PHIL 425, Sec. 1001: MW 1pm-2:15pm in CBC C146
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Spring 2022

Professor: James Woodbridge
email address:
Course Webpage:
Office Hours:  T 12:30pm-2pm, W 2:30pm-4pm, and by appointment
Office: CDC 426
Office Phone: 895-4051
Dept. Phone: 895-3433


This course provides an introduction to analytic philosophy of language by examining a number of topics emphasized in the twentieth century. These topics include speech-act theory and intention-based accounts of meaning, Frege's distinction between sense and reference, Russell's theory of descriptions, descriptive and causal theories of reference, linguistics perspectives on the innateness or social basis of language, truth-conditional semantics, possible-worlds semantics, inferentialism, and the normativity of meaning and ensuing skeptical worries. Among the thinkers we will study are Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, H. P. Grice, Noam Chomsky, Donald Davidson, Saul Kripke, and Robert Brandom.

Learning Objectives:
To demonstrate knowledge about central problems in the philosophy of language, as well as some
     related metaphysics and logic
Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:
     Identify central issues or debates in philosophy of language,
     Articulate and, when appropriate, compare or contrast, different views that might be taken with
          respect to these issues,
     Summarize major motivations or arguments for these alternative positions,
     Present significant objections that have or could be raised to these positions,
     Assess the relative merits of these arguments and objections.


Kemp, G. What Is This Thing Called Philosophy of Language? Second Edition. New York: Routledge
     Publishing, 2018.
Stainton, R. (ed.) Perspectives in the Philosophy of Language: A Concise Anthology. Peterborough,
     ON: Broadview Press, 2000.

The books for the course are available at The UNLV Bookstore.

There will also be several online readings available via WebCampus/Canvas.


Requirements.............................................Percent of Final Grade
Class Participation......................................................10%
First Paper...................................................................30%
Second Paper...............................................................30%
Final Exam..................................................................30%

About the Requirements:

Class Participation--This requirement covers a couple of things things. First, there is your contribution during class. This involves more than just attending; it requires having read the assignment for the day and being ready to talk about it. Not everyone will be able to attend the in-person meetings or attend remote meetings live. These people can participate by posting frequently on the Electronic Discussion Board (accessible through WebCampus/Canvas). Everyone must make at least six contributions to the EDB during the term: three before March 15th and three after. Posting more than the minimum amounts to greater participation.

The First Paper--There will be a 6-8 page paper due in mid March. Paper topics will be distributed 12 days before the paper is due.

The Second Paper--There will be a second 6-8 page paper due in late April. Again, topics will be distributed 12 days before the paper is due.

The Final Exam--There will be a timed (2 hour), online final exam given on Monday, May 9, 2022 at 1pm via WebCampus/Canvas. The final will consist of a choice of essay questions.

Note: All course requirements must be satisfactorily completed in order to pass the course.


This is an upper-level philosophy course, so while I will present a lot of the material, our class meetings should also include a lot of student discussion, not just lectures. I hope that you will all have views about the theories we are going to examine, and I want you to express and explore those views whenever possible. It is typical of philosophical topics that people's views on them will differ. You are encouraged to question your classmates (and me) whenever anyone says something you disagree with, but on either side of this sort of exchange, everyone should always keep in mind that expressing disagreement is not a personal attack. Philosophical discussion thrives under this kind of interaction and often stems from disagreement. At the same time, philosophical discussion aims at reaching some sort of agreement. We probably won't reach agreement every time, but we should aspire towards it.


In recent years it has become necessary to make a further comment about classroom etiquette. Engaging in activities like text messaging, surfing the web, checking Facebook, tweeting, Snapchatting, etc. during class is entirely inappropriate. In fact, it is extremely rude and highly disrespectful of our joint enterprise of teaching and learning. Whether you are sitting in the back and presume you are not interfering with anyone else is irrelevant. It is not a question of what you are caught doing; it is a matter of what you do, noticed or not. I expect everyone to behave appropriately during class, engaging with our cooperative project and refraining from inappropriate activities at all times.


Readings from the Kemp textbook are listed by his name and the chapter number. Readings from the Stainton anthology, Perspectives in the Philosophy of Language, are indicated by article author, selection title, and "PPL" followed by chapter number, in parentheses. Online readings are labeled as such.

A note about the readings: As you well know, philosophical writing is often subtle and difficult. This is especially true of the reading assignments for this course, many of which are also somewhat technical; most of them should be read at least twice. It also helps to take notes on separate paper while reading.
The course units and readings for them are as follows.

0. Preliminaries

Kemp, G. "Introduction"
1. Speech Acts, Intention, and Meaning
Austin, J. L. "Performative Utterances" (PPL 11)
Austin, "Lecture VIII" from How to Do Things with Words (online)
Kemp, Chapter 7
Kukla, R. "Performative Force, Convention, and Discursive Injustice" (online)
Grice, H. P. "Meaning" (PPL 6)
Grice, "Logic and Conversation" (PPL 13)
2. Meaning: Sense and Reference
Kemp, Chapter 1
Elbourne, P. "Definitions" and "What are Word Meanings?" Chs. 1 and 2 of
     Meaning: A Slim Guide to Semantics (online)
Wittgenstein, L. "Remarks 1-33, 65-77" from Philosophical Investigations (online)
Frege, G. "Ueber Sinn und Bedeutung (On Sense and Reference)" (PPL 2)
Frege, "The Thought: A Logical Inquiry" (online)
Kemp, Chapter 2
Russell, B. "On Denoting" (online)
Russell, "Descriptions" (PPL 3)
Kemp, Chapter 3
Kripke, S. "From Naming and Necessity" (online)
Kemp, Chapter 5
Putnam, H. "Meaning and Reference" (online)
Kemp, Chapter 6
3. Linguistics: Language as Innate vs. Social Practice
Chomsky, N. "Knowledge of Language: Its Nature, Origin and Use" (PPL 1)
Tomasello, M. “The Social Bases of Language Acquisition” (online)
4. Theories of Meaning: Truth-Conditional, Possible Worlds, Inferentialist
Davidson, D. "Truth and Meaning" (PPL 4)
Kemp, Chapter 9
Soames, S. "Truth, Meaning, and Understanding" (online)
Elbourne, "What are Sentence Meanings?" Ch. 4 of Meaning: A Slim Guide to
Peregrin, J. "What is Inferentialism?" (online)
Brandom, R. "Objectivity and the Normative Fine Structure of Rationality," Ch. 6
     from Articulating Reasons (online)
5. Meaning, Normativity, and Rule-Following
Wittgenstein, "From Philosophical Investigations" (PPL 10)
Kemp, Chapter 11
Kripke, "From Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language" (online)
*The instructor of this course reserves the right to change any aspect of the syllabus, with the understanding that any such changes will be announced in class.

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