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PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE

Second Paper Assignment

DUE Wednesday, APRIL 13

The instructions for writing the second papers are the same as

the first with two exceptions. First, there is an extra rule to

avoid overlap with your first paper. Second, it is now

mandatory to advocate for a position. If you are actually

neutral, then pick a side like a debater.

Choose from one of the topics below. If you prefer to

write another topic, get permission from the instructor.

You should also consider the following remarks on the

previous papers:

John Gabriel:

Overall, the papers showed that the students were working hard to grasp the

complicated ideas in the readings and had more or less understood them. But

philosophy is hard. It demands one be meticulous in stating one’s own views

and the views of others, and when one only more or less understands what one

is reading, that less can be magnified when one explains that reading to others.

This led lots of papers to contain paragraphs like this [made up] one:
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As Frege adroitly notes, “The President of the United States is wise,” refers to the

President of the United States (Barack Obama) and is, consequiously, about

him. Russell denies this. According to Russell, the President of the United States

does not refer; instead it denotes quantifiers. A quantifier is a description like “a

man” or “some men”. According to Russell, “The President of the United States is

wise,” says: (i) There is at least one man. (ii) There is at most one man. (iii) The

President of the United States is Barack Obama and he is wise. This allows Russell

to solve the problem of identity statements like, “Mark Twain is Samuel

Clemens.” The President of the United States denotes something different than

Barack Obama, so that’s how that sentence can have a different cognitive

significance than, “Mark Twain is Mark Twain.”

This is on the right track. A person who already understood Russell’s view could

see how this more or less captures his ideas. But subtle inaccuracies in the

sample paragraph could lead the reader who knew nothing of Russell to be

massively confused. The naïve reader could be misled into thinking, for

instance, that Russell believes that: 1) “The President of the United States is

wise,” is neither about Barack Obama nor does “the President of the United

States,” refer to him. 2) “The President of the United States,” refers 'to quantifiers',

perhaps either the existential or universal quantifier in formal logic. 3) For, “The

President of the United States is wise,” to be true, the world must contain only a
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single man. This puts me in mind of a piece of Jim Pryor’s advice (to which a link

on the paper topics directed you):

Pretend that your reader is lazy, stupid, and mean. He's lazy in that he doesn't

want to figure out what your convoluted sentences are supposed to mean, and

he doesn't want to figure out what your argument is, if it's not already obvious.

He's stupid, so you have to explain everything you say to him in simple, bite-sized

pieces. And he's mean, so he's not going to read your paper charitably. (For

example, if something you say admits of more than one interpretation, he's

going to assume you meant the less plausible thing.)

Often, that less plausible interpretation involved attributing views to the authors

we read that were absolutely crazy. Students need to take more care when

reporting authors’ views so that there isn’t an interpretation of their exposition on

which the authors they’re discussing are stark raving nuts. That’s especially

important when students then go on to criticize the views they’ve presented

(which they often do) since it leaves the impression that they’re merely

attacking a straw man. In sum, they need to keep in mind Pryor’s advice not to

assume their readers are sophisticated experts who will get the gist of what

they’re trying to say even if they don’t say it particularly well and to assume,

instead, that their readers are lazy, stupid, and mean (I’m at least two of those

things).
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Nate Adams:

Regarding thoughts on the papers, I fully agree with John's concerns. I might reiterate

in general that the essay checklist and Pryor's advice are important, because many of

the errors I encountered could have been avoided by taking them more seriously.

A few specific concerns: one thing that is related to the advocacy issue is that a

significant portion of my papers were written in the third person, which makes arguing

for a particular side of things pretty awkward. Another relatively common error that

plagued the clarity of these papers was not giving a precise understanding of the

question such that it was clear whether the considerations they were giving in favor or

against a position were really answering the question. I think it needs to be clear that

they can devote part of the paper simply to the issue of what the question they are

trying to answer really is (e.g. what would even count as mind control by language such

that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis would give us reason to think it's possible).

