Essay Topics on Traditional Continental Philosophy of Language
Under Parts I - III, respond to A or B. Under Parts IV and V, respond
to A or B under either IV or V. 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.
II. Merleau-Ponty on Structuralism and Intersubjectivity
A. Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of language is in part a response to Saussure. Explain how Merleau-Ponty’s statements on the meaning of signs and the acquisition of language relate to Saussure and indicate how Merleau-Ponty sees phenomenology as able to develop the study of speaking.
B. Merleau-Ponty sees intersubjectivity as basic and much communication
as successful apart from gesture and word. Explain how these views are
reflected in his comments on silence and indicate how he views language as
indirect and the clarification of meaning as always incomplete.
III. Ricoeur on Structuralism and Metaphor
A. In contradistinction to the five characteristics of la langue stressed in structuralism (pages 109 and 110), Ricoeur presents five characteristics of la parole stressed in phenomenology (pages 114 and 115). Explain how Ricoeur uses these distinctions to accept, yet augment, structuralism and indicate how the distinction between structure and event allows Ricoeur to use phenomenology to develop the study of speaking.
B. Ricoeur’s approach to creativity is geared to how a finite system has
infinite possibilities. Making reference to his views on the necessity
of polysemy and the status of dictionaries explain how Ricoeur views metaphor
and indicate how this model of creativity affects “reality.”
IV. Gay on Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur
A. Gay traces how Merleau-Ponty appropriates elements of both structuralism and phenomenology in his philosophy of language. State how Gay uses Merleau-Ponty’s distinctions on a science of language and a phenomenology of speaking to affirm the possibility of linguistic creativity.
B. Gay discusses Ricoeur’s philosophy of language in relation to both metaphor
and ideology. State why Gay thinks an exclusive focus on either is
reductive and how he connects metaphors with positive creations and ideologies
with negative distortions.
V. Gay on Language and Peace
A. Gay discusses differences in the language of war and the language of peace. State how Gay presents the political dominance of the language of war and how he notes that even with a language of peace can be negative.
B. Gay uses the distinction between positive and negative peace to assess
nonsexist public discourse. State how Gay argues that nonsexist discourse
can convey gender equity and yet mask the continuing reality of sexism in