PHL313 Philosophy of Language
Professor: Craig DeLancey
Please read the passages from Mill's classic work on names. This
is given in our textbook as "Of Names."
The book selection is pretty heavily abridged, which is mostly good.
This presents a challenge for those of you who don't have the book
but are aiming to read it online in one of the available versions.
The Online Library of Liberty has the complete text (which is Book 1
chapter 2 of Mill's System of Logic) here.
An abridged version with some commentary inserted here and there
is also available by reading pages 9-19 of this pdf
(I'm refering there to the page numbers printed on the pages; in
the pdf they are actually pages 12-22.)
While reading any of these, ask yourself:
- What is the difference between when a name connotes,
and when and what it denotes?
- Can you make a diagram or tree of the distinctions he
makes here? Try it. I might ask you to share.
Homework 1. A little assignment. Write up your answers
to the following questions please:
On Mill's account of names....
The examples you offer should be your own (not Mill's examples).
You can re-use your examples -- an abstract name might be
connotative, for example. A few of these are hard (abstract
is not easy to distinguish from general, to be honest), but do
your best to grapple with the concepts.
- What is the difference between general and
- What is an example (of your own) of a general name?
- What is an example (of your own) of an
- What is a collective name?
- What is an example (of your own) of a collective name?
- What is the difference between concrete and abstract
- What is an example (of your own) of a concrete name?
- What is an example (of your own) of an abstract name?
- What is the difference between connotative and non-connotative names?
- What is an example (of your own) of a non-connotative
- What is an example (of your own) of a connotative name?
Please read, "On Sense and Reference" by Frege. It's in our book. This
one is a little challenging, but focus on the first two sections. It's
a classic, so give it careful attention. I think it is enough to read
just up to the paragraph that starts "We shall now further examine the
conjecture that the truth-value of a sentence is its nominatum" (it
might be slightly different in your translation, if you are not reading
it out of our book).
(An online version is available
Homework 2. In your own words, (1) what is the puzzle with
reference that Frege believes needs to be solved -- this regards
the worry about a=a and a=b; and (2) how does Frege solve this
with his distinction between sense and reference? Write this up
in a page and hand it in at the beginning of class. This is very
important -- we have to be sure that we understand this as we move
on in the course.
Ouch. Homework 2 shows that few of us get the point being made
by Frege. So we'll start with Frege, and then we'll turn to Russell.
Reading. Read "On Denoting" by Bertrand Russell. This one is a
bit demanding for the logic, but do your best and we will get
through the logic parts together. It's the second most famous
paper we'll read all semester, matching Frege's paper for its
import and influence.
Note: I've got a link below to a copy of the paper. This will
soon no longer be possible; more contemporary readings are not
available everywhere. Don't make that dumb mistake some people
make of spending a few thousand dollars on a course, and then
trying to save $50 on the textbook and thereby screwing up the
bigger investment. It's a very irrational thing to do.
But for those who haven't gotten the book yet, there are some
online versions. These include
Homework 3: Give a Russellian "On Denoting" style analysis
of the following two phrases. Your analysis can be in English (it
does not have to be in symbols).
What are their truth values (if they have truth values) according
to Russell's understanding? (Russell's relevant analysis is the
one where he claims denoting phrases can best be understood as the
conjunction of three particular phrases of the form, "There is
a.... There is only one.... And that things is a....")
- The youngest member of Gryffindor is red-headed.
- The President of SUNY Oswego is a woman.
If you want to review Russell's theory by seeing him describe it
with different cases, you can read his 1919 book chapter,
collected in our volume as "Descriptions." It covers similar
ground in a different way, which is helpful.
Homework 2 do-over: homeworks are as much for me as for
you; they tell me where I'm going too fast. Most of us did not
understand Frege's puzzle. I probably wrote on your homework 2,
try again (and even if I didn't, you are welcome to try again).
So, you can answer the question of Homework 2 using your own
new example (not a=a, a=b; not Morning Star, Evening Star) to
exercise your understanding of the point being made; explain what
the Naive-Millian theory will say about your example; why this is
problematic; and how the sense/reference distinction solves the
Let's review the idea of the description theory of meaning, and
also consider Kary's question ("Why does this distinction matter?"),
before we dig into the Kripke.
