PHIL 314
Linguistic Meaning and Reference Spring 2024
Division II
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“The 100th US President will be shorter than Aristotle was” is a sentence that is either true or false, we don’t know which. Either way, it’s true/false thanks to a special relationship it has to somebody in the far future and to somebody in the distant past. What is the nature of that relation? How does it work? What makes it possible? In this course we will investigate reference, a central topic in the philosophy of language. We will discuss competing theories about how different representational types refer, including names (like “Aristotle”), definite descriptions (like “the 100th US President”), indexicals (like “you”), and even non-verbal deixis (like pointing gestures). Of particular interest will be the relation between reference and linguistic meaning. Is reference all there is to meaning, or is there more to what some (or all) referring expressions mean? We’ll explore this topic with an eye toward making connections with philosophical questions about the mind–do thoughts refer in the same way that words do? Must a speaker’s linguistic reference always match their mental reference?
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 15
Class#: 3644
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Short reading responses, midterm and final papers (approx. 10 pages)
Prerequisites: At least one philosophy course
Enrollment Preferences: Priority given to philosophy majors and seniors
Distributions: Division II
Attributes: PHIL Contemp Metaphysics + Epistemology Courses

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