Philosophy of Logic and Language

Below are readings and essay questions for tutorials in Philosophy of Logic and Language. Many of the readings are online, and easily obtained from the college or other libraries in Oxford, but if you are struggling to get hold of anything, email me, as I have PDF copies of nearly everything.

I have divided the reading for each topic into CORE READING and FURTHER READING, with more introductory texts marked with a star (*). Focus on the Core Reading suggestions in writing tutorial essays, and use the Further Reading suggestions as starting points for exploring topics in more depth during vacations. You will find more suggestions in the Faculty Reading List.

The default plan is to cover the TUTORIAL TOPICS: LANGUAGE. The first two weeks look at classic works by Frege and Russell. We then spend two weeks thinking about general issues concerning the distinction between semantics, pragmatics, and meaning, before looking at issues arising out of work in the 1970s by Kripke, Kaplan, and Putnam. The last week is left open for a topic of your choice. Options include, but are not limited to, the TUTORIAL TOPICS: LOGIC and the OTHER TOPICS. Having discussed it with me beforehand, however, you may choose to cover a quite different set of topics. In particular, those especially interested in the philosophy of logic might want to cover the TUTORIAL TOPICS: LOGIC instead.

I’ve had advice from various friends and colleagues in putting together this reading list and its previous incarnations. I’m particularly grateful to Brian Ball, Nick Tasker, and various students over the years. If you’re teaching a similar course, and want to make use of this reading list at all, as occasional emails suggest people sometimes do, please feel free. I’d love to hear how it goes!


  1. Sense and Reference
  2. Definite Descriptions
  3. Conversational Implicatures
  4. Meaning
  5. Naming and Necessity
  6. Indexicals and Demonstratives
  7. Semantic Externalism
  8. TBA


  1. Truth
  2. The Liar Paradox
  3. Logical Consequence
  4. Logical Constants
  5. Logical Inferentialism
  6. Logical Pluralism
  7. Logic and Reasoning
  8. TBA



The following anthologies are particularly useful, and contain many of the key readings, at least in the philosophy of language. I refer to them below as Harnish, Ludlow, and M&S respectively.

Robert Harnish, ed. (1994) Basic Topics in the Philosophy of Language (Harvester Wheatsheaf).

Peter Ludlow, ed. (1997) Readings in the Philosophy of Language (MIT Press).

A. P. Martinich and David Sosa, eds. (2012) The Philosophy of Language (OUP, 6th edition).

There is no set textbook, but it will be useful to do some introductory reading in the vacation beforehand as well as afterwards, for revision. The following are all warmly recommended:

*William Lycan (2019) Philosophy of Language, 3rd edition (Routledge).

*Michael Morris (2007) An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language (Cambridge UP).

*Stephen Read (1995) Thinking About Logic: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Logic (OUP).

*Mark Sainsbury (2001) Logical Forms, 2nd edition (Blackwell).

Lycan (2019) and Morris (2007) focus on the philosophy of language, with Lycan (2019) being a bit better on general issues about meaning and Morris (2007) a bit better on issues about reference, while Read (1995) and Sainsbury (2001) are more focused on the philosophy of logic.







Why did Frege distinguish between sense and reference? Was he right to do so? If so, what is the sense of a proper name, such as ‘Hesperus’? If not, how is the informativeness of an identity statement, such as ‘Hesperus is Phosphorus’, to be explained?


*Mark Textor (2011) Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Frege on Sense and Reference (Routledge), Ch. 4.

Gottlob Frege (1892) ‘On Sinn and Bedeutung’ in Michael Beaney, ed. (1997) The Frege Reader (Blackwell), esp. pp. 151-8. Reprinted in Harnish, Ludlow and M&S.

Nathan Salmon (1986) Frege's Puzzle (MIT Press), esp. Ch. 1, 3, and 4. Ch. 1 and 3 are reprinted in M&S, and Ch. 1 and 4 are reprinted alongside other extracts in Harnish.

William Taschek (2010) ‘On Sense and Reference: a Critical Reception’ in Michael Potter and Tom Ricketts, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Frege (CUP).


Other relevant writings by Frege include his (1918) paper, which is well worth reading in connection with INDEXICALS and DEMONSTRATIVES as well. Contemporary scholarship on Frege is dominated by Michael Dummett’s work, especially his magisterial (1981). Chapter 5 discusses the sense-reference distinction. Burge’s writings on Frege, collected in his (2005), are no less essential, and probably more sensitive to textual and historical considerations. Part II focuses on sense and cognitive value, though the best place to start is ‘Frege on Truth’, first published in 1986, in Part I. Michael Kremer’s contribution to the same volume as Taschek’s, above, is also very helpful, as are Heck and May (2008) and the rest of Textor (2011). McDowell (1977) is another piece of essential reading, articulating a non-descriptive Fregean approach, but it is quite hard going; it will be easier to understand the main idea after looking at Davidson’s proposal in the Core Reading for MEANING. You might also want to look at the interpretation of Frege in Ch. 1 of Evans (1982), which offers a similar approach to McDowell’s. For more on the debate between Millians (or neo-Russellians) and Fregeans, see Caplan (2007) and Fodor (2008). For an introduction to relationism, an approach developed by Kit Fine, see Gray (2017).

Tyler Burge (2005) Truth, Thought, Reason: Essays on Frege (OUP).

Ben Caplan (2007) ‘Millian Descriptivism’ in Philosophical Studies 133(2), pp. 181–198.

Michael Dummett (1981) Frege: Philosophy of Language, 2nd ed. (Duckworth).

Gareth Evans (1982) The Varieties of Reference (OUP).

Jerry Fodor (2008) LOT 2: The Language of Thought Revisited (OUP), Ch. 3.

Gottlob Frege (1918) ‘Thought’ in Michael Beaney, ed. (1997) The Frege Reader (Blackwell). Reprinted in Harnish, Ludlow, and M&S.

Aidan Gray (2017) ‘Relational Approaches to Frege's Puzzle’ in Philosophy Compass 12(10), pp. 1-15.

Richard Heck, Jr. and Robert May (2008) ‘Frege's Contribution to Philosophy of Language’ in Ernie Lepore and Barry C. Smith, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language (OUP).

John McDowell (1977) ‘On the Sense and Reference of a Proper Name’ in Mind 86(342), pp. 159–185.


NOTE: I’ve included questions from the Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein paper, which is discontinued. As I understand it, questions on Frege’s and Russell’s work in the philosophy of logic and language, which used to be set for that paper, will now be set for this paper instead—though I haven’t seen any yet.

