Philosophy Professor at UNC Chapel Hill
Class times M/W 3.35-4.50pm, Dey 202
This is an upper-level undergraduate course in the philosophy of language. There will be three main sections. The first section introduces the classic, central topics in the area, including e.g. names, descriptions, implicature and externalism as well as many of the tools necessary for later parts of the course. The second section looks at applications of philosophy of language in the political sphere, such as treatments of slurs, propaganda, and the treatment of pornography as free speech. The third section focuses on the question of the place of language in the methodology of philosophy itself.
Our subject is heavily influenced by work in logic, and to an increasing extent, by the work of theoretical linguists. Previous courses in these areas may help you, though they are not required.
One of the more difficult aspects of the course will be the reading, which consists largely in longish, original articles written as research papers for other philosophers (rather than as introductory texts aimed at students.) I recommend that you take a look at Jim Pryor’s article “How to read a philosophy paper” – he gives some good advice on approaching this kind of reading.
Many of the readings for the course can be found in the course reader: Philosophy of Language, 6th edition, edited by Martinich and Sosa. Some of the assigned readings are not included in this collection, but those will be linked from this webpage, or posted on the electronic reserves site for the course.
There is no final exam for this class, but we still have to meet at the scheduled exam time for the final class of the course on Saturday, December 10th at 4pm. (No additional reading.)
I will send out prompts for all the papers.
In this course, doing the assigned reading prior to each class is very important. It is vital to your understanding of the material we are covering and it improves the level of discussion in class. In order to create a class culture in which everyone does the reading, 20% of your grade for the course is for something we will call “Memos and Comments.”
A Memo is a paragraph (roughly 50-200 words) that you write in response to an assigned reading. Memos can do various things, including: outline an argument from the text, clarify a thesis, disagree with a thesis or with one of the premises, give a counterexample to a claim made in the text, question the meaning of the text, offer an interpretation of a particular paragraph, or an analogy that helps to make the author’s point, etc. Memos are due by 8pm on the night before the relevant class. I will be sending you all an email outlining the mechanics of posting them to our Sakai site.
A Comment is a response to another student’s Memo. It may be one or more sentences (it doesn’t have to be long.) All comments should be constructive and respectful – remember that this is a formally assessed exercise, everyone in the course will be able to see your comment, and your name is attached to it – but you ARE allowed to disagree with something from the original memo. Other things you might do in Comments include: give another example that illustrates or strengthens the student’s point, compare the paragraph they are discussing with a related one, disagree with the student’s main point, challenge a presupposition of their point, etc. Comments on other students’ memos are due before the relevant class starts.
Over the course of the semester you are required to write 10 memos, and 20 comments, though you are encouraged to do more, perhaps responding to every text we read. However, if you complete your 10 memos and 20 comments in a satisfactory fashion, then you will receive the full 20% of the Memos and Comments grade. You will have completed your memos and comments in a satisfactory fashion if:
If you don’t complete 10 Memos and 20 Comments in a satisfactory fashion, then you will receive 0 for the Memos and Comments part of your grade. Note that Memos can be done as far ahead of time as you like – if you wanted to read all the texts next week and write your memos you could – but they cannot be “made up” after the deadline. I recommend that you plan to have all your memos and comments finished a few weeks before the end of the semester, to allow for contingencies such as illness or family emergencies.
All students must be familiar with and abide by the Honor Code, which covers issues such as plagiarism, falsification, unauthorized assistance or collaboration, cheating, and other grievous acts of academic dishonesty. Violations of the Honor Code will not be taken lightly.
Located in the Student Academic Services Building, the CSSAC offers support to all students through units such as the Learning Center and the Writing Center.
Any student in this course who has a disability that may prevent them from fully demonstrating their abilities should contact Disability Services as soon as possible to discuss accommodations.