Philosophy 1810: Syllabus

As well as a list of readings and such, this page contains links to the various papers we shall be reading.1 The files are available in two forms. There are (i) a DjVu file and (ii) a PDF file. Why both forms? They are intended for different uses.

There is another advantage to DjVu. Because DjVu is a file format specifically designed for scanned text: The DjVu encoder produces files that are typically much smaller than the corresponding PDFs. For example, the PDF for Davidson's "Truth and Meaning" is 1.2 MB; the DjVu, which was created from the PDF, is 527K, less than half the size. The contrast is even greater in the case of Rumfitt's paper "Truth-conditions and Communication": In that case, the PDF is 4.5MB; the DVJU is 1.3MB, almost four times smaller. This is all the more true where I have scanned the papers myself. In this case, the PDFs can be quite large, due to the need to use grayscale rather than black-and-white images: That is the only way I can see to get them legible on the Kindle.

To view the PDFs, you will of course need a PDF reader. For the DjVu files, you will need a DjVu reader. Browser plugins for Windows and Mac OSX are available from Celartem; Linux users can likely just install the djviewlibre package using their distro's package management system. A list of other DjVu resources is maintained at

Third short paper due (Undergradautes Only)
Introduction: Literal Meaning
9 September Introductory Meeting
11 September H.P. Grice, "Meaning", Philosophical Review 66 (1957), pp. 377-88 (PDF, DjVu, JStor)
14 September H.P. Grice,"Logic and Conversation", in Studies in the Ways of Words (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 22-40 (PDF, DjVu)
Our interest will primarily be in understanding Grice's notion of implicature, how he uses it to distinguish between `what is said' and `what is communicated', and how he thereby tries to secure a notion of `literal meaning'.
There is a lot more to be said about these matters: They could constitute a course in themselves. A number of important papers are collected in Steven Davis, ed., Pragmatics: A Reader (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).
16 September Noam Chomsky, Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1965), chapter 1, sections 1-6 (PDF, DjVu)
18 September Discussion
Meaning and Truth-Theory: Davidson's Proposal
21 September Donald Davidson, "Theories of Meaning and Learnable Languages", in his Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), pp. 3-15 (PDF, DjVu)
23 September Donald Davidson, "Truth and Meaning", Synthese 17 (1967), 304-23; reprinted in Inquiries, pp. 17-36 (PDF, DjVu, Springer)
25 September No Class (Instructor lecturing at McGill University)
28 September Discussion
30 September Tarski's Theory of Truth: Handout (PDF)
Note: Since this is technical material, no response piece is required.
It's worth reading Tarski's own material on this, too, though doing so in class would take us rather further into formal work on theories of truth than we want to go right now. The locus classicus is Tarski's seminal paper "The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages", in his Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983), pp. 152-278 (DjVu). For a more philosophical discussion, see Tarski's "The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 4 (1944), pp. 341-75 (PDF, DjVu, JStor)
2 October Tarski's Theory of Truth: Handout (PDF)
Note: No response piece required.
Topics for first short paper announced (here)
5 October Donald Davidson, "The Logical Form of Action Sentences", in his Essays on Actions and Events (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 105-22 (PDF, DjVu)
There is now a large literature on Davidson's analysis of adverbs. For a survey, see Terrence Parsons, Events in the Semantics of English (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1990).
7 October Gareth Evans, "Semantic Structure and Logical Form", in his Collected Papers (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), pp. 49-75 (PDF, DjVu)
9 October Discussion
First short paper due
12 October No Class: Columbus Day Holiday
The Foster Problem
14 October John Foster, "Meaning and Truth-Theory", in G. Evans and J. McDowell, eds., Truth and Meaning: Essays in Semantics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), pp. 1-32 (PDF, DjVu)
You need only read sections 1-2, on pages 1-16, carefully. The discussion in section 3 concerns Davidson's "revised thesis", which we have not year encountered, and section 4 contains Foster's emendation of Davidson's position, which is known to fall to a version of Foster's own objection to Davdison.
16 October Donald Davidson, "Reply to Foster", in Inquiries, pp. 171-9 (PDF, DjVu), and "Radical Interpretation", in Inquiries, pp. 125-39 (PDF, DjVu)
Davidson's treatment owes, as he notes, a great deal to Quine's notion of radical translation, for which see W. V. O. Quine, Word and Object (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1960), Ch. 2.