(a) The name ‘Madagascar’ was originally used to refer to a portion of the African mainland but was then applied to its current bearer (the island) in error. Are cases like this fatal to Kripke’s ‘causal chain’ theory of the reference of proper names?
(b) ‘Kripke’s arguments against descriptivism show that names do not have sense as well as reference.’ Do you agree? (2018)

How can the claim that Barcan is Marcus be informative? (2013)

Do names have sense (Sinn) as well as reference (Bedeutung)? (2016, Paper 117)

To what extent do Frege’s reasons for ascribing sense and reference to proper names generalize to ascribing sense and reference to sentences? (2015, Paper 117)




What is Russell’s theory of definite descriptions, and how does he try to motivate it? What are Strawson’s objections to Russell’s theory? Are they compelling, and what alternative account does he have to offer in its place? What are the implications of Donnellan’s distinction between attributive and referential uses of definite descriptions for Russell’s and Strawson’s theories?


*Mark Sainsbury (1995) ‘Philosophical Logic’ in A. C. Grayling, ed. Philosophy: A Guide Through the Subject (OUP), §2. ‘Descriptions’, pp. 77-86.

Bertrand Russell (1919) Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, Ch. XVI, ‘Descriptions’. Reprinted in Ludlow and M&S.

Peter Strawson (1950) ‘On Referring’ in Mind 59(235), pp. 320-344. Reprinted in Ludlow and M&S.

Keith Donnellan (1966) ‘Reference and Definite Descriptions’ in Philosophical Review 75(3), pp. 281-304. Reprinted in Harnish, Ludlow and M&S.


Kripke (1977) is a must-read, using ideas you can explore more if you do CONVERSATIONAL IMPLICATURES to defend Russell in response to the problems raised by Donnellan. Neale (1990) is an influential exposition and defence of Kripke’s position. See also Recanati (1993), offering a contextualist account of Donnellan’s examples, and Michael Devitt’s contribution to Reimer and Bezuidenhout, eds. (2004), offering an ambiguity account. See also Zacharska (2010), criticising the ambiguity account, and defending the contextualist one. While Russell’s position was for a long time the orthodox position—thanks in large part to Neale (1990)—Strawson’s has made a come back in recent years. Kai von Fintel’s paper in Reimer and Bezuidenhout, eds. (2004) is important here. See also Yablo (2006) and Elbourne (2013). (Paul Elbourne is often an examiner for this paper, so it is a good idea to gain some familiarity with his views!) For more on the problem of incomplete descriptions, raised by Strawson, see Reimer (1998). Ludlow (2004/18) is a useful overview of all the relevant issues.

Paul Elbourne (2013) Definite Descriptions (OUP).

Saul Kripke (1977) ‘Speaker's Reference and Semantic Reference’ in Midwest Studies in Philosophy 2(1), pp. 255-276. Reprinted in his (2011) Philosophical Troubles: Collected Papers, Vol. 1 (OUP), Ludlow and M&S.

Peter Ludlow (2004/18) ‘Descriptions’ in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Stephen Neale (1990) Descriptions (MIT Press), especially Ch. 3, which is reprinted in Ludlow.

Francois Recanati (1993) Direct Reference (Blackwell), Ch. 15.

Marga Reimer (1998) ‘Quantification and Context’ in Linguistics and Philosophy 21(1), pp. 95-115.

Marga Reimer and Anne Bezuidenhout, eds. (2004) Descriptions and Beyond (OUP).

Stephen Yablo (2006) ‘Non-Catastrophic Presupposition Failure’ in Judith Thomson and Alex Byrne, eds. Content and Modality: Themes from the Philosophy of Robert Stalnaker (OUP).

Beata Zacharska (2010) ‘Definite Descriptions: Semantic or Pragmatic Polysemy?’ in UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 22, pp. 56-63.


‘Large numbers of people find “The King of France is wise” to be true in some contexts, false in others, and neither true nor false in still others. But the Russellian has no way of explaining this tripartite range of reactions. So the Russellian theory of definite descriptions should be rejected.’ Discuss. (2019)

Is there any good evidence to show that definite descriptions introduce presuppositions? (2018)

Does Donnellan’s referential/attributive distinction show that definite descriptions are ambiguous? (2017)

What, if anything, is the meaning of the word ‘the’? (2016)




What are the conversational implicatures of an utterance? How, if at all, can they be distinguished from semantic entailments of what is said and the conventional implicatures of the utterance? What is the best account of how they arise? What are the implications for the semantics/pragmatics distinction?


*Michael Blome-Tillmann (2013) ‘Conversational Implicatures (and How to Spot Them)’ in Philosophy Compass 8(2), pp. 170–185.

Paul Grice (1975) ‘Logic and Conversation’ in Peter Cole and Jerry L. Morgan, eds. Syntax and Semantics, Vol. 3: Speech Acts (Academic Press). Reprinted in his (1989) Studies in the Way of Words (Harvard UP), Harnish, and M&S.

Stephen Neale (1992) ‘Paul Grice and the Philosophy of Language’ in Linguistics and Philosophy 15(5), pp. 509–59, especially pp. 509-41.

Kent Bach (2006) ‘The Top 10 Misconceptions about Implicature’ in Betty Birner and Gregory Ward, eds. Drawing the Boundaries of Meaning: Neo-Gricean Studies in Pragmatics and Semantics in Honor of Laurence R. Horn (John Benjamins Publishing Company).


In working on this topic in more depth, start by making sure you’ve got a good grasp of Grice’s own views. To this end, the rest of his (1989) Studies in the Way of Words is essential, particularly the other papers in Part I, Logic and Conversation. See also Saul (2002), arguing that the standard picture of Grice is mistaken. You should also think about the relationship between the category of conversational implicature, on the one hand, and those of conventional implicatures and presuppositions, on the other. For a good introduction, and further references, see Potts (2015). See also Bach (1999), arguing that there is no such thing as conventional implicature. Otherwise, think about the various refinements, objections, and alternatives to Grice’s theory that have emerged over the years. Key here are the approaches of neo-Griceans, like Larry Horn and Stephen Levinson, and Relevance Theorists, like Deirdre Wilson, Dan Sperber, and Robyn Carston. For good introductions, see the papers by Horn and by Wilson and Sperber in Horn and Ward, eds. (2004). See also Ernie Lepore and Matthew Stone’s (2015) book, building on work by David Lewis on convention and discourse structure to argue that phenomena traditionally explained in terms of general purpose reasoning are to instead be explained in terms of speakers’ knowledge of language. Part I introduces the Gricean, neo-Gricean, and Relevance Theoretic approaches, which are critically discussed in the rest of the book. The wider context is a debate over the contribution linguistic meaning and grammar makes to what is said and the significance of utterances more generally—the so-called semantics-pragmatics holy wars. Important early contributions to this debate include Carston (1988) and Bach (1994). See also CONTEXT-SENSITIVITY. Recent debate often focuses on scalar implicatures, particularly in embedded contexts. Though it’s something of a special topic, you may want to get a sense of what the debate here is about; Sauerland (2012) is a good place to start. Lastly, see Davis (2005/19) for a survey article on conversational implicature.

Kent Bach (1994) ‘Conversational Impliciture’ in Mind & Language 9(2), pp. 124–162.

— (1999) ‘The Myth of Conventional Implicature’ in Linguistics and Philosophy 22(4), pp. 327–366.

