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, but I am happy to cover other topics in place of some of these. Options include, but are not limited to, the OTHER TOPICS.
- Frege: Sense and Reference
- Russell: Definite Descriptions
- Kripke: Naming and Necessity
- Empty Names
- Indicative Conditionals
- Indexicals and Demonstratives
- Tarski’s Truth Definitions
- The Liar Paradox
- Logical Consequence
- Logical Constants
- Propositional Attitude Reports
- Truth and Meaning
ANTHOLOGIES and TEXTBOOKS
There is no set textbook, but the following contain good, accessible discussion of many of the topics listed below. The first chapters of Kemp (2013) and McCulloch (1989) are particularly recommended for background reading in the vacation beforehand.
- Gary Kemp (2013) What is This Thing Called Philosophy of Language? (Routledge).
- William Lycan (2008) Philosophy of Language, 2nd edition (Routledge).
- Gregory McCulloch (1989) The Game of the Name (OUP).
- Michael Morris (2007) An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language (CUP).
- Mark Sainsbury (2000) Logical Forms, 2nd edition (Blackwell).
- Scott Soames (2010) Philosophy of Language (Princeton).
The following anthologies contain many of the readings listed below, and much more besides:
- Darragh Byrne and Max Kölbel, eds. (2009) Arguing about Language (Routledge). Referred to below as B&K.
- Robert Harnish, ed. (1993) Basic Topics in the Philosophy of Language (Harvester Wheatsheaf). Referred to below as Harnish.
- Peter Ludlow, ed. (1997) Readings in the Philosophy of Language (MIT Press). Referred to below as Ludlow.
- A. P. Martinich and David Sosa, eds. (2012) The Philosophy of Language (OUP, 6th edition). Referred to below as Martinich.
- Adrian Moore, ed. (1993) Meaning and Reference (OUP). Referred to below as Moore.
1. FREGE: SENSE and REFERENCE
Why did Frege distinguish between sense (Sinn) and reference (Bedeutung)? Was he right to do so?
*Gideon Makin (2010) ‘Frege’s Distinction Between Sense and Reference’ in Philosophy Compass, 5(2), pp. 147-163.
Gottlob Frege (1892) ‘On Sinn and Bedeutung’ in Michael Beaney, ed. (1997) The Frege Reader (Blackwell). Also in B&K, Harnish, Ludlow, Martinich, and Moore.
Nathan Salmon (1986) Frege’s Puzzle (MIT Press). Selections reprinted in B&K, Harnish and Martinich.
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).
Note: you won’t have time to read all of Salmon (1986). Go for one of the excerpted selections in B&K, Harnish and Martinich.
Other essential pieces by Frege include ‘Function and Concept’ and, especially, ‘Thought’. Both are in Michael Beaney, ed. (1997) The Frege Reader (Blackwell) — and ‘Thought’ is widely anthologised. Dummett (1981) is a classic, and essential. Chapter 2 discusses Frege’s treatment of generality (Peter Smith has a useful guide to this here) and chapter 5 discusses the sense/reference distinction. McDowell (1977) is also essential, but tough going. You’ll find an accessible presentation of the main ideas, and much else we’ll be looking at in the next few weeks, in Sainsbury (2005). The essays by Michael Kremer and William Taschek in Potter and Ricketts, eds. (2010) are both extremely helpful, as is Textor (2011), which is aimed at undergraduates.
Michael Dummett (1981) Frege: Philosophy of Language, 2nd edition (Duckworth).
John McDowell (1977) ‘On the Sense and Reference of a Proper Name’ in Mind 86(342), pp. 159–185. Reprinted in Moore.
Mark Sainsbury (2005) Reference without Referents (OUP), Ch. 1.
Michael Potter and Tom Ricketts, eds. (2010) The Cambridge Companion to Frege (CUP).
Mark Textor (2011) Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Frege on Sense and Reference (Routledge).
PAST PAPER QUESTIONS
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)
How can the claim that Barcan is Marcus be informative? (2013)
2. RUSSELL: DEFINITE DESCRIPTIONS
Are definite descriptions referring expressions, quantifier expressions, or something else?
