- Time and Place: Tuesday and Thursday, 12:30-1:45; Sierra Hall 224
- Instructor: Ronald McIntyre
- Office: Sierra Tower 532
- Office Hours: Tue 11:00-11:30, 2:00-3:00; Thu 11:00-12:00; other times by appointment
- Telephone: (818) 677-2751 or 677-2757
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This course will focus on theories of meaning – i.e., systematic accounts of how linguistic expressions are meaningful and of what meaning itself is. Our study will require us to address a number of problems in the three traditional areas of philosophy of language: (1) How does linguistic structure contribute to linguistic meaning? What are the meaningful parts of sentences, and how do the meanings of these parts contribute to the meaningfulness of the whole? These are questions of syntax. (2) How does language relate to the world that we use language to talk about? How, for example, do names succeed in naming something? Can the meaning of a name be identified with the thing it names? Sentences also bear a relation to the world: some of them are true and some are false. How does the truth or falsity of a sentence depend on the behavior of its linguistic parts? These are questions of semantics. (3) Language is not simply a complex system of signs that somehow “represents” the world: it is a medium that we use to communicate with others in various ways. How does the meaning of what we say depend on what our intentions are when we say what we do? For what purposes do we use language, in addition to asserting the beliefs that we take to be true? Can meaning itself be understood in terms of linguistic use? These are questions of pragmatics.
Our approach will be to study in some depth a few of the classical 20th century writings on these issues (rather than reading a lot of things superficially). These will include Gottlob Frege’s theory of sense and reference, Bertrand Russell’s theory of descriptions, Saul Kripke’s possible-worlds semantics, Paul Grice’s notion of speaker-meaning, J. L. Austin on performative utterances, and John Searle’s theory of speech acts.
- 6 units of Philosophy including Phil 350 or 355
- Required: Robert J. Stainton, ed., Perspectives in the Philosophy of Language: A Concise Anthology (Available at Matador Bookstore).
- Recommended: William G. Lycan, Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction. Excerpts will be made available on WebCT; the full text is available from amazon.com and other sources.
- Additional required and recommended readings will be made available on WebCT.
Official Course Website: Web CT
The official website for students enrolled in the course is on WebCT (https://webteach.csun.edu), and many essential course materials will be accessible only though WebCT. I’ll use WebCT to post announcements, reminders of work due, notes, and study guides. If you have to miss class, check the website for the latest course information.