Course Description

This will be an intensive study of some central work in 20th century philosophy of language, focusing on descriptions, presupposition, and the difference between de dicto and de re claims.

This edition of the course has as an official prerequisite that you have taken Philosophy of Language (Phil UA 85) and Logic (Phil UA 70) --- which is itself a prerequisite for Philosophy of Language. Some of the announcements I've seen floating around list Consciousness or Philosophy of Mind as alternates to Philosophy of Language, but in fact those don't officially count for this edition of the course. (When it's taught in other years, on other topics, they may.)

However, I realize that not everyone interested in the course will have had the opportunity to take these specific prerequisites. So if that's you, get in touch and tell me what background you do have. On one extreme, if you haven't yet taken introductory logic and have experience with only one or two philosophy courses, this is very likely not an appropriate course for you and you should look at strengthening your background and taking another topics course in later semesters. On the other extreme, perhaps you haven't specifically taken Philosophy of Language, but you have studied formal semantics in the Linguistics Department, or in some Computer Science classes; or you have taken other courses in Logic or Set Theory and might be able to adapt quickly to the expectations of this course. In that case, you should be able to handle this course fine. Most likely you fall somewhere in the middle, and we will have to see. If it's not clear, I will invite you to attend the course informally for a week or two to see how you do with the readings and discussion. We will see if we can find a good balance between your background and that of the other students. (You should in these cases also think about a backup plan, and be sure to attend your backup course as well, so that if you do need to take it, you won't be behind.)

My Contact Info

The course is taught by Prof. Jim Pryor. You can reach me as follows:
Office: 5 Washington Place #403
Office hours: Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 AM - 1 PM

Feel free to drop in for any reason any time during my office hours. (If I'm already speaking with someone, let me know that you're waiting.) I am happy to talk about paper ideas, continue class discussion, and so on. Or you can email me. I try to respond quickly (but don't always succeed).

Course Requirements

Most weeks you will write one-to-two page papers summarizing and formulating some questions about the upcoming readings (that is, before we discuss them in class). You will also write two medium-length papers (7--15 pages) during the term. Your grade will be based on the papers and your participation in the class discussions. (The two-page papers count as part of the latter.)


