Philosophy of Language, PHI 565

  • Ted Sider, Fall 1999

Course Description

This class is intended to be a first class in the Philosophy of Language. We will focus on semantics, that is, the theory of meaning. Topics will include semantic compositionality, descriptions, quantifiers, proper names, natural kind terms, propositional attitudes, conversational implicature, logical positivism, analyticity, truth and meaning, meaning and use, and the indeterminacy of translation. We will read classic articles by Frege, Russell, Searle, Kripke, Putnam, Quine, Davidson, Lewis and others. The only prerequisite for this course is one prior course in philosophy. However, things will be easier if you have had some exposure to symbolic logic.


There is one required textbook: The Philosophy of Language by A. P. Martinich. Additional required readings will be placed on reserve.


Dates of exams and papers, paper topics, and exam study guides will be given in class.

Undergraduate requirements:

  • Exams: In-class midterm and (non-cumulative) final, worth 35% each
  • Short paper (2-3 pages), worth 10%, due 9/30/97
  • Longer paper (4-7 pages), worth 20%

Graduate requirements:

  • Exams: In-class midterm and (non-cumulative) final, worth 35% each
  • Course paper (8-12 pages), worth 30%



  • First paragraph of Frege, "On Sense and Nominatum" (Chapter III)
  • Russell: "On Denoting" (Chapter III), from the paragraph beginning 'A logical theory...' on p. 202 through the end of p. 202.
  • Note: we'll eventually read the rest of these articles.


  • Locke, "Of Words" (chapter VIII); first full paragraph of p. 188.


  • Frege, "On Sense and Nominatum" (chapter III).


  • Russell, "On Denoting", and "Descriptions" (chapter III)

Anti-descriptivism for names and natural kinds

  • Chapter IV introduction (in particular, the long quotation from Mill)
  • Kripke, "Naming and Necessity" (Chapter IV)
  • Putnam, "Meaning and Reference" (chapter IV)

Direct reference and belief

  • Kripke, "A Puzzle about Belief" (Chapter V)
  • Salmon, selections from Frege's Puzzle (on reserve)
  • Perry and Crimmins, "The Prince and the Phone Booth: Reporting Puzzling Beliefs" (on reserve)

Conversational Implicature

  • Grice, "Logic and Conversation", (chapter II)

Truth and meaning

  • Davidson, "Truth and Meaning" (chapter I); Soames, "Truth, Meaning and Understanding" (on reserve)

Meaning and Use

  • Lewis, "Languages and Language" (chapter VIII)
  • Lewis, "Meaning without Use: Reply to Hawthorne" (on reserve)

Skepticism about meaning: the Analytic/Synthetic distinction

  • Quine, "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" (chapter I)

Skepticism about meaning: Rule Following

  • Kripke, "On Rules and Private Language" (chapter VIII)

Skepticism about meaning: Indeterminacy of Translation

  • Chapter VII, i) introduction, pp. 443-445
  • Quine, Word and Object, chapter 2 (on reserve)
  • Searle, "Indeterminacy, Empiricism, and the First Person" (chapter VII)