Phil 745: Advanced Studies in Philosophy of Language


Course Number Phil 745/Ling 712.001 (fall 2022)
Title Advanced Studies in Philosophy of Language: Codesignation
Credit Hours 3 credits
Course Descriptions See below
Prerequisites None
Target Audience Philosophy graduate students and others with comparable preparation and instructor’s permission
Instructor Professor Jim Pryor (he/him), email
Teaching Assistants None
Course Website
Class Times and Location Thu 4–6:30 pm in Caldwell 213
Instructor’s Office Hours Tue Thu 2–3 pm in Caldwell 108A
Course Texts Readings provided by web links
Course Format Group discussion

Sakai, Zoom, and Regular Updates

There is no Sakai webpage for this course.

Zoom links for any course meetings you need to attend remotely, and for Professor Pryor’s office hours can be retrieved from this restricted page.

This front web page won’t be updated frequently. Regular announcements, readings, and presentation notes will be posted at this page instead.

General Catalog Listing

This is general information. A description of how this specific instance of the course will be run follows.

PHIL 745. Advanced Studies in Philosophy of Language

3 credits.

Rules & Requirements

Repeat Rules: May be repeated for credit.

Grading Status: Letter grade.

Same as: LING 712

Description for Our Specific Instance of this Course

We’ll explore a cluster of issues in philosophy of language and formal semantics having to do with when two expressions “codesignate,” for example when two singular terms designate the same object. This broad umbrella will let us explore issues about (a) Frege’s Problem, and about (b) “empty” terms that seem to have no designation but nonetheless act codesignative, as in Geach’s Hob thinks a witch has blighted Bob's mare, and Nob wonders whether she (the same witch) killed Cob's sow.

Our broad umbrella also covers (c) the phenomenon of “anaphora.” This is when one expression derives its designation from another, as its and another do in different ways in this sentence. Another example is the pronoun her in Reagan liked Thatcher, but Bush admired her. This contrasts to the “demonstrative” or “deictic” way that pronoun works in Some people admire her [pointing to Thatcher or a picture of her]. We’ll explore issues and problems surrounding how anaphoric uses of pronouns are to be understood, comparing the Reagan/Bush example to Thatcher admired herself and Every leader who has a pet asks their subordinates to feed it. Herself, their, and it are akin to her in the Reagan/Bush sentence, but each has been argued to introduce new semantic mechanisms and philosophical problems. (Especially the last of these.) Work on these has been claimed to make fundamental and revolutionary differences to how we should understand self-reference, debates about sense/reference, and the very nature of linguistic meaning. We’ll sort through these debates, aiming both to understand why they’re claimed to have this importance, and also to begin evaluating the claims.

Finally, our broad umbrella also lets us explore (d) how to think about expressions of different syntactic categories that seem to essentially concern the same thing, for example beauty, beautiful, and beauties. This last issue turns out to be fundamental to debates about plurals and descriptions, as well as to debates outside of the philosophy of language, such as about whether what we know can also be what we believe; whether reasons are facts, beliefs, or something else; and more.

For philosophy grads, this course counts towards the “Metaphysics and Epistemology” distribution requirement. Refer to our Handbook (in the May 2022 edition, #8 and #9, starting page 5) for more information.

Target Audience

The intended audience for this seminar are philosophy graduate students, no matter their specific backgrounds and interests. It’s not meant only for those who have or want to focus on formal semantics. That said, the literature on some of these topics tends towards being more technical. I’ll do all I can to make the issues and discussion as accessible to as many participants as possible. We’ll aim to get value from papers even when you’re not tracking every detail.

Students who aren’t philosophy grads should discuss their preparation with the instructor and need his permission to enroll.


The course is offered by Professor Jim Pryor (he/him).

Professor Pryor’s office is Caldwell 108A. He can best be reached by email, at

Professor Pryor’s office hours are on Tue and Thu from 2-3. (If you have a quick question, you can also ask just after class.) If you’re unable to meet in person, we can also arrange to meet by Zoom. The Zoom link for office hours can be found on this restricted page.

Feel free to drop into office hours to discuss anything you like about our course. I’m happy to talk about paper ideas, continue discussion, and so on. If you do come to my office and I’m already speaking with someone, make sure that we know that you’re waiting for us to finish.

Course Requirements and Expectations

Some of our meetings, especially early in the semester, will be orally surveying a long and populated range of literature. In these meetings, it is essential to your learning that you ask lots of questions and actively engage with the views being summarized. Other meetings will be more focused on particular readings that we’ll all be expected to be ready to analyze and evaluate in group discussion. In these meetings, it’s also important for you all to participate — though our discussion dynamic will be different.

That will be all that’s expected for philosophy grads who will be taking the seminar in “Reduced Writing” mode.

Students who are taking the seminar for regular credit will write two shortish papers (10-12 pages each, though the second is allowed to instead be a substantial development and extension of the first, guided by my feedback). The second is due at the end of classes, Wed Nov 30.


This schedule lists due dates for assignments and the rough order of our topics. See this other page for course announcements, specific readings, presentation notes, and any minor tweaks to the schedule. Check that page frequently.

Meetings 1–3 / Thu Aug 18, Thu Aug 25, Thu Sept 1
Introducing Frege’s Problem and Formal Semantics
“Hidden Indexical” approaches to Frege’s Problem
Mark Richard’s phone booth, (Direct reference and ascriptions of belief, 1983)
Meeting 4 / Thu Sept 8
Meeting 5–6 / Thu Sept 15, Thu Sept 22
Empty terms and Geach’s Hob/Nob case (Intentional Identity, 1967)
Meeting 7 / Thu Sept 29
“Donkey Anaphora”
SEP article on Anaphora
Meeting 8–9 / Thu Oct 6, Thu Oct 13
Dynamic Semantic treatments of pronoun anaphora
Groenendijk, Stokhof, and Veltman, (Coreference and Modality, 1996)
Thu Oct 20
Fall Break, No classes
Meeting 10 / Thu Oct 27
Meeting 11–12 / Thu Nov 3, Thu Nov 10
Cross-category codesignation
Jeff King, (Designating Propositions, 2002; and selections from The Nature and Structure of Content, 2007)
Michael Rieppel, (Being Something, 2016; and Denoting and Disquoting, 2018)
Meetings 13 / Thu Nov 17
Last class
Thu Nov 24
Thanksgiving, No classes


I reserve the right to make changes to the syllabus, including paper due dates. These changes will be announced as early as possible so that students can adjust their schedules.


I welcome your input about the course at any time. You are welcome to approach me directly. I’ll also provide opportunities for anonymous evaluation and feedback during the term.