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This is a reading list for the Oxford finals “Logic and Language” paper. Students may wish to also consult the philosophy faculty’s reading list available through WebLearn.

Useful texts / anthologies:

I particularly recommend the textbook Philosophy of Language by Bill Lycan (Lycan), and have suggested readings from it in many cases. I would also encourage you to read the items Lycan suggests in his bibliography.

Particularly significant readings are starred (*).

1. Reference and definite descriptions

Essay question: What is Russell’s theory of definite descriptions? Set out and evaluate an objection to it.

2. The description theory of proper names

(Note that the title of Frege’s paper “Sense and Reference” is translated in a number of different ways, sometimes as “Sense and Meaning” or “Sense and Nominatum”).

Essay question: Does every name have the same meaning as some definite description?

3. Opaque contexts and belief attributions

Essay question: Does the existence of opaque contexts show that there must be more to the meaning of a name than its referent?

4. Rigid designation and the Causal Theory of Reference

Essay question: Does the “Twin Earth” case show that meaning “ain’t in the head”? OR What is the causal theory of reference? Assess an objection to it.

5. Sentence meaning

Essay question: How does Grice propose to reduce sentence-meaning to speaker-meaning? Does he succeed? OR Is it plausible that the meaning of a sentence is the circumstances under which it is true?

6. Indexicals

Essay question: On Tuesday, A says “Today is Tuesday”; the next day, A says “Yesterday was Tuesday”. In what sense, if any, do A’s two utterances have the same meaning, and in what sense, if any, do they have a different meaning?

7. Implicature (and conditionals)

Essay question: What is implicature, and what is the difference between conversational and conventional implicatures? OR “A conditional is true iff either its antecedent is false or its consequent true.” Does conversational implicature help this theory to resist objections?

8. The Liar paradox

Essay question: What is the Liar paradox, and what is the best way to resolve it?

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Updated: 21 Nov 2012 00:12

About me

I am a Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy at Corpus Christi College and a Lecturer in the Oxford Philosophy Faculty. I work on metaphysics, philosophy of language, logic, meta-ethics, ethics, and other bits of philosophy.

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