List of Topic Questions:

1. What is the correct theory of quotation? Include the views of

Frege and Quine, plus Donald Davidson’s “paratactic”

theory. This means a discussion of Davidson’s theory

account of how to solve problems of substitution within

propositional-attitude contexts. Comment on the

plausibility of taking ‘that’, as it occurs in

propositional-attitude constructions, as a demonstrative.


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Given that it is a demonstrative, how plausible is it to

regard its referent as an utterance?

Suggested Readings:

D. Davidson, ‘On Saying That’, in D. Davidson, Inquiries into

Truth and Interpretation (Oxford: Oxford University Press,

1984), pp. 93-108; reprinted as Martinich, Ch 29

Further reading:

Ian Rumfit, ‘Content and Context: The Paratactic Theory

Revisited and Revised’, Mind 102 (1993), pp. 429-54

I. McFetridge, ‘Propositions and Davidson’s Account of Indirect

Discourse’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 76

(1975), pp. 131-45

S. Schiffer, Remnants of Meaning, pp. 126-37

T. Burge, ‘On Davidson’s “On Saying That”’, in E. Lepore, ed.,

Truth and Interpretation: Perspectives on the Philosophy of

Donald Davidson, pp. 190-208

2. How does Donald Davidson develop a theory of meaning for a

language?

Explain the role of Tarski’s convention T. In what sense does

Tarski ‘define’ truth? Explain Davidson’s general program of

truth-conditional semantics. Assess the prospects of the


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program. Is it doomed by phenomenon such as indexicals, metaphor

and rhetorical devices?

Suggested reading:

D. Davidson, ‘Truth and Meaning’, Synthese 17 (1967); and in his

Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation; and as Martinich

Ch 7

Further reading:

D. Davidson, ‘Theories of Meaning and Learnable Languages’, in

his Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation

B. Ramberg, Davidson’s Philosophy of Language , Chs 2 and 3

W. Lycan, Philosophy of Language, Ch 10

A. Miller, Philosophy of Language, Ch 8.1-8.6

S. Blackburn, Spreading the Word, Chs 1 and 8

G. Evans and J. McDowell, Introduction to G. Evans and J.

McDowell, eds. Truth and Meaning

J. McDowell, ‘On the Sense and Reference of a Proper Name’, Mind

86 (1977); and in M. Platts, ed., Reference, Truth, and

Reality; and in A. Moore, ed., Meaning and Reference

G. Evans, ‘Semantic Theory and Tacit Knowledge’, in S. Holtzmann

and S. Leich, eds., Wittgenstein: To Follow a Rule; and in

his Collected Papers


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C. Wright, ‘Theories of Meaning and Speakers’ Knowledge’, in his

Realism, Meaning and Truth

D. Wiggins, ‘Meaning and Truth Conditions: From Frege’s Grand

Design to Davidson’s’, in B. Hale and C. Wright, eds.,

Companion to the Philosophy of Language

3. What is radical interpretation? Is there a difference between

translation and interpretation? Is the indeterminacy thesis

compatible with the inscrutability of reference? Quine and

Davidson use “the Principle of Charity? What do they mean

by that? Must this principle be employed by an interpreter?

Are toddlers radical interpreters? How does radical

interpretation fit in with Davidson’s truth-theoretical

approach to meaning? I

Recommended Reading:

W. V. Quine, Word and Object (Cambridge, Ma: MIT Press, 1960),

Chapter Two

D. Davidson, ‘Radical Interpretation’, Dialectica 27 (1973); and

in his Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 1984)

Further reading:
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D. Davidson, ‘Belief and the Basis of Meaning’, Synthese 27

(1974); and in his Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation;

and as Martinich, Ch 39

D. Davidson, ‘A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs’, in E. Lepore,

ed., Truth and Interpretation; and as Martinich, Ch 40

B. Ramberg, Davidson’s Philosophy of Language, Chs 6 and 7

S. Blackburn, Spreading the Word, Ch 2

A. Miller, Philosophy of Language, Ch 8.6-8.7

C. McGinn, ‘Charity, Interpretation, and Belief’, Journal of

Philosophy 74 (1977)

