Philosophy of Language

Offered Spring 2003
Course Code: V83.0085-001
MW4:55 - 6:10 PM
Room: 208 Silver Center

Instructor: Gary Ostertag
Office hours: M3:30-4:30 and by appointment

TA: Ray Buchanan
Office hours: TBA and by appointment

Site Contents:

Required Texts back to top

Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic (Dover)
Stainton, Perspectives in the Philosophy of Language (Broadview Press)
Ostertag, Definite Descriptions: A Reader (MIT Press)
Kripke, Naming and Necessity (Harvard University Press)
Brandom, Articulating Reasons (Harvard University Press)

Optional Texts

Devitt and Sterelny, Language and Reality, Second Edition (MIT Press)

Assignments back to top

Wednesday, Jan. 22nd:

Course structure. Historical background to the philosophy of language.

Monday, Jan. 27th:

Ayer, Chapters 1 - 2

Wednesday, Jan. 29th:

Ayer, Chapters 3 - 4, Cpater 5, pp. 87 - 90.

Monday, Feb. 3rd:

Ayer, Chapter 6; Stevensen, “The Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms” (handout)

Wednesday, Feb. 5th::

Quine, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” (in Stainton).

Monday, Feb. 10th:

Davidson, “Truth and Meaning” (in Stainton).

Wednesday, Feb. 12th:

Grice, “Meaning” (in Stainton).

Monday, Feb. 17th:

Presidents' Day.

Wednesday, Feb. 19th -
Monday, Feb, 24th:

Austin, “Performative Utterances”; Searle, “Meaning and Speech Acts” (both articles in Stainton).

Wednesday, Feb. 26th:

Brandom, Chapter Two, Articulating Reasons, “Semantic Inferentialism and Logical Expressivism”.

Monday, March 3rd:

Brandom, continued. First paper due.

Wednesday, March 5th -
Monday, March 10th:

Russell, “On Denoting” (Ostertag, Chapter 1); Russell, “Descriptions” (Ostertag, Chapter 3); Ostertag, Introduction, §§I-III (§II optional).

Wednesday, March 12th:

Strawson, “On Referring” (Ostertag, Chapter 6)

Monday, March 17th -
Wednesday March 19th:

Spring Break.

Monday, March 24th:

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

Wednesday March 26th:

Wettstein, “Demonstrative Reference and Definite Descriptions” (Ostertag, Chapter12)

Monday, March 31st:

Grice, “Logic and Conversation” (in Stainton)

Wednesday, April 2nd -
Monday, April 7th:

Neale, “Context and Communication” (Ostertag, Chapter14); Ostertag, Introduction, §§ V-VI; Devitt, “Meanings and Psychology” (excerpt).

Wednesday, April 9th:

Recanati, “The Pragmatics of What is Said”.

Monday, April 14th:

Frege, “Uber Sinn und Bedeutung” (in Stainton).

Wednesday, Aprth 16th-
Wednesday, April 23rd:

Kripke, Naming and Necessity (excerpts TBA)

Monday, April 28th:

Soames, “Wide Scope and Rigidified Descriptions”.

Wednesday, April 30th -
Monday, May 5th:

Brandom, Chapter Four, Articulating Reasons, “What are Singular Terms, and Why are there Any?”

Course Description

The course provides an introduction to analytical philosophy of language by focusing on a number of fundamental topics: the nature of linguistic meaning; Russell's theory of descriptions; the theory of reference; logical vs. grammatical form; the theory of speech acts; in what way and to what degree context affects the content of an utterance.


Evaluation will be based upon three or four short papers and a final examination

Bobst Reference Resources back to top

Craig, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Routledge)

Blackburn, Oxford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Oxford University Press)

Audi, Cambridge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Cambridge University Press)

Wilson, Keil, The Mit Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science

Reserve Books back to top

Osherson, An Invitation To Cognitive Science, v. 1: LANGUAGE (MIT Press)

Kripke, Naming and Necessity (Harvard University Press)

Brandom, Articulating Reasons (Harvard University Press)

Récanati, Direct Reference (Blackwell)

Soames, Beyond Rigidity (Oxford University Press)

On-Line Resources back to top

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Wilson, Keil, The Mit Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science