*Mark Sainsbury (1995) ‘Philosophical Logic’ in A. C. Grayling, ed. Philosophy: A Guide Through the Subject (OUP), pp. 77-86.
Bertrand Russell (1919) Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, Ch. XVI, ‘Descriptions’. Reprinted in B&K, Ludlow, Martinich, and Moore.
P. F. Strawson (1950) ‘On Referring’ in Mind 59(235), pp. 320-344. Reprinted in B&K, Ludlow, Martinich, and Moore.
Keith Donnellan (1966) ‘Reference and Definite Descriptions’ in Philosophical Review 75(3), pp. 281-304. Reprinted in Harnish, Ludlow and Martinich.
Kripke (1977) is a must-read, defending a broadly Russellian position. Neale (1990) is an influential exposition and defence of Kripke’s position. Strawson’s approach has seen a recent revival, especially among linguists — von Fintel (2004) is a prominent example of this trend. The topic is a key battleground in debates over the semantics/pragmatics distinction; Recanati (1993) and Stanley and Szabó (2000) are two key contributions.
Saul Kripke (1977) ‘Speaker’s Reference and Semantic Reference’ in Midwest Studies in Philosophy 2(1), pp. 255-276. Reprinted in Ludlow and Martinich.
Stephen Neale (1990) Descriptions (MIT Press), especially Ch. 3, which is reprinted in Ludlow. Available online here.
Kai von Fintel (2004) ‘Would You Believe It? The King of France is Back! (Presuppositions and Truth-Value Intuitions)’ in Marga Reimer & Anne Bezuidenhout, eds. Descriptions and Beyond (OUP).
Francois Recanati (1993) Direct Reference (Blackwell), Ch. 15.
Jason Stanley and Zoltan Szabó (2000) ‘On Quantifier Domain Restriction’ in Mind & Language 15(2-3), pp. 219–261.
PAST PAPER QUESTIONS
What, if anything, is the meaning of the word ‘the’? (2016)
Do sentences such as ‘The present King of France is bald’ cast doubt on the principle that every well-formed sentence is either true or false? (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)
3. KRIPKE: NAMING and NECESSITY
What are Kripke’s arguments against the descriptive theories of meaning and reference? Are they successful? What is the causal theory of reference? Is it defensible?
*John P. Burgess (2012) Kripke (Acumen), Ch. 1. Available online here.
Saul Kripke (1980) Naming and Necessity (Blackwell), esp. Lecture II and Preface. Extracts reprinted in B&K, Harnish, Ludlow, and Martinich.
Jason Stanley (1997) ‘Names and Rigid Designation’ in B. Hale and C. Wright, eds. A Companion to Philosophy of Language (Blackwell), pp. 555-85.
Gareth Evans (1973) ‘The Causal Theory of Names’ in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supp. Vol. 47, pp. 187-208. Reprinted in Ludlow, Martinich, and Moore.
Jackson (1998) responds to Kripke’s modal argument by arguing that names are abbreviations of so-called actualised descriptions. Jeshion (2002) is a response to Kripke’s epistemological argument. Soames (2002) and Noonan (2013) both discuss a wide range of different responses to Kripke — Soames sides with Kripke, and Noonan against. Either would be an excellent place to start in pursuing this topic in more depth. Burgess (2014) critically discusses Evans’ challenge to the causal theory of reference.
Frank Jackson (1998) ‘Reference and Description Revisited’ in Philosophical Perspectives 12, pp. 201–218.
Robin Jeshion (2002) ‘The Epistemological Argument Against Descriptivism’ in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64(2), pp. 325-345.
Scott Soames (2002) Beyond Necessity (OUP), esp. Ch. 2. Available online here.
Harold Noonan (2013) Routledge Guidebook to Kripke and Naming and Necessity (Routledge), Ch. 3. Available online here.
John P. Burgess (2014) ‘Madagascar Revisited’ in Analysis 74(2), pp. 195-201.
PAST PAPER QUESTIONS
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)
Do proper names and definite descriptions ever mean the same thing? (2012)
4. EMPTY NAMES
What problems do apparently empty names pose for accounts of proper names? How are they best solved?