J. Fodor and E. Lepore, ‘Is Radical Interpretation Possible?’,

Philosophical Perspectives 7 (1993)

B. Vermazen, ‘The Intelligibility of Massive Error’,

Philosophical Quarterly 33 (1983)

J. Heal, ‘Radical Interpretation’, in B. Hale and C. Wright,

eds., Companion to the Philosophy of Language

3. Why does Grice explain sentence meaning in terms of speaker’s

meaning? Why doesn’t speaker meaning equal sentence

meaning? How could a word I utter mean something other than

what I intended it to mean? Explain the role of mutually

understood communicative intentions in conversations?

Review Paul Ziff’s objections to Grice’s theory. How should

Grice reply? Can Grice allow that we sometimes talk to


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ourselves (and so do not require belief in an audience)?

Can Grice allow that one can continue to talk when it is

common knowledge that we will not be believed?

Suggested reading:

H. P. Grice, ‘Meaning’, Philosophical Review 66 (1957); and in

P. Strawson, ed., Philosophical Logic; and in Grice,

Studies in the Ways of Words; and as Martinich, Ch 6

Further reading:

P. Ziff, ‘On H. P. Grice’s Account of Meaning’, Analysis 28

(1967)

J. Searle, ‘What is a Speech Act?’,in M. Black, ed. and in

Rosenberg and Travis, eds., Readings in the Philosophy of

Language; and in J. Searle, ed., The Philosophy of Language

W. Lycan, Philosophy of Language, Ch 7

A. Miller, Philosophy of Language, Ch 7

H. P. Grice, ‘Utterer’s Meaning, Sentence-Meaning, and Word-

Meaning’, Philosophical Review (1969); ; and in his Studies

in the Ways of Words; and in J. Searle, ed., The Philosophy

of Language

P. Strawson, ‘Meaning and Truth’, in his Logico-Linguistic

Papers; and as 4th edition Martinich, Ch 7

M. Platts, Ways of Meaning, Ch 3


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S. Schiffer, Meaning

A. Avramides, ‘Intention and Convention’, in B. Hale and C.

Wright, eds., A Companion to the Philosophy of Language

4. What is Kripke’s rule following paradox? Can it be solved

with a dispositionalist account of meaning? What about a

naturalistic account of meaning? Is it so bad to just

accept skepticism about meaning? Would it be tantamount to

admitting that you do not know what this question means?

Suggested reading:

S. Kripke, Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language; part

appears as Martinich, Ch 43

Further reading:

R. Millikan, ‘Truth Rules, Hoverflies, and the Kripke-

Wittgenstein Paradox’, Philosophical Review 99 (1990); and

as Martinich, Ch 44

A. Miller, Philosophy of Language, Chs 5 and 6

P. Boghossian, ‘The Rule-Following Considerations’, Mind (1989)

P. Pettit, ‘The Reality of Rule-Following’, Mind (1990)

C. McGinn, Wittgenstein on Meaning, Ch 4

C. Wright, ‘Critical Notice of McGinn’, Mind (1989)

P. Boghossian, Review of McGinn, Philosophical Review (1989)


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C. Wright, Truth and Objectivity, Ch 6

C. Wright, ‘Moral Values, Projection and Secondary Qualities’,

Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (1988)

S. Blackburn, ‘The Individual Strikes Back’, Synthese (1984)

J. McDowell, ‘Wittgenstein on Following a Rule’, Synthese (1984)

B. Hale, ‘Rule-Following, Objectivity and Meaning’, in B. Hale

and C. Wright, eds., Companion to the Philosophy of

Language

5. What is a rigid designator? Explain the significance of the

notion for the causal theory of meaning. Which terms are

rigid? Contrast David Kaplan's definition of rigidity with

Saul Kripke's. Who is right?

