Philosophy 290-8

Spring 2014

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-8 Graduate Seminar: Metaphysics&Metasemantics Yalcin W 4-6 234 Moses Hall

This course will mix issues in metaphysics with issues in the foundations of semantics (the semantics of both artificial languages and natural language). It is about some problems concerning the relationship between reality and our ways of representing or modeling it.

Some of the questions we’ll ask: What is it to model reality? How do we separate semantic facts about the way that a model is to be interpreted from the substantive theses we use the model to articulate? Are there metaphysical questions that cannot be framed except in a partially question-begging way, and if so, what is the right methodology in such cases? How do we distinguish the artifactual features of a model from the genuinely explanatory features? In what way are the symmetry properties of a model a guide to what it is “really representing”? What is the nature of the relation between natural language and the artificial technical languages we devise in order to limb the structure of reality? What is the appropriate response to cases where natural language seems to be presupposing a “false metaphysics”? Does it even make sense to talk about natural language semantics as somehow coming with substantive metaphysical presuppositions? What is the right understanding of the models used in natural language semantics to “interpret” natural language?

Readings will come from Stalnaker, Kripke, Chomsky, Humberstone, Dasgupta, Lee & Yalcin.