*Sarah Sawyer (2012) ‘Empty Names’ in Delia Graff Fara and Gillian Russell, eds. The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Language (Routledge).
Saul Kripke (2013) Reference and Existence (OUP), pp. 3-78 and pp. 144-60.
Gareth Evans (1982) The Varieties of Reference (OUP), Ch. 10.
Mark Sainsbury (2005) Reference without Referents (OUP), Ch. 2 and 3.
Salmon (1998), Thomasson (2003), and Braun (2005) offer views with many affinities to Kripke’s. It is well worth working through the details of these, and the ways in which they differ from one another and Kripke. Ray (2014) is an interesting recent paper, arguing that the problems posed by (genuinely) empty names have a surprisingly straightforward solution. As he explains, the solution he puts forward is superficially similar to Sainsbury’s, but makes no use of free logic. Textor (2016) is a survey piece on approaches to empty (or “vacuous”) names in early analytic philosophy.
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. Reprinted in B&K.
David Braun (2005) ‘Empty Names, Fictional Names, Mythical Names’ in Noûs 39(4), pp. 596-631.
Greg Ray (2014) ‘The Problem of Negative Existentials Inadvertently Solved in Manuel García-Carpintero and Genoveva Martí, eds. Empty Representations (OUP).
Mark Textor (2016) ‘Vacuous Names in Early Analytic Philosophy: Frege, Russell, and Moore’ in Philosophy Compass 11(6), pp. 316–326.
PAST PAPER QUESTIONS
‘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)
‘If names are not disguised definite descriptions, we cannot account for the meaning of names such as “Sherlock Holmes”.’ Discuss. (2014)
‘Sherlock Holmes is more famous than any living detective.’ Could this sentence be true? (2013)
How, if at all, should we distinguish between what a speaker says in uttering a sentence and the conversational implicatures of her utterance? Is there any need for a further category of conventional implicature?
*Larry Horn (2012) ‘Implicature’ in Delia Graff-Fara and Gillian Russell, eds. Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Language (Routledge).
Paul Grice (1989) Studies in the Way of Words (Harvard), Part 1, esp. Ch. 2. Key selections are reprinted in B&K, Harnish, and Martinich.
Kent Bach (1999) ‘The Myth of Conventional Implicature’ in Linguistics and Philosophy 22(4), pp. 327-366. Reprinted in Martinich.
Deirdre Wilson and Dan Sperber (2004) ‘Relevance Theory’ in Laurence Horn and Gregory Ward, eds. The Handbook of Pragmatics (Blackwell).
Travis (1991) and Neale (1992) are two contrasting surveys of Grice’s work. Broadly speaking, Travis is critical and Neale sympathetic. Conventional implicatures have long been viewed with suspicion. Karttunen and Peters (1979) argued that they are simply presuppositions, and Carston (2002) (among other things) presents a relevance-theoretic case against them. But Christopher Potts has recently argued for the need for a separate category of conventional implicatures. See his (2007), which condenses themes from his earlier book.
Charles Travis (1991) ‘Critical Notice: Annals of Analysis’ in Mind 100(398), pp. 237-264.
Stephen Neale (1992) ‘Paul Grice and the Philosophy of Language’ in Linguistics and Philosophy 15(5), pp. 509–559.
Lauri Karttunen and Stanley Peters (1979) ‘Conventional Implicature’ in P. Cole, ed. Syntax and Semantics, Vol. 11: Presupposition (Academic Press).
Robyn Carston (2002) ‘Linguistic Meaning, Communicated Meaning and Cognitive Pragmatics’ in Mind & Language, 17(1&2), pp. 127-148. Reprinted in B&K.
Christopher Potts (2007) ‘Conventional Implicatures’ in Gillian Ramchand and Charles Reiss, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Interfaces (OUP).
PAST PAPER QUESTIONS
‘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)
How, if it all, do the words ‘and’ and ‘but’ differ in meaning? (2014)
6. INDICATIVE CONDITIONALS
Do indicative conditionals have truth conditions? If so, are they truth-functional?
*Mark Sainsbury (2001) Logical Forms, 2nd edition (Blackwell), Ch. 3.
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), and available online here.