Suggested readings:

Cook, Monte (1980): “If ‘Cat’ is a Rigid Designator, What Does

it Designate?,” Philosophical Studies, 37: 61–4.

Devitt, Michael, and Sterelny, Kim (1999): Language and Reality:

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language, 2nd edn.

Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Donnellan, Keith (1977): “The Contingent A Priori and Rigid

Designators,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 2: 12–27.

Evans, Gareth (1979): “Reference and Contingency,” Monist, 62:

160–89.

·Fitch, G. W. (2004): Saul Kripke. Chesham: Acumen.


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Gibbard, Allan (1975): “Contingent Identity,” Journal of

Philosophical Logic, 4: 187–221.

Hughes, Christopher (2004): Kripke: Names, Necessity, and

Identity. Oxford: Clarendon.

Justice, John (2003): “The Semantics of Rigid Designation,”

Ratio, 16: 33–48.

Kripke, Saul (1971): “Identity and Necessity,” in M.K. Munitz

(ed.), Identity and Individuation. New York: New York University

Press, pp. 135–64.

Plantinga, Alvin (1977): “Transworld Identity or Worldbound

Individuals?,” in Steven P. Schwartz (ed.), Naming, Necessity,

and Natural Kinds. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 245–66.

265–77.

Sidelle, Alan (1992): “Rigidity, Ontology and Semantic

Structure,” Journal of Philosophy, 89: 410–30.

Soames, Scott (2002): Beyond Rigidity: The Unfinished Semantic

Agenda of Naming and Necessity, New York: Oxford University

Press.

Stanley, Jason (1997a): “Names and Rigid Designation,” in Bob

Hale and Crispin Wright (eds.), A Companion to the

Philosophy of Language. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 555–85.

6. What is semantic externalism? Explain how it is supported by

the linguistic division of labor, the indexicality of


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natural kinds, and twin earth. Putnam says that "Meaning

ain't in the head" but he still seems to trace all meaning

back to some head or other. Is acephalic meaning

impossible? Or as John Searle put it: "If meaning ain't

the in the head, where would it be?" Suggested readings:

John Searle Intentionality, Jerry Fodor The Elm and the

Expert, Michael Devitt "Meaning just ain't in the head"

Meaning and Method ed. George Boolos (New York" Cambridge,

1990) 79-104.

7. Jerry Fodor is skeptical about appeals to ordinary language

involving fantastic suppositions. See "On Knowing What we

Would Say?" Philosophical Review (1964) 198-212. Can he

successfully distinguish between legitimate and

illegitimate appeals or is the appeal to ordinary language

a "package deal"? Does Fodor's attack depend on semantic

holism (which he later denounces in Holism: A Shopper's

Guide)? Further readings can be gleaned from the first

chapter of Zeno Vendler's Linguistics in Philosophy.

8. Michael Dummett: "It is an undeniable feature of the notion

of meaning -- as obscure as that notion is -- that meaning

is transparent in the sense that, if someone attaches a

meaning to each of two words, he must know whether these


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meanings are the same. (1978, 131)" However, externalism

implies that meaning depends on circumstances about which

the speaker may be ignorant. Should externalism be

rejected for this raw rejection of the speaker's privileged

access to what he himself means? Suggested readings:

Boghossian, Paul (1994) "The Transparency of Content"

Philosophical Perspectives 8 ed. James Tomberlin

(Atascadero, California: Ridgeview Publishing Company),

Michael McKinsey "Accepting the Consequences of Anti-

individualism" Analysis 54/2 (April 1994) 124-128.

9. Can you name something that does not yet exist? Given the

causal theory of names and impossibility of reverse

causation, it seems that you can only name past individuals

who are already around. But if the description theory of

names is correct, future individuals could be named. The

asymmetry seems to hold for all causally isolated

individuals. Indeed, the description theory seems to allow

for the possibility of naming individuals outside our light

cone. Be sure to include the views of David Kaplan.

