Graduate Seminar 2010-2011

Spring 2011

Philosophy 287:A new basis for semantics
Sam Cumming

This spring I’ll be teaching a graduate seminar titled “A new basis for semantics,” which will cover material in two manuscripts I’m currently preparing for publication. The seminar will be polemical, arguing that truth and reference do not deserve their place at the centre of semantic theory in philosophy and linguistics. In the second half of the seminar, I’ll offer an alternative basis for semantics in units of communicated information (in the mathematical sense).

Part I
Background: Frege, “On Sense and Reference”; Strawson, “On Referring”;
Donnellan, “Speaker Reference, Descriptions and Anaphora”

Week 1: A puzzle for truth-conditional semantics

Cumming, “A Puzzle about Indefinites”

Week 2: Truth-conditions vs. content

Pinillos, “Time Dilation, Context and Relative Truth”

MacFarlane, “Non-Indexical Contextualism”

Week 3: Truth-value of sentences with empty referring expressions

Strawson, “Identifying Reference and Truth Values”

Schoubye, “Descriptions, Truth-Value Intuitions, and Questions”

Week 4: Truth-conditional pragmatics (h/t to Recanati)

Austin, “Truth”; “How to talk”

Lewis, “General Semantics” (selections)

Grice, “Logic and Conversation”

Shiffrin, “Promising, Intimate Relationships, and Conventionalism”

Part II

Week 5: Trouble-makers

Quine, “Truth by Convention”

Kripke, “A Puzzle About Belief”

Fine, Semantic Relationism (selections)

Week 6: Convention and information

Lewis, Convention (selections)

Weatherson, probability theory notes

Skyrms, Signals: Evolution, Learning, and Information, Ch. 3

Week 7: Communication

Grice, “Meaning”

Lepore and Stone, “Against Metaphorical Meaning”

Week 8: An informational theory of content

Cumming, “Creatures of Darkness”

Week 9: Prospects for an informational theory of reference

Evans, Varieties of Reference (selections)

Fodor, A Theory of Content and Other Essays (selections)

Greenberg, “Incomplete Understanding, Deference, and the Content of Thought”

Week 10: Conclusion

Winter 2011

Linguistics 200C: Semantics 1
Terry Parsons
MW 2:00-3:50

This isn’t actually a seminar; it’s a graduate level course that meets four hours per week. It’s an introduction to semantics for graduate students who have a Linguistics background, but perhaps no semantics at all. There will be homework for each class, and a course paper.

Philosophy C210: Spinoza
Joseph Almog
WF 1:00-2:50


Philosophy 220: History Workshop
Joseph Almog and John Carriero
W 3:00-5:50

We plan to relaunch the history workshop on Thursdays 11-1. The theme is the philosophy of history, in particular, how are we to understand the very idea of human history– is it categorically different than other branches of natural history, say orchid or wolf history? Among the items to be dissected are the works of Valla (Brian C.), a dialog about Kant’s idea of universal history (Barbara and Joseph), as well as contributions from visitors like Balibar and Koistinen on Kant and Hegel.

We plan to meet the first thursday of the term at NOON to coordinate the schedule. Please come so you can affect the decisions.

Philsophy C245 History of Ethics: Modern
Barbara Herman
T 3:00-5:50
Kant’s Critique of Judgement


Philosophy 246: Ethical Theory
Gavin Lawrence
W 3:00-5:50


Philosophy C253B: Metaethics
AJ Julius
MW 11:00-12:50


Philosophy M254A: Legal Theory Workshop
Mark Greenberg
R 5:00-7:00

The Legal Theory Workshop brings leading scholars from around the country to discuss their works in progress with students and interested faculty. All the papers will address legal issues from a philosophical perspective. The first part of the seminar will involve biweekly discussions with visiting scholars, with intervening preparatory weeks for students to gain background in the relevant topic. Towards the end of the semester, students’ papers will be presented to the rest of the class for discussion. Those not participating in the class are welcome to attend the public sessions, which are listed at the link below.

Philosophy M257A: Philosophy of Law
A. Burra T 5:00-7:00


Philosophy 259: Ethics and Value Theory
Pamela Hieronymi T 1:00-2:50


Philosophy 271: Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology
Tony Brueckner M 3:00-5:50


Philosophy 287: Philosophy of Language
David Kaplan R 3:00-5:50


Fall 2010

Philosophy 275 Seminar: Human Action
(Hieronymi) T 3-5:50

“Knowledge and Control, Reasons and Causes.” The first half of the course will be devoted to the claim that “Practical knowledge is the cause of that which it understands,” as defended by Anscombe. The second half of the course will be devoted to the explanation of action, and, in particular, the Davidsonian claim that the explanation of action requires that reasons be causes of action.

Philosophy 287 Seminar: Philosophy of Language–SINGULAR THOUGHT
(Kaplan) W 3:00 to 5:50 in Dodd 399
All are welcome.
Singular reference and singular thought seem to go together in that singular reference inside a “thinks that” context seems to require a singular thought as part of the truth conditions for the whole sentence. We have discussed (and will surely continue to discuss) singular reference, but this term I would like to turn to singular thought. Robin Jeshion’s new collection, New Essays On Singular Thought (Oxford 2010) contains many useful essays. I’d like to start with Kent Bach’s “Getting A Thing Into A Thought”, which I have posted, move on to François Recanati’s “Singular Thought: In Defense of Acquaintance” (I wrote him to ask for the latest version of the paper), and perhaps discuss my own changing views of the matter. I’ll post papers to our course website at <>.