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Word and Things (PH244-15)

Programme content

The module aims to provide an introduction to some key issues in contemporary philosophy of thought and language. We use language to express thought, as when I express the thought that this module takes place in the Autumn Term by uttering the words 'This module takes place in the Autumn Term'. The general issues to be explored concern how we should think about thought, and how we should think about language, in order that language can be used to express thought. Topics include the following. Gottlob Frege's distinction between sense and reference: his account of how the sentences ‘Superman is Superman’ and ‘Superman is Clark Kent’ can be used to express different thoughts, even thought Clark Kent is Superman. Bertrand Russell's theory of descriptions and acquaintance: his account of how we are able to think about things—like Russell himself—that are not immediately present to us. Saul Kripke's view of proper names: his view that the way proper names are used to talk about things is not to be accounted for by appeal to descriptions that we associate with those names, but rather by appeal to our causal relations to those things.

Topics covered

The following is a list of topics for this module in the 2012/13 academic year; precise seminar content may change from year to year.

  • Russell on Acquaintance
  • Definite Descriptions
  • Frege's Distinction Between Sense and Reference
  • Proper Names and the causal picture of reference
  • Demonstrative reference
  • Acquaintance revisited
Timing and CATS

This module will run in the Autumn Term and is worth 15 CATS.