How to teach philosophy of language today?

Petr S. Kus­liy
Insti­tute of Phi­los­o­phy, Russ­ian Acad­e­my of Sci­ences

How to teach phi­los­o­phy of lan­guage today?
A crit­i­cal overview and dis­cus­sion of Kulyk O.  Analytic Phi­los­o­phy and Phi­los­o­phy of Lan­guage. Instructor’s Man­u­al with Stu­dent Exer­cis­es. Dnipro: Lira, 2018. 108 pp.

Abstract. This paper presents a crit­i­cal overview of the man­u­al by O. Kulyk, fol­lowed by a broad­er dis­cus­sion of the con­tem­po­rary image of what is known as ana­lyt­ic phi­los­o­phy of lan­guage and how this dis­ci­pline could be taught in a uni­ver­si­ty course of lec­tures. The author observes that Kulyk’s course of lec­tures is his­tor­i­cal­ly ori­ent­ed just like the major­i­ty of sim­i­lar cours­es. He explores the rea­sons for this his­tor­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion and claims that it results from the fact that the biggest philo­soph­i­cal advances asso­ci­at­ed with phi­los­o­phy of lan­guage are already in the past and the con­tem­po­rary phi­los­o­phy of lan­guage is too com­pli­cat­ed to be dis­cussed or even men­tioned as part of an intro­duc­to­ry or semi-advanced course. More­over, the chal­lenge of find­ing a bal­ance between dif­fer­ent edu­ca­tion­al objec­tives asso­ci­at­ed with such a course makes the his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive intu­itive­ly attrac­tive. How­ev­er, it argued that, despite its attrac­tive­ness, the his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive often fails to address the aspects in which phi­los­o­phy of lan­guage remains rel­e­vant for any philo­soph­i­cal research. The author main­tains that a prob­lem-ori­ent­ed course could deal with this short­com­ing. He presents a num­ber of top­ics that are cen­tral to the ana­lyt­ic phi­los­o­phy of lan­guage and, at the same time, can be dis­cussed with­out con­stant retreat to the clas­si­cal texts of the main rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the ana­lyt­ic tra­di­tion. These top­ics are the object/metalanguage dis­tinc­tion, the three facets of mean­ing (assertive con-tent/presupposition/implicature), ref­er­en­tial vs. quan­tifi­ca­tion­al expres­sions, direct ref­er­ence vs. ref­er­ence by descrip­tion, struc­tur­al ambi­gu­i­ty, and issues with com­po­si­tion­al­i­ty. The author claims that such a prob­lem-ori­ent­ed approach to a course of lec­tures allows the instruc­tor to devel­op bet­ter exer­cis­es and the stu­dents to acquire knowl­edge and skills that they would be able to use not only in their philo­soph­i­cal careers but also in oth­er spheres of life.

Key­words: phi­los­o­phy of lan­guage, seman­tics, teach­ing.



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