Universität Wien FIND

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180053 VO Lecture Course with Readings on the Philosophy of Language (2020W)

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 18 - Philosophie
Tu 01.12. 09:45-11:15 Digital



Language: German

Examination dates


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

This lecture course will be fully online. However, we will try to have an in-person exam on 26 Januar 2021 (tbd).

Tuesday 13.10. 09:45 - 11:15 Digital
Tuesday 20.10. 09:45 - 11:15 Digital
Tuesday 27.10. 09:45 - 11:15 Digital
Tuesday 03.11. 09:45 - 11:15 Digital
Tuesday 10.11. 09:45 - 11:15 Digital
Tuesday 17.11. 09:45 - 11:15 Digital
Tuesday 24.11. 09:45 - 11:15 Digital
Wednesday 09.12. 09:45 - 11:15 Digital
Tuesday 15.12. 09:45 - 11:15 Digital
Tuesday 12.01. 09:45 - 11:15 Digital
Tuesday 19.01. 09:45 - 11:15 Digital
Tuesday 26.01. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8


Aims, contents and method of the course

This lecture course is an introduction to the central questions and topics in the philosophy of language. These include: What is linguistic meaning? How does language allow us to refer to the world – what is reference? What is the relationship between reference, meaning, and truth? How do we manage to say new things again and again with a limited vocabulary of words? How does linguistic communication work? Which actions can we perform by using language?

In the first part of the course, we ask what linguistic meaning is. How can signs be meaningful? And how do they get their specific meaning? We will get to know some of the important theories of meaning.

In the second part of the course, we will look at questions in semantics, the study of the meaning of linguistic signs. We will study the classical positions of Bertrand Russell and Gottlob Frege, will analyse the meaning of some basic types of expression (proper names, definite descriptions/determiner phrase) and the dependence of some expressions' meaning on the context of their use.

In the third part of the course, we turn to questions in pragmatics, which is concerned with the use of language by speakers in conversational contexts. We will study speech act theory, models of linguistic communication, and dimensions of non-literal meaning (implicatures \& presuppositions).

In the fourth part of the course, we investigate fundamental questions about the relationship of language, politics, and society. In particular, we will study connections between language, discrimination, and social justice.

At the end of the course, students should be able to
+ understand the questions, methods and theories of the philosophy of language of the 20th century,
+ navigate topics in philosophy of language on the basis of the knowledge acquired in the course,
+ critically reflect selected positions in the philosophy of language,
+ analyse and understand literature in the philosophy of language on their own, and
+ apply their knowledge of philosophy of language productively in other areas of their studies.

METHOD: (1) I will upload weekly video & audio files with slides on the weekly lecture topic, which you should watch / listen to within that week. (2) Biweekly, we will have an online question-and-answer session on Moodle during the regular course slot: Tuesdays from 9:45–10:45pm. The session will be on the course topics of the previous two weeks. Note that your presence during this biweekly session is *voluntary*.

Assessment and permitted materials

Final exam. We hope to be able to have a regular in-class exam with multiple choice questions and one discursive question. Alternatively, there will be an online exam on Moodle (most likely consisting of 2-3 discursive question in an open book format).

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Marking: (in the exam at the end of January 2021):

Grade 1: 100%–85%
Grade 2: 77%–84,9%
Grade 3: 69%–76,9%
Grade 4: 60%–68,9%
Grade 5: 0%–59,9%

Examination topics

All of the material presented in class (slides) AS WELL AS the required reading for each session (see below).

Reading list

There will be a reader will all required readings. We will read excerpts from classical 20th & 21st century texts, e.g. by Russell, Frege, Grice, Kripke, Kaplan, Lewis, Stalnaker, Austin, Langton, and Haslanger. Additional, non-obligatory readings will be available on Moodle.

A good introduction to philosophy of language is William Lycan (2008): Philosophy of Language. A Contemporary Introduction (London: Routledge).

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 16.11.2020 14:38