Philosophy 313: The Philosophy of Language
Professor: Craig DeLancey
Office: Campus Center 212C
Office Hours: MWF 9:00 a.m. -- 10:00 a.m., F 3:00 p.m. -- 4:00 p.m., and by appointment
Class time: MWF 11:30 pm - 12:25 pm, in Campus Center 142
Final Exam Time: 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. on December 14 in Campus Center 142
In this course you will learn about the most fundamental questions
confronting linguistics and the study of language, and also about the
relationship of language to knowledge. With this understanding, you
will be able to identify the most challenging aspects of the study of
language. In this course you will also develop your own perspective
upon these fundamental questions, and help to find ways to formulate
these questions so that they might someday be answered by a science.
The kinds of fundamental questions we will consider are mostly of
- What is reference? How can we best explain reference? What
does a theory of reference need to explain? Does language really
in any way "connect" to a non-linguistic reality?
- What is meaning? What might a theory of meaning look like?
What must a theory of language explain?
- What is the relationship between language and knowledge?
Does our language shape our knowledge? And, do various theories
of reference or meaning have implications for our theory of
We will also take some time to discuss two additional topics: the
nature of metaphor, and performative speech.
Most of our readings will be online. There is one text for this class:
The Philosophy of Language, A. P. Martinich (Editor)
Bring the readings to class on those days when we are reading
and discussing them.
If you are like this young man (or,
worse, like his parents), please do not take this course. We must
read important works in the philosophy of language and discuss them.
If you won't read, you waste your time and the time of your
classmates. I can promise you that we will only read papers that are
relevant to our topic and which are important to the field.
Assignments and exams
To help you meet our goals, there will be weekly assignments in which
we can experiment with the things we are learning. Most, but not all,
of these will be an opportunity to write about our readings. In those
cases, for about a third of the readings, I will ask you to write a
short paper (1 page) or summary of the reading before class; for about
a third of the readings, I will give you an opportunity to make such a
summary in class; and for about a third of the readings we will simply
begin with a discussion to achieve the same end. In each case, I will
provide you with questions that can guide your reading.
To help you assess your progress in meeting our goals, there will be
two exams. You must complete all the assigned readings and discuss
them in class.
For the exams, I will give you before the exam a list of possible
questions; then, for the actual exam, I will ask some subset of those
If you have a disabling condition which may interfere with your
ability to successfully complete this course, please contact the
Disability Services Office.
The grade will be determined in the following way:
Homework assignments and in class summaries: 40%
Homeworks will often be reviewed in the class period where they are
due. For this reason, late homeworks will not be accepted for
Class exams: 60% (30% each)
If you miss an exam and have an excused absence for the day you miss
the exam, you may make it up, by special appointment with me, when you
are able to come back to class. It is your responsibility to arrange
any make-up exams as soon as you know you are going to miss the
exam. Otherwise you may lose the opportunity to take the test, since I
cannot give make-up exams after the class has gone over the
Here is how you secure an excused absence: Only prior notification with credibly documented or
easily verifiable reasons (e.g., medical visits to Mary Walker,
documented participation in official sporting events, etc.) will
result in excused absences. You must notify in writing, call, or email
me prior to your absence from class. Or you must notify the
Philosophy Dept. secretary, Pat Meleski, before you are going to be
absent, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at
x2249. However, you must make sure she knows your name, the number of
the course, the date, and your easily verifiable reason, along with a
request to forward the information to me. It is better to give your
information to me, except when you are unable to communicate with my
phone or email for some reason.
Please hold onto all of your assignments and exams. Sometime before
the end of the semester I will ask you to review the grades that I
have recorded to make sure that I have not made any mistakes.
Any cheating will receive a zero grade, and will be reported to the
College Policy on Intellectual Integrity
Intellectual integrity on the part of all students is basic to
individual growth and development through college course work. When
academic dishonesty occurs, the teaching/learning climate is seriously
undermined and student growth and development are impeded. For these
reasons, any form of intellectual dishonesty is a serious concern and
is therefore prohibited.
The full intellectual integrity policy can be found at
In addition to the listed office hours, I encourage you to make
appointments. I will be available quite a bit. Please try to come to
office hours with specific questions in mind. You can of course come
with a general request for help, but it is always helpful if you spend
a little time thinking about how I can best help you
In this class, it is your responsibility to learn,
and to be able to describe, explain, and apply:
Your understanding of these questions will be evaluated through
our exams and papers.
- The naive reference theory, or Mill's theory of proper names;.
- Frege's challenge to the naive reference theory, and
how his sense and reference distinction avoids this;
- Russell's three puzzles for definite descriptions, and how
his theory avoids these;
- The description theory of reference, and how to provide simple
examples of a description for a reference;
- The cluster theory version of the description theory of reference;
- The causal theory of reference, and some of the problems that
Kripke identifies for the description theory that the causal theory
- The externalism of Putnam, and why Putnam believes "meaning
ain't in the head";
- The verificationist theory of meaning;
- The use theory of meaning;
- The truth based theory of meaning;
- The problem that the modal extension of the truth based theory
is meant to solve;
- The platonist theory of meaning;
- The Kripkenstein paradox for radical conventionalism;
- The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.
This course will also provide you with opportunities to write both
brief and more extensive papers on complex and (at first) relatively
unclear problems, and our goals include: improving your ability to to
find the core problem in questions that (when first considered) are
rather vague, to describe those problems and provide an argument (when
required) for your solution, and overall to write more clearly. Your
abilities to do these will be evaluated through both short and longer
See the tentative class assignments for a schedule outline.