Dorothy Edgington (2001/14) ‘Indicative Conditionals’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/conditionals/.
Jackson (1979) and Stalnaker (1975) are both reprinted in Frank Jackson, ed. (1991) Conditionals (OUP), which contains many other classic readings on this topic.
In pursuing this topic in any depth, Kratzer (1986) is essential, arguing that “if” is not a two-place connective, but rather a device for restricting the domains of certain operators. Bennett (2001) is an even-minded book-length discussion of all the issues. Block (2008) responds on Stalnaker’s behalf to Edgington’s objections against his view. Douven (2011) and Gillies (2017) are introductory pieces — the latter discussing counterfactual as well as indicative conditionals.
Angelika Kratzer (1986) ‘Conditionals’ in Chicago Linguistics Society 22, pp. 1–15. Reprinted in her (2014) Modals and Conditionals (OUP), and available online here.
Jonathan Bennett (2003) A Philosophical Guide to Conditionals (OUP). Available online here.
Eliza Block (2008) ‘Indicative Conditionals in Context’ in Mind 117(468), pp. 783-794.
Igor Douven (2011) ‘Indicative Conditionals’ in Leon Horsten and Richard Pettigrew, eds. The Continuum Companion to Philosophical Logic (Continuum).
Anthony Gillies (2017) ‘Conditionals’ in Bob Hale, Crispin Wright, and Alexander Miller, eds. A Companion to the Philosophy of Language, 2nd edition (Blackwell).
PAST PAPER QUESTIONS
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)
Do conditionals have truth-conditions? (2014)
7. INDEXICALS and DEMONSTRATIVES
What is the relationship between the meaning of a demonstrative, like ‘that’, and what it refers to on an occasion of use? Is there any interesting distinction between demonstratives and indexicals, like ‘I’?
*Allyson Mount (2012) ‘Indexicals’ in Delia Graff Fara and Gillian Russell, eds. The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Language (Routledge).
David Kaplan (1989) ‘Demonstratives’ in Joseph Almog, John Perry, and Howard Wettstein, eds. Themes from Kaplan (OUP). Relevant selections are reprinted in Harnish and Martinich.
Kent Bach (1992) ‘Intentions and Demonstrations’ in Analysis 52(3), pp. 140–146.
Stefano Predelli (1998) ‘“I Am Not Here Right Now”’ in Analysis 58(2), pp. 107–115.
Perry (1977) argues that indexicals present a special problem for Frege’s doctrine of sense. Evans (1981) replies. Both are reprinted in Palle Yourgrau, ed. (1990) Demonstratives (OUP). Lewis (1980) argues that, contra Kaplan, the content of a sentence cannot be identified with what it is used to say. Braun (1995) criticises Kaplan’s account of character. Cohen and Michaelson (2013) is an accessible survey of recent debate over the answer-machine paradox.
John Perry (1977) ‘Frege on Demonstratives’ in The Philosophical Review 86(4), 474-497.
David Lewis (1980) ‘Index, Context, and Content’ in his (1998) Papers in Philosophical Logic (CUP).
Gareth Evans (1981) ‘Understanding Demonstratives’ in his (1985) Collected Papers (OUP).
David Braun (1995) ‘What is Character?’ in Journal of Philosophical Logic 24(3), pp. 227–240.
Jonathan Cohen and Eliot Michaelson (2013) ‘Indexicality and the Answering Machine Paradox’ in Philosophy Compass 8(6), pp. 580–592.
PAST PAPER QUESTIONS
Is there any interesting distinction between indexicals and demonstratives? (2014)
You phone your friend, only to get the voicemail: ‘I am not here now’. Could this message be true? (2013)
Do speaker intentions fix the semantic value of demonstrative expressions? (2012)
What problems, if any, does context-sensitivity pose for the idea that the truth-conditions of sentences are determined by the meanings of their parts and the ways that they are put together? What implications does your answer have for the distinction between semantics and pragmatics?
*Emma Borg (2009) ‘Meaning and Context: A Survey of a Contemporary Debate’ in Daniel Whiting, ed. The Later Wittgenstein on Language (Palgrave Macmillan).