Recommended reading: Robert Hanna’s “Reference, Indexicals

and Speaker Meaning” Protosociology-.1997; 10: 134-154.


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16. Apply J. L. Austin’s account of performatives to the

following apparent loophole.

Lawyer: Where were you on the night of murder?

Defendant: I swear I was at home the whole night.

The lawyer then shows a video showing that the witness was at a

Metro station on the night of the murder.

Defendant: I admit that I was not at home the whole night.

Lawyer: So you admit that your previous remark was false?

Defendant: No, my testimony was “I swear I was at home the whole

night” and that is true. I did swear. So my testimony was

true.

Has the defendant found a loophole in the definition of

`perjury’ (which requires a relevant assertion that is

known to be false by the testifier)?

Suggested Readings:

Austin, John L., 1961, “Performative Utterances,” in J.O. Urmson

and G.J. Warnock (eds.) Philosophical Papers, Oxford:

Clarendon.

Kent Bach, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry

SPEECH ACTS http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~kbach/spchacts.html


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Bach, K. 1975: ‘Performatives are statements too’, Philosophical

Studies 28: 229-36.

Holdcroft, D. 1978. Words and Deeds: Problems in the Theory of

Speech Acts. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Recanati, F. (1987) Meaning and Force: The Pragmatics of

Performative Utterances. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Searle, John, 1975b, “Indirect Speech Acts.” In P. Cole and J.

Morgan (eds.), Syntax and Semantics Vol. 3: Speech Acts,

New York: Academic Press. Reprinted in J. Searle,

Expression and Meaning. Studies in the Theory of Speech

Acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979, pp. 30–

57.

Searle, John R., 1989, “How Performatives Work.” Linguistics and

Philosophy, 12: 535–58.

11. Is the principle of charity too optimistic about our

logicality? For instance, is it compatible with the

existence of fallacies and superstition? Is the principle

acceptable when conjoined with the principle of humanity?

A realist justification of charity maintains that people

really are rational or all alike. An instrumental

justification maintains that good consequences flow from


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treating people as if they are rational. Which is more

plausible?

Suggested readings:

Cohen, L. J. (1981) “Can human irrationality be experimentally

demonstrated?” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 4, 317-70.

[Includes peer commentaries and response by author.]

Davidson, Donald (1984a) “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual

Scheme” in his Truth and Interpretation (Oxford: Clarendon

Press). Originally appearing in Proceedings of the American

Philosophical Association (1973/74) XLVII: 5-20.

_______________ (1974) “Belief and the Basis of Meaning” Synthese

XXVII 3/4: 309-324.

_______________(1984b) “Thought and Talk” in his Truth and

Interpretation (Oxford: Clarendon Press). Originally appearing

in Mind and Language ed. S. Guttenplan (Oxford: Clarendon Press,

1975).

_______________ (1976) “Hempel on explaining action” Erkenntnis

10: 239-253.

Richard Grandy "Reference, Meaning and Belief" Journal of

Philosophy (1973) 70: 439-452, Colin McGinn "Charity,

Interpretation and Belief" Journal of Philosophy (1977) 74:

521-534.
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Sorensen, Roy "Charity implies Meta-charity" Philosophy and

Phenomenological Research LXCIII, no. 2 (March 2004): 290-

315.

Stein, Edward (1996) Without Good Reason (Oxford: Clarendon

Press).

12. Wittgenstein maintained that a private language is

impossible. What is his argument for this conclusion?

Jerry Fodor maintains that much of contemporary psychology

is committed to a language of thought. Is the existence of

Mentalese incompatible with Wittgenstein's skepticism about

private languages? Review the arguments for and against

the language of thought hypothesis. Is Wittgenstein's

skepticism reinforced by the externalism of Hilary Putnam?

Baker, G.P. (1998), ‘The private language argument’, Language &

Communication, 18: 325–56.

Boghossian, P.A. (1989) ‘The rule-following considerations’,

Mind 98: 507–49.

