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PHIL236 An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language

An introduction to central figures and issues in the philosophy of language, including Frege, Russell, Moore, Ayer and Quine.

This paper is ideal both for the serious philosophy student who wants to get to grips with the most important analytic philosophers of the first half of the 20th century and for the student who wishes to get a sense of what 20th-century analytic philosophy of language involves. The paper is taught by Professor Alex Miller, the author of one of the world's leading textbooks on the philosophy of language.

Paper title An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language
Paper code PHIL236
Subject Philosophy
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2020, expected to be offered in 2021
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $904.05
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,954.75

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One PHIL paper or 72 points
PHIL 336
Schedule C
Arts and Music
Teaching staff
Professor Alex Miller
Paper Structure

In the first part of the paper we will look at Frege's account of meaning and, in particular, his distinction between sense and semantic value. Then we'll look at Russell's critique of Frege and his theory of definite descriptions, followed by a discussion of G.E. Moore's open question argument and his attack on ethical naturalism. Finally, we examine Quine's attack on the analytic/synthetic distinction.

The main text for the lectures is Alexander Miller, Philosophy of Language (2nd edition Routledge 2007).

In the seminars, we will be working through A.J. Ayer's classic exposition of logical positivism - Language, Truth and Logic - and some other related papers. Study questions for the seminars will be distributed in advance, and students must attempt these and bring them along to the seminar group.


PHIL 236

  • Two 2,500-word essays, each worth 15% (30% total)
  • Exam - 70%

PHIL 336

  • Two 3,500-word essays, each worth 20% (40% total)
  • Exam - 60%
Teaching Arrangements
Two 2-hour lectures/seminars per week
Alexander Miller, Philosophy of Language (2nd edition Routledge 2007)

A.J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic (Dover Books 1946 or any other available edition)
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Scholarship, Critical thinking, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
By the end of the paper, PHIL 236 students will acquire
  1. The ability to make philosophical analyses and to present and assess philosophical arguments to a high standard
  2. The ability to grasp and critically discuss central issues in philosophy of language
  3. A demonstrated ability to explain and assess philosophical positions and arguments in their own words

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Not offered in 2020, expected to be offered in 2021

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system