PHIL/LING 145.001 – Language, Communication, and Human and Animal Minds
Instructor: Cal Fawell. This course meets MWF 9:05 – 9:55 a.m. in CW 105.
This course will focus on two major topics in the philosophy of language. The first topic: meaning. Is a word’s meaning merely the object to which it refers, or are the ideas we typically associate with that word part of what it means? If a phrase is frequently used to communicate something “in between the lines”, is what gets communicated part of its meaning? This unit will also discuss a question in normative ethics: is lying to someone worse than merely misleading them? Given questions in the theory of meaning, how should the lying/misleading distinction even be drawn? Our readings for this first topic will draw from the works of Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Saul Kripke, H.P. Grice, and Jennifer Saul, among others.
Our second topic: intentionality. That is: why do our words mean anything at all? How do our words come to be about objects in the world, as opposed to being mere splotches of ink on a page? (For that matter: how do our thoughts come to be about objects in the world, as opposed to being mere patterns of neurons firing?) This unit will also discuss an epistemological question: can reflections on the problem of intentionality help us prove that we’re not living in a computer simulation? (Surprisingly, some have argued that they can!) Our readings for this first topic will draw from the works of Saul Kripke, H.P. Grice, and Hilary Putnam, among others.
This class does not have any prerequisites. It does, however, engage with a challenging and sometimes technical literature, and so it is recommended that students have taken (or be taking) an introductory course in logic (such as PHIL 155). The instructor will present any logical background that is required as the need arises (and at introductory pace), though, and so those who are interested in any of the topics above but have no training in logic are still highly encouraged to enroll.