Canfield, John (2001) ‘Private language: the diary case’

Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 79: 377–94.

Fodor, Jerry A. (1975). The Language of Thought, Cambridge,

Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.


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Fodor, Jerry, The Elm and the Expert: Mentalese and its Semantics, Cambridge: MIT Press,

1995.

Fogelin, R.J. (1976) Wittgenstein, London: Routledge, Ch. XIII.

Jones, O.R., ed., (1971) The Private Language Argument, London:

Macmillan.

Nielsen, K.S. (2008) The Evolution of the Private Language

Argument, Aldershot: Ashgate.

13. Wittgenstein awakes in ancient Athens. It is the morning

after an all-night party. Socrates is already up communing

with his daimon. Spotting the groggy Austrian, Socrates

sidles up to his cot. And asks: `What is love?’ Continue

the dialogue. Use their exchange as a forum for the

concept of family resemblance. Make sure Wittgenstein

carefully explains and illustrates his concept. Apply it

to Socrates concern with universals.

Include an epilogue. Would the dialogue stop Socrates from

corrupting the youth of Athens? Alfred North Whitehead said

that Western philosophy is a series of footnotes on Plato.

Would there have been any Western philosophy? Would we

have landed on the moon anyway? Or would we still be

wearing togas?

READINGS:
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Beardsmore, R. W.: 1992, The Theory of Family Resemblance,

Philosophical Investigations 15, 131–146

Campbell, Keith "Family Resemblance Predicates" American

Philosophical Quarterly 1961

Carroll, Noel, 2000, (ed.) Theories of Art Today, Madison:

University of Wisconsin Press.

Gaut, Berys, 2000, “The Cluster Account of Art,” in Carroll pp.

25-45.

Rosch E. and Mervis, C. (1975) Family resemblances: studies in

the internal structure of categories, Cognitive Psychology

7, 573-605;

Ronald Suter Interpreting Wittgenstein

14. Present Wittgenstein’s attitude toward `The meter rod is one

meter long’. Then discuss Kripke’s suggestion that it is a

contingent a priori truth.

Suggested Readings:

Heather Gert "The Standard Meter by Any Name is Still a Meter

Long," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2002)

Griffin, N.: 1974, Wittgenstein, Universals and Family

Resemblance, Canadian Journal of Philosophy III, 635–651.

Robin Jeshion 2000). Ways of Taking a Meter. Philosophical

Studies 99 (3):297-318.
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Daniel Z. Korman (2010). The Contingent a Priori and the

Publicity of a Priori Knowledge. Philosophical Studies 149 (3).

15. Kripke says that it is a necessary truth that gold is the

element with atomic number 79. Yet he also holds that this

was a scientific discovery. Present his case for necessary

a posteriori truths. What are the main objections to it? Is

Kripke correct?

Suggested Readings

Boghossian, Paul. 2000. “Knowledge of Logic,” in New Essays on

the A Priori (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 229-54.

BonJour, Laurence. 1998. In Defense of Pure Reason (Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press).

Casullo, Albert. 1992. “A priori/a posteriori,” in A Companion

to Epistemology, eds. Jonathan Dancy and Ernest Sosa

(Oxford: Blackwell), pp. 1-3.

Kitcher, Philip. 1980a. “A Priori Knowledge,” Philosophical

Review 89: 3-23.

Kitcher, Philip. 1980b. “A Priority and Necessity,” Australasian

Journal of Philosophy 58: 89-101.

16. Are unicorns possible? Can there be non-actual possible

things? Review Kripke’s reservations and assess their


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cogency. Also consider whether Zeus, Hamlet, and kryptonite

are possible.

Suggested Readings:

Dummett, Michael “Could there have been unicorn?” The Seas of

Language

Marga Reimer Could There Have Been Unicorns? International

Journal of Philosophical Studies (1997)

Volume: 5, Issue: 1.

Yagisawa, Takashi Worlds and invidviduals, possible and

otherwise chapter 10