Reference, Relation, Meaning
Offered Fall 2002
Wednesday 2:00 - 4:00 PM
Room 503, Silver Center

Professor Kit Fine


Topics to be Discussed (Tentative List)

Week 1

General Overview. Background to the semantics of predicate logic.

Week 2

Criticisms of Extant Semantics for predicate logic.

Week 3

New relational semantics for predicate logic. The 'intrinsicalist fallacy' and the general idea of semantic relationism. Difference from semantic holism.

Week 4

Frege's Puzzle. The impossibility of solving it by invoking the distinction between sense and reference or any other 'intrinsic' aspects of meaning.

Week 5

Solution to Frege's Puzzle using the notion of 'strict coreference'. The idea of a 'meta-semantical' relationship and of semantics as an 'object of cognition'.

Week 6

Problems for direct reference theory. Kripke's Puzzle concerning Belief. A new formulation resting on no special assumptions. Inadequacy of existing solutions.

Week 7

Solution using the apparatus of strict coreference and 'coordination'. The weak sense in which the solution is contextualist.

Week 8

Puzzles concerning the de dicto content of belief (not belief reports). The content of belief as a system of coordinated propositions. Saving the 'transparency' of belief.

Week 9

Moore's Paradox of Analysis (and Mates' Puzzle). Different Formulations. Inadequacy of Available Solutions.

Week 10

The idea of strict synonymy (analogous to strict coreference) and its relevance to solving the paradox. Remaining issues.

Weeks 11-12

Application of semantic relationism to other topics - e.g. anaphor and 'correlative' terms in natural language constructions, the perceptual 'anchors' for demonstratives, the indeterminacy of translation, the identity of words (and the 'linguistic psychology' of using the same word).

Course Description

We shall deal with some fundamental problems of reference and meaning. These will include: the interpretation of variables and quantifiers in first-order logic; the semantics of proper names in ordinary language; problems of substitutivity in belief contexts; Frege's puzzle concerning identity; and Moore's paradox of analysis. I shall suggest that these problems cannot be properly solved without embracing a doctrine of semantic relationism, according to which there are relationships of meaning that cannot be reduced to the intrinsic meaning of the expressions between which the relationships hold.

We shall review the background literature; and the seminar should therefore be intelligible to those without previous background in the philosophy of language. However, we shall also attempt to cover the most recent research in the area and to spend time working out the details of the relationist approach.

updated 9/10/02