Josh Parsons' website / oxford

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. 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.

4. Presupposition and bivalence

Essay question: Are there cases of “failed presupposition” in which a meaningful sentence lacks a truth-value?

5. The Liar paradox

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

6. 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?

7. Modality and modal logic

Essay question: How are the truth conditions of “Barack Obama might have been a composer” best understood?

8. 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?

Updated: 21 Nov 2012 00:12

About me

Until September 2016 I am a Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy at Corpus Christi College and an Associate Professor in the Oxford Philosophy Faculty. From then on, I'll be a Senior Adviser at the New Zealand Ministry of Transport.

My intellectual interests are mainly in metaphysics, philosophy of language, and ethics, and of course transport policy.

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