Robyn Carston (1988) ‘Implicature, Explicature, and Truth-Theoretic Semantics’ in Ruth Kempson, ed. Mental Representations (CUP).

Wayne Davis (2005/19) ‘Implicature’ in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2019 edition):

Larry Horn and Gregory Ward, eds. (2004) The Handbook of Pragmatics (Blackwell).

Ernie Lepore and Matthew Stone (2015) Imagination and Convention (OUP).

Christopher Potts (2015) ‘Presupposition and Implicature’ in Shalom Lappin and Chris Fox, eds. The Handbook of Contemporary Semantic Theory (Blackwell).

Uwe Sauerland (2012) ‘The Computation of Scalar Implicatures: Pragmatic, Lexical or Grammatical?’ in Language and Linguistics Compass 6(1), pp. 36–49.

Jennifer Saul (2002) ‘Speaker Meaning, What Is Said, and What Is Implicated’ in Noûs 36(2), pp. 228–248.


Could alleged conventional implicatures really just be at-issue content? (2019)

Could all the Gricean maxims be reduced to the Maxim of Relation? (2018)

‘We do not need a separate category of conventional implicature. All alleged examples can be analysed as presuppositions.’ Discuss. (2016)

Does Grice’s criterion of cancellability provide a robust distinction between conversational and conventional implicatures? Is there any such distinction? (2015)




Should the meanings of the expressions of a language be explained in terms of their contribution to the truth-conditions of sentences in which they occur? If not, how should they be explained?


*William Lycan (2019) Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction, 3rd ed. (Routledge), Part II, but especially Ch. 9 and 10.

Donald Davidson (1967) ‘Truth and Meaning’ in Synthese 17(1), pp. 304–323. Reprinted in his (2001) Inquiries Into Truth and Interpretation, 2nd ed. (OUP), Harnish, Ludlow, and M&S.

David Lewis (1970) ‘General Semantics’ in Synthese 22(1–2), pp. 18–67. Reprinted with Postscripts in his (1983) Philosophical Papers, Volume I (OUP).

If you have time, also have a look at:

Jeff Speaks (2010/19) ‘Theories of Meaning’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 edition):


The earlier chapters of Part II of Lycan (2019) discuss various other approaches to meaning, including the traditional view, associated with Locke, that the meaning of an expression is an idea. Wittgenstein was a critic of the traditional view, and, along with Wilfrid Sellars, a source of an alternative, use-based approach. For more on this, you might try Brandom (2000). See also the entry for LOGICAL INFERENTIALISM. For Grice’s approach, which seeks to explain linguistic meaning in terms of speakers’ intentions, see ‘Meaning’ in Grice (1989), and Neale (1992), both listed in the Core Reading for CONVERSATIONAL IMPLICATURES. Note that these are perhaps best understood as views about the metasemantic question, what determines the meaning of an expression, rather than the semantic question, what sort of thing is the meaning of an expression. So it’s not immediately obvious that they are in tension with the sorts of views you’ve been looking at this week. If you want to think more about those, start by thinking more about Davidson’s view. Focus, in particular, on getting a good grasp of Foster’s problem, and the main attempts to solve it, those of John McDowell and James Higginbotham, as well as Davidson himself. Davidson’s solution is given in his ‘Reply to Foster’, which is reprinted in his (2001) collection. McDowell’s solution is found in his (1977) paper, listed under SENSE and REFERENCE. Platts (1997) and Wiggins (1997) are helpful guides to McDowell, but also to Davidson’s program more generally, and are strongly recommended. Higginbotham’s approach is set out in his (1992), and criticised by Soames (2003). Lewis (1980) develops his intensional approach in light of the double-indexing considerations that you might look at in connection with INDEXICALS and DEMONSTRATIVES. In thinking about his approach, you might also find the PROPOSITIONS topic helpful. Think also about how proponents of truth-conditional approaches might handle non-indicatives. Stenius (1967) is a classic discussion of this issue, while Recanati (2013) is a good recent discussion.

Robert Brandom (2000) Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism (Harvard UP).

Paul Grice (1989) Studies in the Way of Words (Harvard UP)

James Higginbotham (1992) ‘Truth and Understanding’ in Philosophical Studies 65(1/2), pp. 3–16.

David Lewis (1980) ‘Index, Context, and Content’ in Stig Kanger and Sven Ōhman, eds. Philosophy and Grammar (Springer). Reprinted in his (1998) Papers in Philosophical Logic (Cambridge UP).

Mark Platts (1997) Ways of Meaning: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Language 2nd edition (MIT Press), esp. Ch. I & II.

Francois Recanati (2013) ‘Content, Mood, and Force’ in Philosophy Compass 8(7), pp. 622–32.

Scott Soames (2003) Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century, Volume 2: The Age of Meaning (Princeton UP), Ch. 12.

Erik Stenius (1967) ‘Mood and Language-Game’ in Synthese 17(1), pp. 254–74.

David Wiggins (1997) 'Meaning and Truth Conditions: from Frege's Grand Design to Davidson's' in Bob Hale, Crispin Wright, and Alexander Miller, eds. (2017) A Companion to the Philosophy of Language, 2nd edition (Blackwell).


‘Questions and imperatives have meaning but no truth conditions. So the meaning of a sentence cannot be its truth conditions.’ Is this a good argument? (2019)

Could the meaning of a word or phrase be the use that is made of it? (2018)

Can any theories of meaning other than truth-conditional ones provide a basis for explaining compositionality? (2017)

Is the view that the meaning of a sentence is that sentence’s truth-conditions consistent with a deflationary theory of truth? (2015)




Is the meaning of a name that of a definite description? If not, what, if anything, is its meaning? Is the reference of a name fixed by an associated definite description? If not, how is it fixed?


*G. W. Fitch (2004) Saul Kripke (Acumen), Ch. 2.

Saul Kripke (1980) Naming and Necessity (Blackwell), Preface, and Lectures I and II. Selections reprinted in Harnish, Ludlow and M&S.

Scott Soames (2002) Beyond Necessity: The Unfinished Semantic Agenda of Naming and Necessity (OUP), Ch. 2.

Gareth Evans (1973) ‘The Causal Theory of Names’ in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 47, pp. 187-208. Reprinted in Ludlow and M&S.


