Gillian Russell

Philosophy Professor

Phil 445 : Philosophy of Language

Class times: Wednesdays, 1–3.30pm

Class location: Caldwell Hall, Room 213

  • Professor: Gillian Russell
  • Email:
  • Office hours: Mondays 11.25am-12.25pm and Fridays 1.30-2.30pm
  • Office Location: 2nd Floor of Caldwell Hall (upstairs, then turn right twice.)

Course Description

This course is intended as a second course in the philosophy of language. It focuses on four main areas, via 3 short books and 1 book-length article: i) externalism and direct reference – for which we will (re)read Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, ii) normativity and meaning skepticism – using Kripke’s Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, iii) context-sensitivity – using Kaplan’s “Demonstratives”, and iv) lying and misleading, using Saul’s Lying, Misleading and What is Said. We will also read a number of well-known articles on each topic.


You will need a copy of each of the books. They are:

The first two are available in the University Bookstore. The last one isn’t in the bookstore so you’ll need to order it online. (The link above is to Amazon, but you can buy it whatever bookseller you prefer.) “Demonstratives” is reprinted in Themes from Kaplan, but as this text is rather expensive I will be making the article available on electronic reserve.

Topics and Readings

The assigned readings for the course are listed in the syllabus below and most will be made available online (either with a link from this page or via electronic reserves.) The only exceptions are the three books recommended for purchase in the section above.

23rd August

First day of class.
Recommended post-class background reading: “Philosophy of Language in the 20th Century” – Jason Stanley

30th August

Naming and Necessity, Saul Kripke – Preface and Lectures 1 and 2

6th September

Chapters 9 and 10 of Beyond Rigidity – Scott Soames (on eres)
What are we talking about? The Semantics and Politics of Social Kinds” – Sally Haslanger

13th September

Names are Predicates” – Delia Graff Fara (on ares)

20th September


27th September

Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language – Saul Kripke, chapters 1 and 2

4th October

Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, chapter 3.
Skepticism about Meaning: Indeterminacy, Normativity, and the Rule Following Paradox” – Scott Soames, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Vol. 23, 1998

11th October

“Demonstratives” – David Kaplan (on eres), pages 481-515.

18th October

“Demonstratives” – pages 516-563.

25th October

Epistemic Two-Dimensional Semantics” – Dave Chalmers

1st November


8th November

Jennifer Saul – Chapters 1, 2 and 3.

13th November

Jennifer Saul – Chapters 4, 5 and the conclusion.

22nd November

NO CLASS – Thanksgiving Break

29th November

On Bullshit” – Harry Frankfurt

Thursday, December 14th, 8am

This is the “final exam” time that the registrar has scheduled for this course. We are having a final paper in lieu of a final exam (so there will be no exam this day) but we will still use this class time. There is no pre-assigned reading.


For Undergraduates

If you are an undergraduate student, assessment will be by way of three short papers and one longer, final paper. Prompts will be given out for each of the papers. You may also devise your own “prompt” for a paper, but you should come and see me with your idea and get permission before beginning to write the paper. The due dates and word lengths for undergraduate assessed work are as follows:

Assignment Length Due Date
Paper 1 500 wrds/2 pages Friday 8th Wednesday 13th September
Paper 2 500 wrds/2 pages Friday 29th September 6th October
Paper 3 500 wrds/2 pages Friday 20th October 3rd November
Paper 4 2000 wrds/8 pages Thursday December 14th (official day for our final exam.)

Jim Pryor’s Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper contains lots of good advice and I recommend that you read it (or re-read it) prior to beginning work on each paper for this course.

For Graduate Students in Philosophy

If you are a graduate student in philosophy, you will write one research paper on a topic of your choice, due on the last day of classes. I recommend that you come to see me to discuss an outline of your paper well before the deadline.

For anyone else

If you fit into neither of the above categories you may choose either of the above modes of assessment (but not a mixture of the two). If you turn in a short paper on September 8th, this will signify that you have chosen the first option, if you don’t, this will signify that you have chosen the 2nd. I recommend the 1st option to everyone (even if you are very experienced writing philosophy) but feel free to come and talk to me about your options if you would prefer to take the 2nd.

Honor Code

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.

The Center for Student Success and Academic Counselling

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.

Reasonable Accommodations Policy

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.

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