PHIL 344 Philosophy of Language

Fall Semester 2011| Day






  • The Philosophy of Language, 5th edition, A.P. Martinich, (ed.) Note that older editions of the book are substantially very similar aside from pagination and a few missing articles. Any edition of the book is acceptable for this course. You can also get away without the book at all, almost all the  articles are available on-line.



Philosophers have always known that their discipline is heavily dependent on language and could profit tremendously from a thorough analysis of truth, linguistic meaning, and other related concepts. Whether one thinks that our thought is revealed and structured by language or that the true nature of our thought is hidden behind its necessarily inaccurate linguistic expression, the study of language is of central importance.

But it is only in the 20th century that the philosophy of language came into its own. Fortunately for us there has been more progress in the field than in most other philosophical areas. One might argue that Aristotle's ethics are in many ways as sophisticated as any modern theory, but it would be absurd to claim this for his (or any other great pre-Fregean philosopher's) philosophy of language.

Modern philosophy of language is thus a sophisticated, highly technical, but also very rewarding subject. In this course we will read and discuss some of the classics in the field: Russell, Frege, Davidson, Austin, Searle, Strawson, Quine, Kripke, Donnellan, and others. The topics covered will include truth, meaning, reference, speech acts, propositional attitudes, the analytic/synthetic distinction, and more. The aim is to familiarize the students with the major concepts and theories in the field.



  • Midterm (~week 7) - 25%
  • Term paper (10-12 pages) - 40%
  • Final exam - 35%


NOTE: Prerequisite: PHIL 100; and one of PHIL 201 or 203, or COGS 200