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PHIL 158 / Spring 2005



Instructor: Dr. Bo Mou

Time: Monday & Wednesday: 15:00  – 16:15

Place: BBC 120

Office Hours: (1) Regular Office Hours: Wednesday 16:30 – 17:30; (2) If you are unable to make these times, we can schedule a time that is convenient for you; (3) Extra office hours will be arranged before midterm and final exams.

Office: FO 225

Phone: (408) 924-4513


Required Textbooks

           The Course Reader [ CR ].

           William Lycan: Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge, 1999) [ PL ].

Course Description

The philosophy of language, roughly speaking, is theoretical investigation into language in view of its relation to reality, thought and logic. It has been considered by many as one of the core areas of contemporary philosophy for several reasons: (1) It has its intrinsic value for philosophical, or even other intellectual, inquiries because it provides rich conceptual and explanatory resources that are needed for in-depth reflective studies; (2) It investigates a series of topics that have extensive significance, such as: What is meaning? What is the relation between language and thought? How is linguistic communication is possible? What is the relationship between language and the world? (3) It is closely related with other important subjects of philosophy (e.g. metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and epistemology) and some other disciplines (e.g. linguistics, psychology, and cognitive science).

This course provides an introduction to some central topics of the philosophy of language. It will examine some important ideas and approaches as suggested by those figures like Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Quine, Davidson, Searle and Kripke. The class as given this time also discuss some issues concerning the relation between language, thought and reality through a comparative approach that involves valuable ideas and resources in both Western and Chinese philosophical traditions.

The objectives of this course are these: (1) to introduce the student to some central topics and theories in 20th century Anglo-American philosophical studies of language, which constitute parts of the main content of contemporary analytic philosophy; (2) to introduce the student to some important conceptual and explanatory resources and techniques of philosophical analysis provided by contemporary philosophy of language so as to effectively and strictly conduct philosophical and other intellectual investigations; (3) to help the student look at some of the issues under discussion from a broad and dynamic point of view through comparative approach in view of valuable ideas and resources in another major philosophical tradition; (4) to improve the student’s ability to read and think critically, creatively and precisely and to write clearly and strictly.


6 units of philosophy or instructor consent.

Instruction Format

Lecture and class discussion.

Course Requirements

Regular attendance, timely and careful completion of reading-assignments, earnest and reflective fulfillment of written assignments, and active participation in discussion are expected for the successful learning process.

     1.   Writing Assignments

(1)    Three critical analysis reports: 15%

(2)    One master-presentation writing handout: 5% (5/11)

(3)    Term Paper: 25% (due 5/16)

      2.   In-Class Examinations

(1)    Midterm Exam: 20% (3/23)

(2)    Final Exam: 25% (5/24)

      3.   Class participation: 10%

Critical-Analysis Reports

Each of these gives your critical analysis of an assigned question. The critical-analysis report goes with 1-2 typewritten double-spaced pages with 1 inch margin and font size 10 or 12. The critical-analysis writings are due by noon (12:00) of Friday immediately after Wednesday on which the question is assigned; they are expected to submit via email attachment (MS Word file) by the above due time. You are to present the major points of your critical analysis report in the coming Monday class.

Term Paper

You are free to choose your paper topics as long as they are related to the reading materials. I will also suggest some topics as the semester proceeds. You need to hand in a one-page description of your paper topic on April 27. The term paper goes with 6-7 (for undergraduates) / 9-10 (for graduate students) typewritten double-spaced pages with 1 inch magin and font size 12 (about 250 words each page). The submitted paper is due in hard copy in class-meeting time; the electronic version is not accepted.


Both midterm and final exams will combine multiple choice, short answer questions and essay questions. The instructor will supply a study guide a week before each of the exams.

Late Assignments

Assignments that are one class session late will be demoted 5%; assignments that are later will receive a 10% cut. Exceptions are made if you have a doctor’s note or if you have been given a prior extension. Students who miss a mid-term will need a serious excuse (e.g., a doctor’s note) and to schedule a make-up exam.

Class Participation

The student’s active class participation consists of the following: (i) Attending scheduled classes regularly (two bonus points will be given for perfect attendance; one bonus point will be given for only-one-class-missing attendance); (ii) Asking questions in class or volunteering answers to philosophical questions raised by classmates or instructors; (iii) Earnestly completing in-class oral presentation of your critical analysis reports and a master in-class presentation at “Discussion Forum” on May 11.