Philosophy of Language



Essay Topics on Traditional Anglo-American Philosophy of Language


Under Parts I - IV, respond to A or B.  Write in your own words (with few direct quotes and little paraphrasing) and aim for accuracy, relevancy, clarity, and incisiveness.   Each response is to be between 350 and 400 words.  (After each response, please provide a word count.)  Your exam of about 1,500 total words is due on the third class following the distribution of the essay topics.  Grades on late exams will be lowered one letter grade for each class day that they are late.  Exams are to be printed on white paper with a staple or paper clip in the upper left corner and are not to be placed in folders.



I.    Traditional Anglo-American Philosophy of Language:                Weitz

A.    In "Philosophical Analysis," Weitz traces various meanings of the term "analysis."  He notes Russell’s use of "formal analysis" and how Moore viewed analysis as a "form of definition" while the early Wittgenstein used it as a "form of linguistic transformation," and he ends by observing that some contemporary analysts use the term "linguistic analysis" or "ordinary language analysis."  State some of the common features in these uses of "analysis" and indicate how they are distinct.

B.    In "Philosophical Analysis," Weitz traces the emergence of analysis and its final rejection.  While he accepts Russell’s defense of external relations, he rejects the verification principle of logical positivism.  State the point of Russell’s critique of external relations, and state why analysis was eventually rejected.



II.    The Early Wittgenstein:    Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

A.    In the Tractatus Wittgenstein uses his picture theory to connect language/propositions and reality/world.  Making reference to 1.1, 2.1-2.161 and other relevant passages, state Wittgenstein’s viewpoint on these relations.

B.    By his understanding of sense, Wittgenstein has set a limit to what propositions are properly meaningful.  Making reference to 4.003, 4.022-4.024, and 4.461-4.464, state Wittgenstein’s position on how the senselessness of tautologies and contradictions is distinct from non-sense.



III.    Verification and Empiricist Criteria:     Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic

A.    Ayer presents a modified verification principle.  State how Ayer’s verification principle determines when a sentence is a "genuine empirical hypothesis" and why the truth-value of such synthetic propositions is probabilistic, while the truth value of analytic propositions is certain.

B.    Ayer distinguishes various types of propositions.  State how he distinguishes propositions that are about the world from ones that are exclusively definitional and how he distinguishes between genuine hypotheses and pseudo-hypotheses and indicate the implications of these distinctions for metaphysical and for dogmatic assertions.



IV.    The Later Wittgenstein:    Philosophical Investigations

A.    The later Wittgenstein develops a functional theory of meaning, specifically in terms of the relation of language to action.  Making reference to 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, and 23, state Wittgenstein’s view of language games.

B. The later Wittgenstein rejected a referential theory of meaning, especially of one-to-one correspondence between words/names and things/objects.  Making reference to 23, 27, and 39-43, state Wittgenstein’s criticism of this view of language.