Today we reviewed past material and worked through Kaplan's formal syntax and semantics. On Wednesday we'll discuss the rest of sections XVII--XXII (except for the formal system in section XVIII, but including the Remarks on the Formal System in section XIX). Next week we'll discuss (some of) Afterthoughts.
For Monday, Dec 1, read (and summarize etc.) the rest of Demonstratives. We may discuss for one or two sessions. Afterwards (perhaps as early as Wed, Dec 3) we will discuss Kaplan's Afterthoughts, which you may begin reading in advance if you like.
For Monday, we'll start reading Kaplan's Demonstratives. I'm not sure yet how far we'll get. We'll be discussing this for several weeks, perhaps until the end of term. You should probably aim to read through most or all of it once quickly, then go back and start reading again more carefully in small chunks for each week's meetings.
For Wednesday, read Naming & Necessity up to top of p. 144, and also the Addenda starting on p. 156. We'll skip the discussion of the mind/body problem at the end of Lecture 3. As usual, send me summaries and questions before we meet. Also, the two "homework" thinking exercises were to think about what distinguishes Kripke's own positive picture of how names get introduced and passed on from Strawson's descriptivist picture which looks superficially similar (and why Kripke thinks his view is better). The second exercise is to think about why Kripke thinks the real possibility of one thing (that the evening star be distinct from the morning star) can explain what he claims to be the merely apparent possibility of something else (that Hesperus be distinct from Phosphorus).
For Monday, read Naming & Necessity up to p. 110, and also the Preface. Give me summaries and questions before we meet, as usual.
For Wednesday, we'll start discussing Naming and Necessity (no link, I rely on you to have your own copy somehow). Skip the Preface for now, and read Lecture I and up to the middle/bottom of p. 78 in Lecture II. On the bottom of p. 78, he describes what he's going to proceed to argue (about theses 2, 3, 4, and 5) in the following pages. Pay special attention to Kripke's frequent comments about Donnellan's referential descriptions in the footnotes (on p. 25 and 59, and pp. 80, 87, which we'll get to later). If you want to read ahead, for a later class we'll discuss at least up to middle of p. 110. Give me summaries and questions for up to p. 78 for Wednesday.
The more recent paper has been found, and it's Zoltan Szabo's Specific, Yet Opaque. However, reading this I see it's not pitched at a level that's ideal for our class. It also presupposes some formalism I can't expect you all to be familiar with. So I'll just offer you the link to that article as an optional piece of extra reading, and we will focus our discussion on the Fodor and Sag article linked below. You don't need to supply summaries and questions for that article. (Update: also, after reading the articles again closely, I see that the issue Szabo is discussing doesn't really come up in any direct way in the Fodor & Sag piece; it is about another claim for which Fodor is well-known.)
For Monday, we may read Fodor and Sag, "Referential and quantificational indefinites", unless I (in the next few days) identify the more recent survey paper covering the same ground. You don't need to send a summary of this article, though those who still owe a summary for the Kripke article should still do that.
Ok, now we'll leave Hawthorne and Manley and go back to Kripke's paper Speaker's Reference and Semantic Reference. Send me brief summaries of the main aims of the article and some questions for discussion.
On Monday, we'll finish discussing "Quantifying In". Next Wednesday, we'll begin discussing Chapter 1 of Hawthorne and Manley's Reference Book. That will certainly take more than one class. Then we'll discuss Chapter 2 of that book (in the same pdf).
I changed my mind about the order of readings. Instead I propose we do a couple of readings about de re attributions and de re thoughts. After a few weeks on that, we'll come back to Kripke's criticism of Donnellan, and the follow-up linguistics article I mentioned. So our next reading will be Quine, "Quantifiers and Propositional Attitudes". If you want to read ahead, after that we'll look at Kaplan, "Quantifying In". Send me brief summaries of the main aims of the Quine article and some questions for discussion, by lunchtime on Monday.
ADDED LATER: After you have read and tried to map out the Quine article in your head, have a look at this email I sent to a class a bunch of years ago helping them with the same task. Be sure you try to figure the article out on your own first! (The linked email is scanned, unfortunately, because I can't find the original anymore and am too lazy to retype it.)
On Wednesday, we will continue discussing Donnellan, and may begin discussing Kripke's paper Speaker's Reference and Semantic Reference. Send me brief summaries of the main aims of the article and some questions for discussion: you may send them by lunchtime on Wednesday, but if you want to wait until next Monday, that's ok too.
On Wednesday, we may or may not discuss Strawson a bit further. But we will also begin discussing Donnellan's paper Reference and Definite Descriptions. As with Strawson, send a brief summary of the main aims of the article and some questions for discussion, by lunchtime on Wednesday.
For Wednesday 9/17, read Strawson, On Referring. Send a brief (one paragraph) summary of the main aims/point of the article, as you understand it---it may be hard to do this in such a short statement, but it's important for you to try to isolate the most central claims from all the detail. Also send a few questions you think it will be helpful for us to discuss (say, 2 to 5 questions). Send these to me by lunchtime on Wednesday.
You will regularly have to submit short pieces of writing, in which you give a brief, high-level overview of what's going on in some article (as though you were writing an abstract for the article in a scholarly index---here is an example). More crucially, you should formulate a few questions for discussion or exploration. Generally you would try to formulate 2--4 questions. I will start you off though, with some example questions about the Russell readings, where I give more than that.
Added after class: To clarify, I don't expect you to submit questions for this first assignment; we already have the list of sample questions I posted above. For future assignments, though, you will regularly be doing this. I'll make sure to always explicitly announce when I expect you to submit summaries and questions.
Also, starting on Monday 9/8, we'll be meeting in the 5th floor seminar room in the Philosophy Building (5 Washington Place).
These will be the readings for Monday 9/8: You'll need a username and password to access these. If I haven't already emailed this to you, ask for it in class.
The course meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:55-6:10 in Bobst #LL146. Our first meeting is Wednesday Sept 3. There is no reading you need to do before the first meeting.