Read the selection from "Naming and Necessity" by Saul Kripke in
Review the selection from "Naming and Necessity" by
Saul Kripke in our volume.
Consider the five puzzles for reference that Frege and Russell
considered. How should Kripke answer these?
Read the selection "Meaning and Reference" from Hilary Putnam
in our volume.
A one-question homework. Must "water" mean the same thing on Earth
as it does on twin-Earth, if the descriptive theory of reference
is true (that is, if we adopt not the Kripke/Putnam causal
theory of reference, and instead adopt the Frege/Russell/Searle
descriptive theory of reference, then does "water" mean the
same thing on Earth and on twin Earth?). Explain and defend your
Read the selection from Searle, "Proper Names." The
alternative in the earlier editions of our book, "Proper Names
and Intentionality," is also adequate. The paper is
widely available; online versions include via JSTOR and
OK! We've been reading A LOT, but now it will all come
together. We'll have a biggish homework / a short paper.
Due today is a DRAFT of the a paper that accomplishes
Aim for 5+ pages. See and follow my
guide for writing analytic philosophy papers.
- Analyze an example of a a proper name and a natural kind term
(that is, in your paper, pick a proper name and pick a natural
kind term as examples to explain the relevant theories -- if you
have doubts that your natural kind term is a natural kind term,
then email me and I'll tell you).
- Contrast the views of (1) the descriptive theory of
reference (as we saw in Frege & Russell & Searle), versus (2)
Kripke and Putnam's causal theory of reference. Quote the
relevant passages from the relevant paper(s) in explaining each
view (that is, show that in fact Searle believes what your
claim; show that Kripke believes what you claim; etc.; by
quoting them making the relevant claims).
- Explain: What is the meaning of your proper name and of
your natural kind term, according to each theory?
- Explain: What is each of the two theories meant to
explain? Do they have different concerns?
- What are the benefits and costs of each theory?
- Which theory do you think offers the best explanation of
FYI: you can cover just one person from each camp if you
want (e.g., Searle vs. Kripke, Russell vs. Putnam, etc.)
Let's do something that's just fun. Here's a weird paradox that
Kripke claims to find in Wittgenstein: read the selection "On
Rules and Private Language" in our reader.
The user group is up. You should have received a join request.
The URL might be: "https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/phl313"
11 or 14 October
The paper is due Munday. Now, the word Munday either means "the day
after Sunday," or it means "the day after Sunday before October 9,
2013, and the day before Saturday after October 8 2013." If you
can explain why the first is the correct interpretation, then I'll
take the papers the day after Sunday. But if you can't, well then
they're due next class. Better read your Kripkenstein and think
hard to find that non-skeptical solution!
October Linguistics Club movie viewings
Saturday, 10/5 Documentary: Koko: A Talking Gorilla
Time: 3:00-5:00 pm
Description: This 1978 documentary follows the daily instruction and training in sign language of Koko, a gorilla living in the San Francisco Zoo. It discusses the implications of teaching this new kind of communication to apes in captivity and its effect on the apes as well as widely-held beliefs about language acquisition.
Tuesday, 10/15 Documentary: Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children
Time: 7:00-9:00 pm
Description: This 2007 BBC documentary shows us the lives of about 75
unwanted children in an orphanage in Bulgaria. The lack of treatment
and proper care extends beyond the horrifying physical
consequences. The complete neglect in educating any of these unwanted
children has resulted in reestablishing their role as a burden on
society -- the lack of communication between the workers and the
children has allowed their linguistic abilities to either deteriorate
or in some cases never develop.
14, 16, 18 October
Mike said he wants to read this Millikan! So read Millikan's
response to Kripkenstein: the selection "Truth Rules, Hoverflies,
and the Kripke-Wittgenstein Paradox." NOTE: the
next edition does not contain this paper. But it is available
on jstor at http://www.jstor.org/stable/2185347.