Charles Travis (1997) ‘Pragmatics’ in B. Hale and C. Wright, eds. A Companion to Philosophy of Language (Blackwell), pp. 89-107.
Zoltán Gendler Szabó (2001) ‘Adjectives in Context’ in Istvan Kenesei and Robert Harnish, eds. Perspectives on Semantics, Pragmatics, and Discourse: a Festschrift for Ferenc Kiefer (John Benjamins Publishing Company). Reprinted in B&K.
Herman Cappelen and Ernie Lepore (2003) ‘Context Shifting Arguments’ in Philosophical Perspectives 17, pp. 25–50.
Sainsbury (2001) is an underappreciated gem, demonstrating the range of options available to formal semanticists aiming to accommodate Travis’s examples. The remaining papers all concede that truth-conditions are radically context-sensitive, though all except one argue that this can be accommodated within the framework of truth-conditional semantics that we’ve been working with over the past few weeks. The exception is Carston (2008), which offers a Relevance Theoretic perspective.
Timothy Williamson (1999) ‘Indefinite Extensibility’ in Johannes Brandl and Peter Sullivan, eds. New Essays on the Philosophy of Michael Dummett (Rodopi).
Mark Sainsbury (2001) ‘Two Ways to Smoke a Cigarette’ in Ratio (New Series) 14(4), pp. 386-406. Reprinted in his (2002) Departing from Frege (Routledge).
John Macfarlane (2007) ‘Semantic Minimalism and Nonindexical Contextualism’ in Gerhard Preyer and Georg Peter, eds. Context-Sensitivity and Semantic Minimalism (OUP).
Robyn Carston (2008) ‘Linguistic Communication and the Semantics/Pragmatics Distinction’ in Synthese 165(3), pp. 321–345.
Daniel Rothschild and Gabriel Segal (2009) ‘Indexical Predicates’ in Mind & Language 24(4), pp. 467-493.
PAST PAPER QUESTIONS
Is the word ‘penguin’ context-sensitive? (2016)
What role does context sensitivity play in accounting for the meanings of English words? (2015)
What is the difference between semantics and pragmatics? (2012)
What is the sorites paradox? Does it show that we must abandon classical logic?
*Mark Sainsbury (2009) Paradoxes, 3rd edition (CUP), Ch. 3.
Tim Williamson (1994) Vagueness (Routledge), Ch. 7. Reprinted in B&K, and available online here.
Dorothy Edgington (1996) ‘Vagueness By Degrees’ in Rosanna Keefe and Peter Smith, eds. Vagueness: A Reader (MIT Press).
Rosanna Keefe (2008) ‘Vagueness: Supervaluationism’ in Philosophy Compass 3(2), pp. 315-324.
Evans (1978) is a short (1 page!) article arguing against the possibility of vague objects. Sainsbury (1996) is an influential discussion of how vagueness should be characterised. Graff-Fara (2000) defends a contextualist view. Kearns and Magidor (2008) criticize Williamson’s epistemicism. Eklund (2011) is a useful survey of recent debates.
Gareth Evans (1978) ‘Can There Be Vague Objects?’ in Analysis 38(4), p. 208.
Mark Sainsbury (1996) ‘Concepts Without Boundaries’ in Rosanna Keefe and Peter Smith, eds. (1996) Vagueness: A Reader (MIT Press).
Delia Graff-Fara (2000) ‘Shifting Sands: An Interest-Relative Theory of Vagueness’ in Philosophical Topics, 28(1), pp. 45-81. Reprinted in B&K and Martinich.
Stephen Kearns and Ofra Magidor (2008) ‘Epistemicism About Vagueness and Meta-Linguistic Safety’ in Philosophical Perspectives 22(1), pp. 277-304.
Matti Eklund (2011) ‘Recent Work on Vagueness’ in Analysis 71(2), pp. 352-363.
PAST PAPER QUESTIONS
‘Even if Tim is a borderline case of thinness, the sentence “Tim is thin or Tim is not thin” is manifestly true.’ Discuss. (2016)
Why can’t we know what height exactly is such that anyone below that height counts as not tall and anyone above it counts as tall? (2015)
Critically discuss two (or more) solutions to the sorites paradox. (2014)