19 October David Lewis, "Languages and Language", in his Philosophical Papers, vol.1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 163-88 (PDF, DjVu)
You should concentrate upon pp. 163-71, in which Lewis summarizes the more extensive account of linguistic meaning given in his book Convention (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1969), and on pp. 175-81, where Lewis discusses a series of objections connected to compositionality. The rest you can read more quickly.
See also David Lewis, "Radical Interpretation", in his Philosophical Papers, vol. 1, pp. 108-18 (PDF, DjVu, Springer)
21 October Discussion
23 October No Class (Instructor Unwell)
26 & 28 October James Higginbotham, "Truth and Understanding", Philosophical Studies 65 (1992), pp. 3-16 (PDF, DjVu, Springer), and Scott Soames, "Truth, Meaning, and Understanding", Philosophical Studies 65 (1992), pp. 17-35 (PDF, DjVu, Springer)
See also Scott Soames, "Semantics and Semantic Competence", in S. Schiffer and S. Steele, eds., Cognition and Representation (Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1988), pp. 185-207. For an approach that is different from but similar to Higginbotham's, see Richard Larson and Gabriel Segal, Knowledge of Meaning: An Introduction to Semantic Theory (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1995), Chs. 1-2.
30 October Discussion
Topics for second short paper announced (here)
Tacit Knowledge
2 November W. V. O. Quine, "Methodological Reflections on Current Linguistic Theory", Synthese 21 (1970), pp. 386-98 (PDF, DjVu, Springer)
4 November Noam Chomsky, "Quine's Empirical Assumptions", in D. Davidson and J. Hintikka, eds., Words and Objections (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1969), pp. 53-68 (PDF, DjVu, Springer)
For an interesting study of what really divides Quine and Chomsky, see Alexander George, "Whence and Whither the Debate Between Quine and Chomsky", Journal of Philosophy 83 (1986), pp. 489-99 (JSTOR)
6 November Discussion
Second short paper due
9 November Gareth Evans, "Semantic Theory and Tacit Knowledge", in his Collected Papers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 322-42 (PDF, DjVu)
Evans is responding to Crispin Wright, "Rule-following, Objectivity, and the Theory of Meaning", in S. Holtzman and C. Leich, eds., Wittgenstein: To Follow a Rule (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981), pp. 99-117. Similar worries can be found in other authors. See Hilary Putnam, "The 'Innateness Hypothesis' and Explanatory Models in Linguistics", Synthese 17 (1967), 12-22 (Springer), reprinted in his Mind, Language, and Reality: Philosophical Papers, v. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), pp. 107-16.
11 November Martin Davies, "Meaning, Structure, and Understanding", Synthese 48 (1981), pp.135-61 (PDF, DjVu, Springer)
13 November Crispin Wright, "Theories of Meaning and Speakers' Knowledge", in his Realism, Meaning, and Truth (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), pp. 204-38 (PDF, DjVu), and Martin Davies, "Tacit Knowledge and Semantic Theory: Can a Five per cent Difference Matter?", Mind 96 (1987), pp. 441-6 (PDF, DjVu, JStor)
The subject of tacit knowledge has become a large and important one. For further reading, see Martin Davies, "Tacit Knowledge, and the Structure of Thought and Language", in C. Travis, ed., Meaning and Interpretation (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), pp. 127-58; see also Martin Davies, "Tacit Knowledge and Subdoxastic States", Crispin Wright, "The Rule-following Arguments and the Central Project of Theoretical Linguistics", and Christopher Peacocke, "When is a Grammar Psychologically Real?", all in Alexander George, ed., Reflections on Chomsky (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989).
16 November Discussion
Meaning, Understanding, Communication, and Knowledge
18 November P.F. Strawson, "Meaning and Truth", in his Logico-Linguistic Papers (London: Methuen, 1971), pp. 170-89 (PDF, DjVu)
20 November John McDowell, "Meaning, Knowledge, and Communication", in Z. van Straaten, ed., Philosophical Subjects: Essays Presented to P.F. Strawson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 117-39 (PDF, DjVu)
23 November Discussion
25 & 27 November No Class: Thanksgiving Holiday
30 November Ian Rumfitt, "Truth Conditions and Communication", Mind 104 (1995), pp. 827-62 (PDF, DjVu, JStor)
Topics for third short paper announced (here)
2 December Richard Heck, "Reason and Language", in C. Macdonald and G. Macdonald, eds., McDowell and His Critics (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), pp. 22-45 (PDF)
4 December Discussion
7 December
9 & 11 December Reading Period: Note that we may need to meet if we get behind somewhere along the way.
18 December Final Exam, 2pm (Undergraduates)
Final Paper Due (Graduate Students)

1Where possible, links to publically accessible electronic copies of the papers are included. For copyright reasons, however, many of the links require a username and password available only to those enrolled in the course.

Richard Heck Department of Philosophy Brown University