Philosophy 93515: Language & Mind

Jeff Speaks
Spring 2007
Tuesday & Thursday, 11:00-12:15
DeBartolo 302

Topic. Two very different kinds of theories go under the names "theory of content" and "theory of meaning." One is a descriptive theory which says what kinds of things contents are, and pairs contents with mental states (in the case of a theory of content) and sentences (in the case of a theory of meaning). The second kind of theory tries to explain the facts in virtue of which mental states/sentences have the kinds of contents/meanings that they do. This seminar will focus on theories of content and meaning in this second sense.

   Though these two sorts of theories are distinct, they are not unconnected, since theories of the first type describe the data which theories of the second type aim to explain. Accordingly, we will begin with a fairly extensive survey of views about the nature of content in contemporary philosophy of language and mind. We will discuss, among other things, the the strengths and weaknesses of Fregean, Russellian, and possible worlds appoaches to content, and the differences between de re and descriptive thoughts about objects.

   We will then turn to an examination of contemporary views about the facts in virtue of which the thoughts of agents have the contents that they do, with special attention to indication, informational, and conceptual role theories. We will also discuss views which attempt to explain the contents of thought in terms of the contents of perceptions and the meanings of expressions of public languages. We may also discuss views which try to explain content in terms of interpretation, and views which treat facts about the contents of the thoughts of agents as primitive.

   If we have time, we might also discuss different views about the facts in virtue of which expressions in languags acquire their meanings, including views on which expressions acquire their meanings from communicative intentions, associated beliefs, and use in a community.

Texts. All of the readings will be made available either via links from the course schedule at the right, or in paper form for photocopy.

Assignments. Every student taking the course for credit will write a term paper. There may also be a few other short paper assignments along the way. Class presentations will not be required, though you will have the chance to present your work if you would like to do so.




Tuesday, January 16
Thursday, January 18
Tuesday, January 23

Two kinds of "theory of meaning";
Theories of propositions: possible worlds semantics, Russellianism, Fregeanism

Cartwright, "Propositions"
Lewis, "General semantics"
Russell, Principles of Mathematics, ch. IV
Frege, "On sense and reference"
Salmon, "How to become a Millian heir"

Thursday, January 25
Tuesday, January 30

De re vs. descriptive contents Russell, "Knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description"
Kripke, Naming and Necessity
Thursday, February 1 Double-indexing & Kaplan's semantics for indexicals Kaplan, "Demonstratives"
Lewis, "Index, context, and content"
Tuesday, February 6
Thursday, February 8
Old school 2-dimensionalism and its problems Chalmers, The Conscious Mind (selection)
Soames, "Ambitious two-dimensionalism"
Dever, "Low-grade two dimensionalism"
Soames, "The substance and significance of disputes about two-dimensionalism"
Tuesday, February 13
Thursday, February 15
Epistemic 2-dimensionalism

Chalmers, "Two dimensional semantics"
Chalmers, "The foundations of two dimensional semantics"
Chalmers, "Scott Soames' two dimensionalism"
Soames, "Reply to critics"
Chalmers, "Response to Soames"
Schroeter, "Considering empty worlds as actual"
Soames, "Actually"

Tuesday, February 20 Functionalist theories of content; theories of content and theories of content-availability Fodor, "Fodor's guide to mental representation"
Rey, "CRTT: Representation (Meeting Brentano's challenge)"
Thursday, February 22: class cancelled
Tuesday, February 27 Indication theories Stalnaker, Inquiry (selection)
Thursday, March 1 Functional role theories Loar, Mind and Meaning (selection)
Schiffer, "Functionalism and propositions"
Tuesday, March 6 Isomorphism/map theories Cummins, "Interpretational semantics"
Ramsey, "Using mindless representation to explain mental representation"
Thursday, March 8
Informational theories

Fodor, "A theory of content, II"
Warfield, "Fodorian semantics: Reply to A&A"
Adams & Aizawa, "'X' means X: Fodor/Warfield semantics"

March 13 & 15
Tuesday, March 20
Thursday, March 22
Conceptual role theories

Peacocke, A Study of Concepts (selection)
Fodor, "Having concepts: a brief refutation of the twentieth century"
Peacocke, "Implicit conceptions, understanding, and rationality"
Schiffer, "Doubts about implicit conceptions"
Peacocke, "Implicit conceptions, the a priori, and the identity of concepts "

Tuesday, March 27
Other approaches: teleology, normativity, and interpretation Millikan, "Biosemantics"
Greenberg, "A new map of theories of mental content"
Byrne, "Interpretivism"
Thursday, March 29 Content in perception; do perceptions have contents?

Alston, "Perception and representation"
Campbell, "Berkeley's puzzle"

Brewer, "Perception and content"
Brewer, "How to account for illusion"

Tuesday, April 3
Thursday, April 5
Tuesday, April 10
Transparency of experience, intentionalism, & the content of experience

Byrne, "Intentionalism defended"
§§1-3 of "Transparency and its consequences" (ms.)
Chalmers, "The representational character of experience"
Tye, "New problems for representationalism?"

Thursday, April 12 Visiting speaker: Casey O'Callaghan on cross-modal illusions and perceptual content

O'Callaghan, "Cross-modal illusions"
The penultimate draft of Sounds (from which the above is an excerpt) is available here.

Tuesday, April 17 Externalism about content vs. internalism about phenomenal character §§4-8 of "Transparency and its consequences"

Thursday, April 19
Tuesday, April 24

Spectrum inversion, content, & functionalism

Block, "Inverted earth"
Byrne, "Inverted qualia"
Tye, "Swampman meets inverted earth"
"Spectrum inversion without misrepresentation is impossible" (ms.)

Thursday, April 26 True colors

Block, "Sexism, racism, ageism, and the nature of consciousness"
Tye, "The puzzle of true blue"
Cohen, Hardin, & McLaughlin, "True Colours"
Tye, "The truth about true blue"
Byrne & Hilbert, "Truest blue"
Tye, "True blue redux"

Tuesday, May 1 Student presentations TBA