If you are looking for a jstor paper off campus, use
this link and sign in. Then search for the paper using
the search engine.
Short homework. In a paragraph or page:
- pick some part of our language (a bit of grammar, or a term, or etc.);
- describe what rule you think it illustrates (to use this
bit of language, what rule must I be able to follow and
- describe a Kripkenstein like skeptical challenge (which
means, say what rule might be consistent with many past uses
of this example of our language, but you think not what you
should mean by that element of the language?);
- what is your answer to the question, "What makes the
one rule right and this other rule wrong?"
We'll discuss the verificationist theory.
Recommended reading is "Empiricist Criteria of Cognitive
Significance" by Carl Hempel.
We'll discuss the truth-based theory and the modal logic extension.
Recommended reading is "Truth and Meaning" by Donald Davidson.
I've posted midterm grades. These are approximate. Let me know if
you have any questions.
We'll discuss the use theory.
Recommended reading is our selections of Wittgenstein's Philosophical
Performative language! Read Part I of "Performative Utterances" by
J. L. Austin. This is in any edition of our reader.
But we'll start with some last thoughts on the Chinese room.
Brains, and Programs" by John Searle.
Austin. Please read "Performative Utterances," part II.
Homework: try to make a list, for our discussion,
of three examples of different kinds of performatives. Do
your best to find a kind of performative that Austin does
not describe; or, barring that, at least find a specific
example that Austin does not provide (even if it is an
example of a kind that he identifies). I'll collect them,
and we can share them in this class or the next. It might
be hard, but do your best.
In class, we'll have a brief pop quiz -- or rather, a
timed, in class homework -- to enable me to determine how
well we are understanding Austin's theory.
Please read "The Structure of Illocutionary Acts"
A few of you pointed out that the section summaries in
our textbook are very helpful. I recommend that you look
at those. Each section of the book has an introduction
that can provide a helpful perspective.
Time: 7:00-9:00 pm
Description: This is a 1994 movie about Nell, a woman who was raised
in isolation by her mother. It follows her story after her mother’s
death when she is discovered and is thought to be a feral child. The
doctors observing her are proved to be wrong as they begin to find
that her strange behavior and language are based on her upbringing and
the language she speaks is actually English, but based on her mother’s
aphasic speech after a stroke.
Reading and a homework.
Please read: "What Metaphors Mean" by Donald Davidson.
This paper is in earlier editions of our book, but also
it is available here on JStor.
I will call this a psychological theory of
metaphor, but the paper also discusses and rejects
several semantic theories of metaphor.
Homework. Try one of the utterances that we came
up with individually or together as a class that is a
clear example of performative language and that is not
promising (I mean, don't use "I promise..." as your
example). See if you can describe the instances for
this utterance of Searle's four rules (propositional
content, preparatory rule, sincerity rule, and essential
rule). You should be able to do this in a paragraph or
two. Do Searle's rules seem to you to capture what is
going on in the speech act?
Please read Martinich's "A Theory of Metaphor." It is in
earlier editions of the book; but I have also sent you a
copy via email; and you can use this less lovely version also.
Martinich offers a pragmatic theory of metaphor.
Martinich refers repeatedly to Grice. We did not make
time this semester to read Grice's work. His paper is in
your reader, and you should read it when you have time and
inclination; but in brief the part that Martinich refers
to regards several rules that Grice proposes we follow
when conversing. These are:
Martinich is going to argue that these pragmatic rules help
us understand metaphor.
- Maxims of quality: (1) Do not say what is false, and
(2) Do not say that for which you lack sufficient evidence.
- Maxim of relation: be relevant.
- Maxim of quantity: make your utterance as informative
as is necessary (to express your meaning or achieve your
- Maxim of manner: be clear, unambiguous, brief.
In class we'll back up a little, to discuss your homeworks
on speech acts; and then we'll discuss Martinich's
alternative to Davidson's theory.
Homework: find, or come up with, your own example
of a metaphor. Which of the theories we've read about or
seen discussed do you think is best? Why? How would it
explain your example? You should be able to write this up
in a page or less.