Kripke offers arguments against descriptivist answers to both the semantic question of what, if anything, the meaning of a proper name is and the metasemantic question of how its referent is fixed—arguments known as his modal, epistemological, and semantic arguments. The two main lines of response to the modal argument are wide scope strategy, pursued in Dummett (1981), and the actualised description strategy, pursued in Searle (1983). Soames criticises these in the Core Reading, but see Sosa (2002) for a reply on behalf of the wide scope strategy. For more on the epistemological argument, see Jeshion (2002). Think also about what other answers we might give to the semantic and metasemantic questions. Some, like Katz (2001), think Kripke’s arguments leave untouched a non-Fregean descriptivism. See also Graff Fara (2015), defending the view that names are predicates. Others think they leave untouched a non-descriptivist Fregeanism. McDowell (1977), mentioned in the Further Reading for SENSE and REFERENCE is the locus classicus for this sort of view, but perhaps better in the first instance to look at Sainsbury (2005), listed in the Further Reading for EMPTY NAMES, which is a great guide to many of the issues we’ve been looking at. Kripke himself seems inclined, albeit tentatively, to Millianism, the view defended by Soames in the rest of his (2002) as well as by Salmon (1986) in the Core Reading for SENSE and REFERENCE, as an answer to the semantic question, and the causal theory of reference as an answer to the metasemantic question. For more on the causal theory of reference and metasemantics, see Dickie (2011), and §3 of Speaks (2010/19) for an overview of the broader issues. And see Cumming (2008/19) for an excellent overview of work on the semantics of names. Lastly, think about the puzzles that motivated descriptivism in the first place, particularly concerning EMPTY NAMES and PROPOSITIONAL ATTITUDE REPORTS.

Sam Cumming (2008/19) ‘Names’ in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Imogen Dickie (2011) ‘How Proper Names Refer’ in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 111(1), pp. 43–78.

Michael Dummett (1981) The Interpretation of Frege's Philosophy (Duckworth), Ch. 9 and Appendix 3: Kripke.

Delia Graff Fara (2015) ‘Names Are Predicates’ in The Philosophical Review 124(1), pp. 59–117.

Robin Jeshion (2002) ‘The Epistemological Argument Against Descriptivism’ in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64(2), pp. 325-345.

Jerrold Katz (2001) ‘The End of Millianism: Multiple Bearers, Improper Names, and Compositional Meaning’ in Journal of Philosophy 98(3), pp. 137–166.

John Searle (1983) Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind (Cambridge UP), Ch. 9.

David Sosa (2001) ‘Rigidity in the Scope of Russell's Theory’ in Noûs 35(1), pp. 1-38.

Jeff Speaks (2010/19) ‘Theories of Meaning’ in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:


(a) The name ‘Madagascar’ was originally used to refer to a portion of the African mainland but was then applied to its current bearer (the island) in error. Are cases like this fatal to Kripke’s ‘causal chain’ theory of the reference of proper names?
(b) ‘Kripke’s arguments against descriptivism show that names do not have sense as well as reference.’ Do you agree? (2018)

Does ‘Socrates’ mean the same as ‘the actual F’, for some expression ‘F’? (2016)

Suppose that twins Sarah and Lisa are accidentally swapped as babies after their parents have named them both. Unbeknowst to anyone, the child originally named ‘Sarah’ grows up being called ‘Lisa’ and the child originally named ‘Lisa’ grows up being called ‘Sarah’. Must the causal theory of reference predict that ‘Sarah’ refers to the child everyone calls ‘Lisa’ and vice versa? (2015)

Suppose that Jane is the only person in the world who plays professional football and is from Greenland. What, if anything, is the difference between saying ‘Jane lives in the UK’ and ‘The professional football player from Greenland lives in the UK’? (2014)




How does Kaplan explain the fact that, while an indexical can be used to refer to different things on different occasions, its meaning nevertheless remains the same? What are the most serious problems with his explanation? How, if at all, are they to be solved?


*Geoff Georgi ‘Demonstratives and Indexicals’ in Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, accessed January 2021:

David Kaplan (1989a) ‘Demonstratives’ in Joseph Almog, John Perry, and Howard Wettstein, eds. Themes from Kaplan (OUP), pp. 481-563. Selections reprinted in Harnish and M&S.

David Kaplan (1989b) ‘Afterthoughts’ in Joseph Almog, John Perry, and Howard Wettstein, eds. Themes from Kaplan (OUP), pp. 565-614.


In thinking more about Kaplan’s theory, there are several issues to look at. First, there’s the role of speakers’ intentions in determining the reference of a demonstrative. For an influential debate on this, see Reimer (1991) and Bach (1992). Second, there’s a question of how true demonstratives, like ‘this’ and ‘that’, are best handled within the theory. See Braun (1996). Third, there’s Kaplan’s logic of indexicals. Relevant here is the so-called answering machine paradox. See Cohen and Michaelson (2013) for an accessible survey. See also Yagisawa (1993), challenging Kaplan’s view that arguments such as, Mary is talking now; so Mary is talking now, are valid. Students doing PHILOSOPHICAL LOGIC might also think about connections to issues surrounding TWO-DIMENSIONAL LOGIC. Fourth, there’s Kaplan’s claim that indexicals and demonstratives are directly referential. Relevant here are debates about the proper treatment of complex demonstratives. See, in particular, King (2008), defending his alternative view that complex demonstratives are quantifiers. See also Braun’s reply in the same volume. The general issue of whether indexicals and demonstratives are directly referential connects with questions about the nature of PROPOSITIONS. Last, think about alternative approaches to indexicals and demonstratives, especially Perry’s token-reflexive approach, which is introduced in his (2017). For good surveys of the issues, try Mount (2012) and (the more advanced) Braun (2001/15). Students comfortable with the notation of formal semantics will find Heim (n.d.) extremely helpful, too.

Kent Bach (1992) ‘Intentions and Demonstrations’ in Analysis 52(3), pp. 140–146.

David Braun (1996) ‘Demonstratives and Their Linguistic MeaningsNoûs 30(2), pp. 145-73.

— (2001/15) ‘Indexicals’ in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Jonathan Cohen and Eliot Michaelson (2013) ‘Indexicality and the Answering Machine Paradox’ in Philosophy Compass 8(6), pp. 580–592.

Irene Heim (n.d.) ‘Lecture Notes on Indexicality’:

Jeffrey King (2008) ‘Complex Demonstratives as Quantifiers: Objections and Replies’ in Philosophical Studies 141(2), pp. 209–242.

*Allyson Mount (2012) ‘Indexicals and Demonstratives’ in Gillian Russell and Delia Graff Fara, eds. The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Language (Routledge).

John Perry (2017) ‘The Semantics and Pragmatics of Indexicals’ in Bob Hale, Crispin Wright, and Alexander Miller, eds. A Companion to the Philosophy of Language, 2nd edition (Blackwell).

Marga Reimer (1991) ‘Do Demonstrations Have Semantic Significance?’ in Analysis 51(4), pp. 177–183.


Ben records a message for his telephone answering machine that includes the sentence ‘I am not here now’. Is that a problem for Kaplan’s theory of indexicals? (2019)

Do complex demonstratives have the semantics of definite descriptions? (2018)

Before leaving, Mother Goat instructs the little goats to check the identity of anyone who knocks at the door, lest the Big Bad Wolf call by. When she returns, she knocks at the door and the little goats open it at once. ‘Silly goats,’ she scolds them, ‘I could have been the wolf!’ Does her last utterance cause a problem for Kaplan’s theory of indexicals? (2017)

Is there any interesting distinction between indexicals and demonstratives? (2014)




What are Putnam’s Twin Earth and Burge’s arthritis thought experiments? What, if anything, do they tell us about the meanings of words and sentences?


