Philosophy of Language

Offered Spring 2001
MW9:30-10:45 AM
210 Kaplan

Instructor: Gary Ostertag
Office hours: W3:30-4:30 and by appointment

TA: Zsofia Zvolenszky
Office hours: W11-12 and by appointment

Required Texts

Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic (Dover)
Moore, Meaning and Reference (Oxford University Press)
Ostertag, Definite Descriptions: A Reader (MIT Press)


Wednesday, January 17th:

Course structure. Historical background to the philosophy of language.

Monday, January 22nd:

Ayer, Chs 1 - 2

Wednesday, January 24th:

Ayer, Chs 3 - 4

Monday, January 29th:

Ayer, Ch 6

Wednesday, January 31st:

Russell, “On Denoting” (Ostertag, Ch 1); Ostertag, Introduction, §§I-III (§II optional);

Monday, February 5th:

Russell, “Descriptions” (Ostertag, Ch 3; also in Moore);

Wednesday, February 7th -
Monday February 12th:

Strawson, “On Referring” (Ostertag, Ch 6; also in Moore));

Wednesday, February 14th:

Donnellan, “Reference and Definite Descriptions” (Ostertag, Ch 8); Ostertag, Introduction, §IV;

Monday, February 19th:

President's Day; no class

Monday, February 21st:

Donnellan, continued

Monday, February 22nd -
Wednesday February 24th:

Grice, “Vacuous Names” (Ostertag, Ch 7), Kripke, “Speaker’s Reference and Semantic Reference” (Ostertag, Ch 11);

Monday, March 5th -
Wednesday March 7th:

Wettstein, “Demonstrative Reference and Definite Descriptions” (Ostertag, Ch 12); Neale, “Context and Communication” (Ostertag, Ch 14); Ostertag, Introduction, §§ V-VI;

Monday, March 14th, -
Wednesday, March 16th:

Spring Break;

Monday, March 19th:

Frege, “On Sense and Meaning” (in Moore).

Wednesday, March 21st -
Monday, March 26th:

Kripke, “Identity and Necessity” (in Moore);

Wednesday, March 28th:

Evans, “The Causal Theory of Names” (in Moore)

Monday, April 2nd:

Crimmins and Perry, “The Prince and the Phone Booth” (on reserve)

Wednesday, April 4th:

Schiffer, “Descriptions, Indexicals and Belief Reports…” (Ostertag, Ch 15).

Monday, April 9th:

Saul, “The Pragmatics of Attitude Ascription” (reserve).

Wednesday, April 11th -
Monday, April 16th:

Quine, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” (reserve); “Mind and Verbal Dispositions” (in Moore)

Monday, April 18th:

Putnam, “Is Semantics Possible?” (reserve)

Monday, April 23rd:

Davidson, “Truth and Meaning”; Frege, “Letter to Jourdain” (both are in Moore).

Wednesday, April 25th -
Monday, April 30th:

Davidson, “Reply to Foster”; Evans, “Semantic Theory and Tacit Knowledge” (both items on reserve)

Course Description

The course provides an introduction to Analytical Philosophy of Language by focusing on a number of fundamental topics: Russell's theory of descriptions; the semantics of belief reports; the theory of reference; skepticism about meaning; and (time permitting) the idea that a theory of truth can serve as a theory of meaning.


Evaluation will be based upon three papers (25% each) and a final examination (25%)