Philosophy 135

Spring 2007

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
135 Theory of Meaning MacFarlane TuTh 11-12:30 213 Wheeler

I can’t see the planet Pluto, but just by uttering the words “Pluto is very cold,” I can say something about Pluto, something whose truth or falsity depends on how things are millions of miles from Earth. How is this possible? What gives our words and sentences semantic properties (meaning, reference, truth)? Clearly, the semantic properties of words depend somehow on our thoughts and intentions: but how? And what gives our mental states their semantic properties? Are the meanings of our words and the contents of our mental states determined by what’s going on inside our brains, or do they depend on features of our physical environments of which we may be unaware? Are they determined by how things are now, or do they depend on facts about our history (or even our futures)? Could there be facts about meaning we could only discover by looking in someone’s brain? Are there objective facts about meaning at all? In exploring these and related questions, we will read the work of Quine, Davidson, Grice, Putnam, Dennett, Searle, Burge, Fodor, Dretske, and others. Prerequisite: two previous courses in philosophy.

Previously taught: FL06, FL05, FL04, SU04A.