*Zoltán Gendler Szabó and Richmond H. Thomason (2019) Philosophy of Language (CUP), Ch. 12.

Hilary Putnam (1975) ‘The Meaning of “Meaning”’ in Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science (1975), pp. 131-93, especially up to p. 152. Reprinted in his (1975) Mind, Language and Reality: Philosophical Papers: Volume 2, up to p. 235, and in Harnish, up to p. 239.

Tyler Burge (1979) ‘Individualism and the Mental’ in Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4(1), pp. 73–121. Reprinted with a postscript in his (2007) Foundations of Mind (OUP).

Noam Chomsky (1995) ‘Language and Nature’ in Mind 104(413), pp. 1-61. Reprinted as Ch. 5 and 6 of his (2000) New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind (CUP).


If you’re working on this topic in any depth, Pessin and Goldberg, eds. (1996) is extremely useful. Besides reprints of Putnam (1975) and Burge (1979), the papers of most immediate relevance are those in Part II, focused on natural kinds and the philosophy of language—see especially the papers by Zemach, Mellor, and Searle. See also Putnam’s introduction, which replies to Searle and Burge. Though it doesn’t tend to come up in exams, you might also want to think about Kripke’s approach to kind terms, rounding out your work on NAMING and NECESSITY. See especially Lecture III of his Naming and Necessity and Ch. 9 to 11 of Soames (2002), listed in the Core Reading for NAMING and NECESSITY. See also Wikforss (2007), which carefully disentangles various externalist theses at stake in the debate, distinguishing Putnam’s claims from those of both Kripke and Burge. For some recent and sympathetic discussion of Chomsky, see Pietroski (2017). For an alternative sort of response, relevant also to the issues you looked at for NAMING and NECESSITY, see Jackson (1998). For discussion of Jackson, see Ch. 4 of Kallestrup (2012), which also discusses the two-dimensionalist approach of Chalmers (2002). Segal (2004) offers an internalist account of natural kind concepts, and disputes the relevance of intuitions cited in support of externalism. Lastly, see Yli-Vakurri (2018) for a recent attempt to establish semantic externalism without thought experiments, and Sawyer (2018) for a reply.

David Chalmers (2002) ‘The Components of Content (Revised Version)’ in David Chalmers, eds. Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings (OUP).

Frank Jackson (1998) ‘Reference and Description Revisited’ in Philosophical Perspectives 12, pp. 201–218.

Jesper Kallestrup (2012) Semantic Externalism (Routledge).

Andrew Pessin and Sanford Goldberg, eds. (1996) The Twin Earth Chronicles: Twenty Years of Reflection on Hilary Putnam's ‘The Meaning of “Meaning”’ (M. E. Sharpe).

Paul Pietroski (2017) ‘Semantic Internalism’ in James McGilvray, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Chomsky 2nd edition (CUP).

Sarah Sawyer (2018) ‘Is There a Deductive Argument for Semantic Externalism? Reply to Yli-Vakkuri’ in Analysis 78(4), pp. 675–681.

Gabriel Segal (2004) ‘Reference, Causal Powers, Externalist Intuitions, and Unicorns’ in Richard Schantz, ed. The Externalist Challenge (Walter de Gruyter).

Åsa Wikforss (2007) ‘Semantic Externalism and Psychological Externalism’ in Philosophy Compass 3(1), pp. 158–181.

Juhani Yli-Vakurri (2018) ‘Semantic Externalism Without Thought ExperimentsAnalysis 78(1), pp. 81–89.


‘It sounds natural to say “The bank moved across the road after burning down.” But no real-world object can move across a road after burning down.’ How big a problem is this for externalist theories of meaning? (2019)

On balance, should we be internalists or externalists about meaning? (2018)

‘People who say that meanings just ain’t in the head have to admit that we have some kind of mental representation of meanings, in order to explain our psychological competence with language. So postulating external meanings too is just multiplying entities beyond necessity.’ Discuss. (2017)

‘We can have no intuitions as to whether the term water has the same “reference” for Oscar and Twin Oscar: that is a matter of decision about the technical term “reference”.’ (CHOMSKY) Does this consideration undermine the force of Putnam’s Twin Earth thought experiment? (2016)







Did Tarski define the concept of truth? If not, what did he achieve with his definitions? How, if at all, does his work relate to debates over deflationary, correspondence, and other theories of truth?


*Michael Glanzberg (2006/18) ‘Truth’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 edition).

Alfred Tarski (1949) ‘The Semantic Conception of Truth’ in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 4(3), pp. 341-76. Reprinted in his (1983) Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics, 2nd revised ed. (Hackett), Harnish, and M&S.

Hartry Field (1972) ‘Tarski’s Theory of Truth’ in Journal of Philosophy 69(13), pp. 347-375. Reprinted in his (2001) Truth and the Absence of Fact, Harnish, and M&S.

Scott Soames (1999) Understanding Truth (OUP), Ch. 3 and 4, skipping the Appendix to Ch. 4.


Two good introductory books, aimed at upper-level undergraduates: Burgess and Burgess (2011) and Kirkham (1992). If you’re working more on this topic, I recommend you choose one of these, and work through it, following up by looking at the original papers, most of which are collected in Blackburn and Simmons, eds. (1999) and Edwards, ed. (2019). (Kirkham has more critical assessment of Tarski’s achievement, but the discussion in Burgess and Burgess is a little more up to date.) Künne (2004) is a bit more advanced, but is excellent, and well worth the effort. All discuss Tarski, as well as debates over deflationary, correspondence theories etc. Etchemendy (1988) focuses on Tarski. He discusses Tarski’s theory of truth in section one, and his theory of logical consequence in section two, setting out influential objections to the latter, which you can think about more in doing LOGICAL CONSEQUENCE. McDowell (1978) responds to Field (1972). See also Sher (1999), who responds both to Field’s and to other challenges to Tarski.

Simon Blackburn and Keith Simmons, eds. (1999) Truth (OUP).

*Alexis Burgess and John P. Burgess (2011) Truth (Princeton), Ch. 1 to 6.

Douglas Edwards, ed. (2019) Truth: A Contemporary Reader (Bloomsbury).

John Etchemendy (1988) ‘Tarski on Truth and Logical Consequence’ in Journal of Symbolic Logic 53(1), pp. 53-79.

*Richard Kirkham (1992) Theories of Truth: A Critical Introduction (MIT Press).

Wolfgang Künne (2004) Conceptions of Truth (OUP).

John McDowell (1978) ‘Physicalism and Primitive Denotation: Field on Tarski’ in Erkenntnis 13(1), pp. 131-152.

Gila Sher (1999) ‘What is Tarski’s Theory of Truth?’ in Topoi 18(2), pp. 149-166.


What is truth? (2019)

Do we need negative facts in order to maintain a correspondence theory of truth? (2018)

(a) Do Tarski’s truth definitions provide the basis of a definition of the concept of truth? If not, what do they achieve?
(b) In what sense, if any, is truth a property? (2017)

Can we have a correspondence theory of truth without an accompanying metaphysics of facts? (2016)




Is there a compelling solution to the Liar Paradox?


