The Dennes Room

Philosophy 135

Fall 2005

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
135 Theory of Meaning Campbell MWF 12-1 213 Wheeler

We can use language in thinking and talking about the world. What makes this possible is that the signs of language have meaning. How is it that individual words and phrases can be used to identify particular objects? What is the role of consciousness in making it possible for us to think about our surroundings?

Ordinary physical objects, collections of atoms and molecules, do not generally have the ability to represent other objects, or to refer to them. What is it about humans that makes it possible for us to represent our surroundings, to refer to the objects around us? Can we make sense of the idea that non-human animals might be able to represent their surroundings, and refer to the objects around them?

We will begin by looking at Frege’s classical analysis of reference to objects, and the puzzle Frege articulated about the possibility of their being different ways of referring to the same object. We will go on to look at Kripke’s analysis of reference, and the way in which later theorists have developed his approach into a view of meaning as a biological phenomenon. Finally, we will look at the radically different approach proposed by the later Wittgenstein, and at the response to Wittgenstein suggested by Russell’s work on consciousness as acquaintance with one’s surroundings.

Previously taught: FL04, SU04A.