PHIL 6395 Seminar on Meaning

James Garson, x3205  Office Hours 10-11 MWF and by appt.


Book:  The following book will be used a fair amount during weeks 5-8 so you probably want to acquire it. 

Cummins, R.  (M&R) Meaning and Mental Representation


Course Duties:

            Readings and Reaction Papers (20% of grade).  Required readings for the following meeting will be assigned at the end of each seminar.  You are expected to master the readings by the time they are due and to display your mastery in the form of a 200-300 word paper due at the beginning of the seminar.  I will use these exercises to evaluate your progress and plan my lectures.  They may also help you develop a viable project for the course.  Your paper must comment on either the readings assigned or optional readings suggested in class, but make sure your paper shows me that you have a good understanding of the required readings.

            Project Proposal and Oral Report (30% of grade)

You will be asked to turn in a three-page project proposal containing a bibliography of at least 2 references that are not required readings at the beginning of class on Oct. 19.  This report will describe your plans for a class project, including the issues you are exploring and the progress made so far.  It is strongly recommended that you work with me to develop a good project well before this report is due.  I reserve the right to reject your proposal and to require you to resubmit. You will present an oral report on your project on either Nov 2, 9, 16 or 30.  Oral reports will involve a presentation of about 30 minutes leaving another 20 minutes for questions and class discussion. 

            Final Paper (50% of grade) Your final seminar paper (of about 20 pages) is due on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 2:00 in my mailbox.  It will be easiest for your seminar paper to carry on with the work of your project and oral report.  However, if the need arises, in light of further research or feedback you receive, it will be acceptable for your paper to deviate (both in its conclusions and topic) from your project proposal and oral report.


Proposal for the Sequence of Topics

Aug 24  Week 1.  Introduction to the Issues

Aug 31  Week 2.  Historical Setting

Sep 7     Week 3.  Quine on Meaning

Sep 14   Week 4.  Davidson's Program

Sep 21   Week 5. Mental Content and Covariance Accounts

Sep 28  Week 6.   Information, Misrepresentation and Belief

Oct 5     Week 7.  The Theory-Theory and Narrow Content

Oct 12   Week 8.   Teleosemantics

Oct 19   Week 9.   Instrumentalism

Oct 26   Week 10. Meaning in Neural Nets

Nov 2    Week 11.  Eliminativism

Nov 9    Week 12.  Student Presentations  (See Below for the Schedule)

Nov 16  Week 13.  Student Presentations

Nov 30  Week 14.  Student Presentations


Below is a list of readings on the topics proposed above. At the end of each seminar, selections from these readings or other readings may be assigned.  This list is not set in stone, but serves merely to suggest the kinds of things we might want to explore under a given topic heading.  In light of class discussion, we may also want to change topics to be covered in each seminar.


Week 2:  Historical Setting: Reference and Meaning

         Frege, G. "On Sense and Nominatum (Reference)," in Copi, I and Gould, J. (Eds.) Contemporary Readings in Logical Theory

            Russell, B.  "On Denoting" in Copi, I and Gould, J. (Eds.) Contemporary Readings in Logical Theory

Ayer, A. Language, Truth and Logic Ch. 1

            Kripke  "Naming and Necessity"   Lectures I and II

            Wittgenstein, L.  Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Week 3:  Quine on Meaning

            Quine, W.  "Two Dogmas of Empiricism", "Meaning in Linguistics," and "Notes on the Theory of Reference," in Quine W.  From a Logical Point of View

            Quine, W. Word and Object, Ch. 2

Week 4:  Davidson's Program

            Davidson, D.  "Truth and Meaning," in Davis, J. et al. (eds.) Philosophical Logic

            Soames, S. "Truth Meaning and Understanding,"  Philosophical Studies 65 1992

            Tarski, A. "The Semantic Conception of Truth," in Linsky, L. (ed.) Semantics and the Philosophy of Language

            Larson, R. and Segal, G.  Knowledge of Meaning

            Lepore, E. and Ludwig, K.  Donald Davidson

Week 5. Mental Content and Covariation Accounts

            Cummins, R. M&R, Ch. 1-5

            Churchland, P.  Matter and Consciousness, 2.3-2.5, 3.4

Week 6.  Information, Misrepresentation and Belief

Cummins, R. M&R  Ch. 6

Dretske, F.  "From Experience to Belief"

Dretske, F.  Explaining Belief Ch. 4 

Fodor, J. Psychosemantics Ch. 4

Week 7.  The Theory-Theory and Narrow Content

            Fodor, J. Psychosemantics, Ch. 2

            Rudder Baker, L.  Explaining Attitudes Ch. 2

            Putnam, H.  "The Meaning of Meaning" Language Mind and Knowledge, K. Gunderson (ed.)