*JC Beall, Michael Glanzberg, and David Ripley (2011/16) ‘Liar Paradox’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020 edition).

Charles Parsons (1974) ‘The Liar Paradox’ in Journal of Philosophical Logic 3(4), pp. 381-412.

Saul Kripke (1975) ‘Outline of a Theory of Truth’ in The Journal of Philosophy 72(19), pp. 690-716. Reprinted in his (2011) Philosophical Troubles: Collected Papers, Vol. 1 (OUP).

Terence Parsons (1990) ‘True Contradictions’ in Canadian Journal of Philosophy 20(3), pp. 335-53.


Coming soon.


What, if anything, is wrong with the view that Liar sentences are both true and false? (2018)

‘The only solutions to the Liar Paradox that do not lead to further paradox are ad hoc and artificial. We must therefore learn to live with paradox.’ Discuss. (2017)

What are the prospects for a contextualist solution to the Liar Paradox? (2016)

Does Tarski’s hierarchy of languages help us consistently assign a truth value to the English sentence ‘This sentence is not true’? (2015)




What is the best account of the concept of logical consequence?


*JC Beall, Greg Restall, and Gil Sagi (2005/19) ‘Logical Consequence’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2019 Edition):

John Etchemendy (2008) ‘Reflections on Consequence’ in Doug Patterson, ed. New Essays on Tarski and Philosophy (OUP).

Dag Prawitz (2008) ‘Logical Consequence from a Constructive Point of View’ in Stewart Shapiro, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Mathematics and Logic (OUP).

Alexander Paseau (2013) ‘The Overgeneration Argument(s): A Succinct Refutation’ in Analysis 74(1), pp. 40-47.


The background to everything this week is Tarski (1936), in which he first spelt out (a version of) the modern model-theoretic approach. Etchemendy (1990) spells out his case against the approach in more detail. See also McGee (1992), raising what he calls the reliability problem. For defence of the model-theoretic approach, see Sher (1996), Hanson (1997), and Soames (1999). The main problem for the proof-theoretic approach was first raised by Prior (196), whose connective tonk seems to show that logical consequence cannot simply be identified with deducibility in some system or other. Prawitz hopes to solve it by appealing to the notion of harmony; see Dummett (1991) for an excellent, albeit difficult, discussion. If you’re working on the topic in more depth, Caret and Hjortland, eds. (2015) will be invaluable. You might also want to look at the reading for LOGICAL INFERENTIALISM, examining the suggestion that understanding a logical constant is a matter of being disposed to reason in accordance with its introduction and elimination rules. Also take a look at the reading for LOGICAL CONSTANTS, examining the question of how, if at all, logical and nonlogical constants are to be distinguished from each other.

Colin R. Caret and Ole T. Hjortland, eds. (2015) Foundations of Logical Consequence (OUP).

Michael Dummett (1991) The Logical Basis of Metaphysics (Duckworth), Ch. 11 and 12.

John Etchemendy (1990) The Concept of Logical Consequence (Harvard UP).

William Hanson (1997) ‘The Concept of Logical Consequence’ in The Philosophical Review 106(3), pp. 365–409.

Vann McGee (1992) ‘Two Problems with Tarski’s Theory of Consequence’ in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 92, pp. 273–92.

Arthur Prior (1960) ‘The Runabout Inference-Ticket’ in Analysis 21(2), pp. 38–39.

Gila Sher (1996) ‘Did Tarski Commit “Tarski’s Fallacy”?’ in The Review of Modern Logic 61(2), pp. 653–86.

Scott Soames (1999) Understanding Truth (OUP), Appendix to Ch. 4.

Alfred Tarski (1936) ‘On the Concept of Logical Consequence’ in his (1983) Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics, 2nd revised ed. (Hackett).


What is the best account of logical consequence? (2019)

Does the model-theoretic account of logical consequence overgenerate? (2018)

Does the concept of truth in a model or structure provide the basis of a theoretically adequate account of the concept of logical consequence? (2017)

What is the nature of validity? (2012)




What is the problem of logical constants? How, if at all, is it to be solved?


*Timothy McCarthy (1998) ‘Logical Constants’ in E. Craig, ed. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Routledge), pp. 599-603.

Mario Gómez-Torrente (2002) ‘The Problem of Logical Constants’ in The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 8(1), pp. 1–37.

John Macfarlane (2005/15) ‘Logical Constants’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 Edition).


If you are investigating it in more depth, Peacocke (1976) and Hacking (1979) are two classics on this topic. Peacocke attempts to characterise logical constants in terms of the idea, roughly put, that acquaintance with their meaning enables one to know a priori that certain sentences containing them are true. Hacking offers a broadly proof-theoretic approach, on which logical constants are those whose meanings can be characterised in terms of (roughly) their rules of inference. Peacocke himself came to endorse something more like Hacking’s view—see the entry for LOGICAL INFERENTIALISM. Tarski, in ‘On the Concept of Logical Consequence’, expressed some scepticism about the prospects of a principled demarcation of the logical constants, but later proposed permutation invariance as a criterion; see his (1986), a transcript of a talk given in 1966. The proposal has come to be known as the Sher-Tarski thesis, after Gila Sher’s defence of it in her (1991) book, and has been the subject of considerable recent debate. For a sample, try Sagi (2015) and Zinke’s (2018) reply. For Sher’s own views, try her (2003) response to Gómez-Torrente. Other good pieces include Dutilh Novaes (2012), arguing that “the project of demarcating the class of logical constants as a means to define the scope and nature of logic rests on highly problematic assumptions” and Warmbrōd (1999), arguing for a pragmatic demarcation.

Catarina Dutilh Novaes (2012) ‘Reassessing Logical Hylomorphism and the Demarcation of Logical Constants’ in Synthese 185(3), pp. 387–410.

Ian Hacking (1979) ‘What Is Logic?’ in Journal of Philosophy 76(6), pp. 285–319.

Christopher Peacocke (1976) ‘What Is a Logical Constant?’ in Journal of Philosophy 73(9), pp. 221–40.

Gil Sagi (2015) ‘The Modal and Epistemic Arguments against the Invariance Criterion for Logical Terms’ in Journal of Philosophy 112(3), pp. 159–67.

Gila Sher (1991) The Bounds of Logic: A Generalized Viewpoint (MIT Press), esp. Ch. 3. Scans available online on Sher's website.

— (2003) ‘A Characterization of Logical Constants Is Possible’ in Theoria 18(2), pp. 189–98.

Alfred Tarski (1986) ‘What Are Logical Notions?’ in History and Philosophy of Logic 7(2), pp. 143–54.

Ken Warmbrōd (1999) ‘Logical Constants’ in Mind 108(431), pp. 503–38.

Alexandra Zinke (2018) ‘A Bullet for Invariance: Another Argument Against the Invariance Criterion for Logical Terms’ in Journal of Philosophy 115(7), pp. 382–88.


