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE (post 1950, in order of publication):

CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE (books relevant to this course published since 1990)

Please Note: All books recommended for reading during the course should be available from the Philosophy Class Library, as well as from the University Library. We recommend that you learn to use the class library system, since many of the books you will need to consult will be on restricted access. The Departmental Librarian, Mrs Read, is very helpful and will be glad to assist you. Note that in all handouts, the titles of books and journals are in italics, while the titles of articles are given in inverted commas, and are followed by a source, either a book or a journal. You should follow the same convention in your own references, e.g., in your essays.


ADDITIONAL READING: SEMINAR BY SEMINAR


USEFUL LINKS FOR THE PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE

http://www.lawrence.edu/fac/ryckmant/PLL.htm

http://www.allianceforlifelonglearning.org/er/tree.jsp?c=40143


GENERAL ELECTRONIC RESOURCES

 ENCYCLOPAEDIAS:

DICTIONARIES:

DATABASES:

(Note: no password required for local access; contact jmy@st-and.ac.uk for password for remote access.)

ON-LINE JOURNALS:

http://www-library.st-andrews.ac.uk/External/Journals/philosophy.html

VERY USEFUL WEB LINKS:


JARGON-BUSTING: CONSTRUCT YOUR OWN GLOSSARY

Ambiguity

Aposteriori

Apriori

Analytic

Assertion

Cancellability of implicature

Causal theory of names

Cluster theory of names

Cognitive value

Communication

Context

Context principle

Conventional Implicature

Conventional versus speaker meaning

Conversation

Conversational Implicature

Conversational Scorecard

Co-operative principle

Count noun

Dead versus live metaphor

Definite description

Demonstratives

Denotation

Descriptivism

Detachability of implicature

Direct reference

Disjunctivity of implicature

Division of linguistic labour

Empty names

Explicature

Extension

Fictional names

Figurative use

Flaccid designator

Frege's identity puzzle

Frege's puzzle about belief

Frege-Russell thesis

General terms

Holism

Identity

Identity statement

Illocutionary force

Indexical

Intension

Kripkenstein's paradox

Literal discourse

Logically proper name

Making as if to say

Mass term

Maxim of manner

Maxim of quantity

Maxim of quantity

Maxim of relation

Meaning

Metaphor

Millian view of proper names

Mode of presentation

Moore's Paradox

Naming view of language

Natural kind term

Natural versus non-natural meaning

Necessity

Negative existentials

Novel sentences

Opacity

Opaque contexts

Pragmatics

Pragmatic theory of metaphor

Predicate

Presupposition (semantic)

Proper name

Proposition

Propositional attitude

Reference

Referent

Referential versus attributive use

Referentialism

Representation

Riddle of being

Riddle of non-being

Rigid designator

Rule

Rule-Following Considerations

Russell's principle

Saying that

Semantic theory of metaphor

Sense

Sentence meaning versus speaker meaning

Sign

Simile

Simile theory of metaphor

Singular terms

Speech act

Stereotype

Straight versus sceptical solutions

Substitution

Synonymy

Twin-Earth thought experiments

Truth-condition

Truth-conditional theory of meaning and understanding

Understanding

Use theory of meaning and understanding 

Verificationist theory of meaning

 


FEEDBACK


HOW TO WRITE A PHILOSOPHY ESSAY

Jim Pryor's Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper

Andrew Pyle's On Writing a Philosophy Essay.


HOW TO SUCCEED IN EXAMS


UNIVERSITY COURSES ON: note-taking, essay-writing, and exam technique.


PAST PAPERS

http://exams.st-andrews.ac.uk/exams/

Note: Since course co-ordinators often change from year to year, there is no guarantee that the content and format of past papers will resemble future exams. It's for this reason that I've set forth some mock exams here.


© Patrick Greenough 2004.

If you have any suggestions as to how this site might be improved then please email me.


Philosophy at St Andrews

Last modified: 8th Feb 2004. The SDG Web PageMy PictureMy e-mail addressMIT