            Burge, T.  "Individualism and Psychology," Philosophical Review (95) 1979, 3-45

            Millikan, R. White Queen Psychology and Other Essays for Alice Ch. 7, 8, 9

            Heil, J. The Nature of True Minds, Ch. 2

            Churchland, P. Neurophilosophy  Ch. 1, 2

Week 8.  Teleosemantics


Millikan, R. White Queen Psychology and Other Essays for Alice Ch. 6, Ch. 4, Ch. 7

            Cummins, R. M&R Ch. 7


Millikan, R.  "Speaking Up for Darwin" in B. Loewer and G. Rey, Fodor and His Critics


Week 9.  Instrumentalism


            Dennett  The Intentional Stance Ch. 2, Ch. 8


            Dennett, D.  "Real Patterns," Journal of Philosophy 1991


Week 10.  Meaning in Neural Nets

            Fodor, J. and Pylyshyn, Z. "Connectionism and Cognitive Architecture," Part 1  Part 2   Cognition, 1988

            Chalmers, D.  ³Why Fodor and Pylyshyn Were Wrong: The Simplest RefutationProceedings of the 12th Annual Conferecne of the Cognitive Science Society, pp. 340-347.

            Garson, J.  "Connectionism" Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

            Ramsey, B. et. al.  "Connectionism, Eliminativism and the Future of Folk Psychology" in Tomberlin, J. (ed.) Action Theory and the Phil. of Mind

            Van Gelder, T.  "What Might Cognition Be if Not Computation?" Journal of Philosophy 1995

Week 11.  Nov. 2  Class Presentations

            Garson:  Eliminativism.  Churchland  ³Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes²

            Langley: Teleosemantics  Papineau  ³The Status of Teleosemantics²

Week 12.  Nov. 9  Class Presentations

            Olaguer:  Meaning and Speech Perception,  selections from Dretske

            Arnold:  The Explanatory Role of Belief, Reply to Baker, Baker on Dretske

            Robertson:  Searle on the Chinese Room

Week 13.  Nov. 16  Class Presentations

            Merritt:  Fictional Names, Thomasson, Fictional Entities

            Powell:  Frege and Mill on Names,  readings on Millianism

            Safford:   Connectionism and Folk Psychology,  Lepore and Fodor, All at Sea in Semantic Space

Week 14.  Nov. 30   Class Presentations

            McCann:  NeoGricean Theories of Meaning, Grice, Meaning; Cummins on Grice

            Schumaker:  Kirpke¹s Puzzle  A Puzzle about Belief

            Tinklenberg:  Kripke/Millikan on Normativity. Millikan, Truth Rules Hoverflies... READ pp. 323-343


Alternative Topics

Here is a list of topics that could serve as alternatives to those given above.  They could be topics for seminars or starting pints for your course project.


Descriptions and Reference

            Strawson, P. "On Referring"  Mind 1950

            Donnellan, K.  ³Proper Names and Identifying Descriptions²  in Davidson, M. On Sense and Direct Reference

            Kaplan, D. "The Logic of Demonstratives?" Journal of Philosophical Logic 1978


Private Language

         Wittgenstein, L.  Philosophical Investigations especially 141-145 183-299

            Kripke, S.  Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language


Pragmatics and Meaning

            Grice, P.  "Logic and Conversation" in Grice, P. The Way of Words

            Stainaker, R. "Pragmatics," in Davidson, D. and Harman, G. (eds.)  Semantics of Natural Language


Intensional Semantics

            Carnap, R. Meaning and Necessity

            Hintikka, J. Knowledge and Relief

            Lewis, D. "General Semantics," in Davidson, D. and Harman, G. (eds.) Semantics of Natural Language,

            Montague, R. Formal Philosophy (see R. Thomason's Introduction)

            Creswell, M.  Structured Meanings

            Perry, J and Barwise, J. Situations and Attitudes


Meaning of Logical Connectives

            Belnap, N.  "Tonk, Plonk and Plink" Analysis 1962

            Garson, J. "Natural Semantics² Theoria, 2001

The Language of Thought


            Fodor, J. Psychosemantcs  Ch. 1


            Stich, S. From Folk Psychology to Cognitive Science Ch. 3


The Merits of Folk Psychology


            Churchland, P.  "Folk Psychology and the Explanation of Human Behavior", Ch. 6 of Churchland, P.  A Neurocomputational Perspective


            Horgan,  T.  "Folk Psychology is Here to Stay"  in Lycan (ed.)