Is ‘logical constant’ just a family resemblance term? (2019)

Is there any principled distinction between logical and non-logical expressions? If so, what is it? (2018)

What is logical and constant about logical constants? (2016)

What is a logical constant? (2011)



Coming soon.


Could the meaning of a word or phrase be the use that is made of it? (2018)

Is understanding a logical constant simply a matter of being disposed to reason in accordance with its introduction and elimination rules? (2017)

What is it to know the meaning of a logical constant? (2012)



Coming soon.


Classical logic says that ex falso quodlibet is a valid argument form. Paraconsistent logic says it is not. Could they both be right? (2019)

‘If we know that P holds, we are either entitled to accept Q or we are not. Two logics that disagree on whether Q is a consequence of P therefore cannot both be correct.’ Is this a decisive objection to logical pluralism? (2018)

Is there more than one correct logic? (2017)

Is logical pluralism tenable? (2011)




In what sense, if any, is logic normative for reasoning?


*Florian Steinberger (2016) ‘The Normative Status of Logic’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020 Edition).

Gilbert Harman (1986) Change in View: Principles of Reasoning (MIT Press), Ch. 1 and 2.

John Macfarlane (2004) ‘In What Sense (If Any) is Logic Normative for Thought?’, presentation delivered at the Central Division APA, 2004.


Coming soon.


Does logic have a special role to play in reasoning? (2018)


The following topics are ones you may wish to study in the last week of term or, having discussed it with me beforehand, in place of some of the suggested Tutorial Topics. To help you get a rough sense of each topic and of how likely it is to come up in exams, I have provided past paper questions for them, but I have not yet got round to settling on essay questions and reading for all of them, and even where I have, I may want to revise them somewhat, so you should talk with me about your preferences early on, so as to give me time to make any necessary revisions.




Explain and assess Davidson’s theory of adverbs.


*Delia Graff Fara (2012) ‘Adverbs’ in Delia Graff Fara and Gillian Russell, eds. The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Language (Routledge).

Donald Davidson (1967) ‘The Logical Form of Action Sentences’ in Nicholas Rescher, ed. The Logic of Decision and Action (University of Pittsburgh Press). Reprinted in his (2001) Essays on Actions and Events, 2nd ed. (OUP).

Richmond Thomason and Robert C Stalnaker (1973) ‘A Semantic Theory of Adverbs’ in Linguistic Inquiry 4(2), pp. 195–220.


Coming soon.


Is it possible to analyse adverbial modification without event semantics? (2018)

Is Davidson’s a satisfactory theory of adverbs? (2017)

‘Caesar mostly avoids the forum.’ Can ‘mostly’ here be adequately analysed by means of Davidson’s theory of adverbs? (2016)

‘Since Mary decided to cross the channel by swimming rather than by boat, she ended up crossing the channel slowly. But she swam the channel very quickly’. How can a theory of adverbs accommodate these claims? (2015)



Coming soon.


What reason is there to think that implicit content is the semantic value of phonologically null variables in the syntax? (2019)

Are there any limits to what can be understood as an unarticulated constituent? What does your answer tell us about the level of representation at which this kind of content arises? (2018)

How extensive is context sensitivity in natural language? (2017)

Is the word ‘penguin’ context-sensitive? (2016)




What problems do apparently empty names, like ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Vulcan’, pose for accounts of proper names? How, if at all, are they to be solved?


*Sarah Sawyer (2012) ‘Empty Names’ in Gillian Russell and Delia Graff Fara, eds. The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Language (Routledge).

Saul Kripke (2011) ‘Vacuous Names and Fictional Entities’ in his Philosophical Troubles: Collected Papers, Vol. 1 (OUP).

Gareth Evans (1982) The Varieties of Reference (OUP), Ch. 10.

Mark Sainsbury (1999) ‘Names, Fictional Names, and “Really”’ in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 73(1), pp 243-69.


Kripke (2011) is a short version of his influential Locke lectures, which were delivered in 1973 and which circulated in manuscript form before being finally published as a book, Kripke (2013). They set out an influential, broadly Millian approach to the problems of apparently empty names, and are essential reading if you are pursuing the topic in more depth. There are also other Millian approaches out there, and you should also work through the details of some of these. Try, in particular, Salmon (1998) and Braun (2005). One of Kripke’s proposals is that fictional names, like ‘Sherlock Holmes’, refer to abstract objects of a certain sort. This is taken up by both Salmon and Braun, and also by Amie Thomasson, who has perhaps explored the idea in most detail. See, for example, her (2003). Have a think, also, about some alternative approaches to fictional names. Lewis (1978) offers a possibilist account, making use of his infamous modal realism. This is usefully contrasted with the perhaps even more radical position of Meinongians, like Parsons (1982). Kroon and Voltolini (2018) is a good overview of the issues hereabouts. Sainsbury develops his views about empty names in more detail in his (2005) book, which is strongly recommended. See especially the first chapter, which offers a concise history of work on names, deftly summarising issues and debates we’ve been looking at throughout the term so far. In thinking about Sainsbury’s approach, have a look at Ray’s paper in García Carpintero and Martí, eds. (2014), which argues that the problems posed by (genuinely) empty names have a straightforward solution, superficially similar to Sainsbury’s, but making no use of free logic. Do you agree? Many other papers in García Carpintero and Martí, eds. (2014) are also helpful.

David Braun (2005) ‘Empty Names, Fictional Names, Mythical Names’ in Noûs 39(4), pp. 596-631.

Manuel García-Carpintero and Genoveva Martí, eds. (2014) Empty Representations (OUP).

Saul Kripke (2013) Reference and Existence (OUP).

Fred Kroon and Alberto Voltolini (2018) ‘Fictional Entities’ in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

David Lewis (1978) ‘Truth in Fiction’ in American Philosophical Quarterly 15(1), pp. 37-46. Reprinted with a postscript in his (1983) Philosophical Papers, Volume I (OUP).

Terence Parsons (1982) ‘Are There Nonexistent Objects?’ in American Philosophical Quarterly 19(4), pp. 365–71.

Mark Sainsbury (2005) Reference Without Referents (OUP).

Nathan Salmon (1998) ‘Nonexistence’ in Noûs 32(3), pp. 277-319.

Amie Thomasson (2003) ‘Speaking of Fictional Characters’ in dialectica 57(2), pp. 205-223.


‘The Millian theory of names has difficulty coping with the non-existence of Santa Claus. Any theory that has difficulty coping with the non-existence of Santa Claus should be abandoned. Therefore the Millian theory of names should be abandoned.’ Is this argument sound? (2019)

‘The name “Santa Claus” refers to Santa Claus; but Santa Claus is an abstract object.’ Is this a good way for a Millian to deal with the problem of apparently non-referring names? (2017)

‘The descriptive theory of names is the only one that can explain our uses of fictional names such as ‘Sherlock Holmes’, and thus must be adopted’. Discuss. (2015)

(a) ‘If names are not disguised definite descriptions, we cannot account for the meaning of names such as “Sherlock Holmes”.’ Discuss.
(b) Must an adequate account of the truth-conditions of sentences such as ‘Lois Lane believes that Superman can fly’ cause trouble for the view that each English word is used with the same meaning by all English speakers? (2014)




Do indicative conditionals have truth conditions? If so, are they truth-functional?