In class, we'll review reference and meaning theories, and
theories of speech acts and metaphors -- all by way of a
discussion of Bender.
Read B. L. Whorf's "The Relation of Habitual Thought and
Behavior to Language." This is available
In class, we'll review your homework on metaphors, and
then discuss Whorf. A quiz on Whorf might be a good idea,
Here are the questions you should ask yourself while reading:
I am going to only use a very small selection of
Heidegger. It's just too hard to find a substantial
selection that does not require me to lecture you for a
week on existentialism. So, I'll bring you a handout
and perhaps we can talk about it briefly, but our focus
instead will be the post-structuralists. So, I'll (1)
bring a selection of structuralism -- namely, some
passages from Saussure, and then (2) we'll read about a
post-structuralist named Derrida. We'll do this in an
easy way, by reading American philosopher trained in the
tradition we've been discussing, but who is writing
(sympathetically) about Derrida. Derrida, and Rorty's
discussion, are meant to be an attack on must of the
kind of philosophy we've done up to now, so it should be
interesting to you.
- Consider Whorf's seven examples from his experience
with fire insurance. Evaluate them. Do they all indicate
an influence of language on thought? Of the same kind?
- What are his two key questions? This is important.
They are identified as such.
- What does SAE mean again?
- What are the differences in Hopi that he identifies?
Do they plausibly answer his two key questions?
Read Kay & Kempton,
"What is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis?"
I was not able to find a Hopi response to Whorf. Here
however is a popular
article and here
is an academic article by Lera Boroditsky, who works
in this area. If the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis troubles you,
you might find these interesting.
This is when we move to looking at alternative
approaches to the philosophy of language. We'll start
with an (in a rather odd way) influential view
called structuralism. We'll look at an existential
phenomological view in Heidegger. And then we'll see
these two things collide in Derrida.
Read the handout (which I'll distribute on the 18th)
of Saussure selection.
Read the handout (which I'll distribute on the 18th)
Reading (the first half of our last reading).
Read Rorty's paper: "Philosophy as a Kind of Writing: An
Essay on Derrida." We can get it via JStor. The stable
http://www.jstor.org/stable/468309. If you are
logging in off campus, you'll have to go first to this
JStor link, log in using your Oswego LakerNet ID, and
then you may have to search for "Richard Rorty" and find
the article "Philosophy as a Kind of Writing." If you
can't do it, tell me and I'll email it to you. After
ridiculing your lack of net skills.
For Monday, read at least parts I and II of the paper.
Homework and reading.
Homework: our last homework. This one is hard, but I'll
go easy as I always do on homeworks, and it does strike
to the heart of the matter of what we've been doing.
Consider two points. First: Rorty argues that Derrida is
a member of a tradition of which we can say "This
tradition does not ask how representations are related
to nonrepresentations, but how representations can be
seen as hanging together." Rorty also quotes Derrida as
saying all is text, and that there is nothing outside
the text; the idea being that all one can do is
interpret, the way we interpret poetry. Second: Rorty
concludes by saying that Derrida's claims are all consistent
with modern physics, for example. The physicists can do
their thing, and Derrida can do his thing, and neither makes
claims inconsistent with the other.
My question is: is this second point correct, in light
of the claims in the first point? Is it the case that
physics can be physics, math can be math, philosophy can
be philosophy, if all there is is text and the interpretation
of texts? Is physics still physics if we drop the idea that
we are talking about things that are outside of language?
That's hard! And can't be answered properly in a page
or two. But try. I'm interested in learning what your
views are, here at the end of the semester.
Reading: finish (read parts III and IV) the Rorty
paper,"Philosophy as a Kind of Writing: An Essay on
Review. Have we achieved consensus on any of our questions?
Notice: Librarian Available
Beginning October 24, students will find a librarian in Johnson to
instruct them in finding scholarly sources, using citation tools,
and all other research assistance. ALL STUDENTS ARE
Librarian in Johnson Hall
Thursdays 6pm-9pm (October 24-December 12)
Johnson Basement Classroom