Mind and Cognition


            Horgan, T. and Tienson, J.  "Connectionism and the Commitments of Folk Psychology"  Philosophical Perspectives


Computational Accounts of Meaning and the Chinese Room

            Searle, J.  "Minds Brains and Programs" in Hofstadter, D. and Dennett, D. The Mind's I     

            Chalmers, D.  "Subsymbolic Computation and the Chinese Room" in J. Dinsmore (ed.)  Closing the Gap



Churchland, P.  "Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes"  Journal of Philosophy 1981


            Stich, S. From Folk Psychology to Cognitive Science Ch. 2-4



Causal Efficacy of Content


            Allen, C.  "The Causal Relevance of Mental Properties"

            Van Gulick, R.  ³Who¹s in Charge Here? And Who¹s Doing All the Work?²         Lepore,E. and Loewer, B. ³More on Making Mind Matter² Philosophical Topics 19898

            Heil, J. The Nature of True Minds, Ch. 2

Meaning as Use  


         Wittgenstein, L.  Philosophical Investigations, especially 1-220

Horwich, P. Meaning (1998) Reflections on Meaning (2005)

.      Discourse Representation Theory

            Kamp, H. "A Theory of Truth and Semantic Representation," in Groenendijk, Janssen and Stokhof, (eds.) Formal Methods in the Study of Language.

            Webber, B. A Formal Approach to Discourse Anaphora


Game Theoretic Semantics

            Hintikka, J. and Carlson, L. "Conditionals, Generic Quantifiers and Other Applications of Subgames," in  Margalit, A. (ed.) Meaning and Use

            Saarinen, Esa, "Game Theoretic Semantics," Monist 1977


Procedural Semantics

            Johnson-Laird, "Procedural Semantics," Cognition 1977

            Winograd, T. "A Procedural Model of Language Understanding," in Schank, R. and Colby (eds.) Computer Models of Thought and Language,


Scenes and Frames

            Fillmore, C. Scenes-and-Frames Semantics," in Zampoli, A. (ed.) Linguistic Structures Processing,

            Minsky, M. "Frame-System Theory," in Schank, R. et al. (eds.)

 Theoretical Issues in Natural Language Processing,       

            Schank, R. "Identification of Conceptualizations Underlying Natural Language," in Schank, R. and Colby (eds.) Computer Models of Thought and Language,

Failure of the Functionalist Program in AI


            Dreyfus, H.  What Computers (Still) Can't Do


            Dennett, D. "Cognitive Wheels: The Frame Problem of AI" in  C. Hookway (ed.) Minds, Machines & Evolution


Propositional Attitudes

            Churchland, P.  "Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes"  Journal of Philosophy (78) (1981)

            Kripke, S.  "A Puzzle about Belief," in Margalit, A. (ed.) Meaning and Use

            Quine, W.  ³Quantifiers and Propositional Attitudes², Journal of Philosophy 1956


Quantification in Intensional Contexts

            Quine, W. "Reference and Modality"  in Quine, W. From a Logical Point of View

            Kaplan, D.  "Quantifying In" in The Philosophy of Language, Martinich, A. (ed.)

            Thomason, R.  "Modality and Reference," Nous 1968)   

Quine, W.  "Quantifiers and Propositional Attitudes," in

Martinich, A (ed.) The Philosophy of Language,

            Garson, J  "Intensional Logic" entry in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy



            McClelland, J., Rumelhart, D., and Hinton, G, "The Appeal of Parallel Distributed Processing", Ch. 1 of Rummelhart, D. and McClelland, J. (eds.) Parallel Distributed Processing

            Hinton, G. "Distributed Representations," Ch. 3 of Rummelhart, D. and McClelland, J. (eds.) Parallel Distributed Processing,

            Churchland, P.  Engine of Reason, Seat of the Soul

            Horgan, T. and Tienson, J. Connectionism and the Philosophy of Psychology  Chs. 4, 7

Chalmers, D.,³Why Fodor and Pylyshyn Were Wrong: The Simplest Refutation,² Philosophical Psychology 1993

             Johnson, K., ³On the Systematicity of Language and Thought² Journal of Philosophy 2004