*Dorothy Edgington (2001/20) ‘Indicative Conditionals’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 edition):

Frank Jackson (1979) ‘On Assertion and Indicative Conditionals’ in The Philosophical Review 88(4), pp. 565–589.

Robert Stalnaker (1975) ‘Indicative Conditionals’ in Philosophia 5, pp. 269-286. Reprinted in his (1999) Context and Content (OUP).

Angelika Kratzer (1986) ‘Conditionals’ in Chicago Linguistics Society 22, pp. 1–15. Reprinted in her (2014) Modals and Conditionals (OUP).


Coming soon.


‘The history of the conditional is the story of a syntactic mistake. There is no two- place “if…then” connective in the logical forms for natural languages.’ (KRATZER) Is that right? (2019)

‘If Oswald didn’t kill Kennedy, then someone else did. So if Oswald didn’t kill Kennedy, and the person he shot was in fact a lookalike, then someone else killed Kennedy.’ Is this argument valid on the best theory of indicative conditionals? (2018)

Does material implication provide a good analysis of indicative conditionals? (2016)

‘When A is true and B is false, “If A then B” is definitely false. Also, from “not-A or B” we can infer “If A then B”, which shows that whenever A is false or B is true, “If A then B” is true. This proves that the indicative conditional must be a truth- functional connective.’ Is that so? (2015)



Coming soon.


‘The question, “How do metaphors work?” is a bit like the question, “How does one thing remind us of another thing?” There is no single answer to either question.’ (SEARLE) Is that right? (2019)

Can the theory of conversational implicature give us an adequate account of metaphor? (2018)

‘Metaphor is a shortened form of simile.’ (QUINTILIAN) Is that right? (2017)

Has Cognitive Linguistics advanced our understanding of metaphor? (2016)



Coming soon.


Do third-person pronouns have the semantics of definite descriptions? (2019)

Someone points at Pope Francis and says, ‘He is usually an Italian.’ Is this utterance compatible with the view that pronouns, when not bound, are directly referential? (2018)

What can we learn from the phrase ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ about the semantics of English pronouns? (2016)

Are pronouns variables? (2012)




What account, if any, should we give of the semantics of propositional attitude reports?


*Michael Nelson (2000/19) ‘Propositional Attitude Reports’ in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2019 Edition):

Donald Davidson (1968) ‘On Saying That’ in Synthese 19(1/2), pp. 130–146. Reprinted in his (2001) Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation, 2nd edition (OUP), Ludlow, and M&S.

Saul Kripke (1979) ‘A Puzzle about Belief’ in A. Margalit, ed. Meaning and Use (Reidel), pp. 239–83. Reprinted in his (2011) Philosophical Troubles: Collected Papers, Vol. 1 (OUP), and in Harnish, Ludlow, and M&S.

Mark Crimmins and John Perry (1989) ‘The Prince and the Phone Booth: Reporting Puzzling Beliefs’ in Journal of Philosophy 86(12), pp. 685–711. Reprinted in Ludlow.


For Frege’s and Russell’s views on this topic, you can revisit the readings by them in earlier weeks. Also look at Salmon (1986) from the Core Reading for SENSE and REFERENCE and Soames (2002) from the Core Reading for NAMING and NECESSITY, both defending the main neo- or naive Russellian approach. For an alternative naive Russellian approach, try Braun (1998). Burge (1986) and Schiffer (1987) are two important critical pieces on Davidson’s approach. See Rumfitt (1993) for a defence. Schiffer (1992) is a sympathetic, albeit critical piece on Crimmins and Perry-style contextualism. Richard (2017) is a recent survey piece, written by a proponent of an alternative brand of contextualism. Richard also discusses two recent developments, the descriptivism defended by the likes of Bach (1997) and the relationism developed by Fine (2007). Saul (2007) argues that substitution failures arise in ordinary, extensional contexts, and looks at the implications for semantic theorising more generally.

Kent Bach (1997) ‘Do Belief Reports Report Beliefs?’ in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 78(3), pp. 215–241.

David Braun (1998) ‘Understanding Belief Reports’ in The Philosophical Review 1074, pp. 555-595.

Tyler Burge (1986) ‘On Davidson’s “Saying That”’ in Ernest Lepore, ed. Truth and Interpretation: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson (Blackwell), pp. 190–208.

Kit Fine (2007) Semantic Relationism (Blackwell), esp. Ch. 4.

Mark Richard (2017) ‘Propositional Attitudes’ in Bob Hale, Crispin Wright, and Alexander Miller eds. A Companion to the Philosophy of Language, 2nd edition (Blackwell).

Ian Rumfitt (1993) ‘Context and Content: The Paratactic Theory Revisited and Revised’ in Mind 102, pp. 429–54.

Jennifer Saul (2007) Simple Sentences, Substitution, and Intuitions (OUP), esp. Ch. 1.

Stephen Schiffer (1987) Remnants of Meaning (MIT Press), Ch. 4. Reprinted in Ludlow as ‘Sententialist Theories of Belief’.

— (1992) ‘Belief Ascription’ in Journal of Philosophy 89(10), pp. 499-521. Reprinted in M&S.


What can we learn about meaning from the study of propositional attitude ascriptions? (2019)

Can Lois believe that Superman is stronger than Clark Kent while not believing that Clark Kent is stronger than Superman? What does your answer tell us about the semantics of propositional attitude reports? (2018)

Do propositional attitude ascriptions just ascribe attitudes towards propositions? (2017)

Bilingual Pierre sincerely assents to ‘Londres est jolie’ but sincerely rejects ‘London is pretty’. Does he believe that London is pretty? (2016)



Coming soon.


Could propositions be sets of truth-supporting circumstances? (2016)

‘If propositions are sets of possible worlds, then the proposition that 2+2=4 is identical to the proposition that water is H2O. But this is absurd; so propositions must have a sentence-like structure.’ Discuss. (2015)



Coming soon.


Is all quantification restricted quantification? (2019)

‘The thesis that there can be no unrestricted quantification must be false, since it entails that there exists something over which we cannot quantify, which is paradoxical.’ Discuss. (2018)

Should we believe in absolutely unrestricted quantification? (2014)



Coming soon.


Is ‘vague’ vague? What consequences does your answer have for the study of vagueness? (2019)

What are the prospects for a contextualist account of vagueness? (2018)

‘Dissatisfied with all attempts to say what is wrong with sorites arguments, one may be tempted by the simple thought that nothing is wrong with them: a typical sorites argument is sound, its conclusion strange but true.’ (WILLIAMSON) Is this a viable strategy? (2017)

‘Even if Tim is a borderline case of thinness, the sentence “Tim is thin or Tim is not thin” is manifestly true.’ Discuss. (2016)