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.



  1. Bar­wise, J., Coop­er, R. Gen­er­al­ized Quan­ti­fiers and Nat­ur­al Lan­guage, in: Phi­los­o­phy, Lan­guage, and Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence. Stud­ies in Cog­ni­tive Sys­tems / ed. by J. Kulas et al. Springer, Dor­drecht, 1981, vol. 2, pp. 241–301. DOI: 10.1007/978–94-009‑2727-8_10.
  2. Don­nel­lan, K.S. Ref­er­ence and Def­i­nite Descrip­tions, The Philo­soph­i­cal Review, 1966, vol. 75, no. 3, pp. 281–304.
  3. Grice, G.P. Log­ic and Con­ver­sa­tion, in: G.P. Grice. Stud­ies in the Way of Words. Cam­bridge, MA: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1989, pp. 22–40.
  4. Horn, L.R. A Nat­ur­al His­to­ry of Nega­tion. Chica­go: Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 1989. 637 pp.
  5. Krip­ke, S.A. A Puz­zle about Belief, in: Mean­ing and Use. Syn­these Lan­guage Library (Texts and Stud­ies in Lin­guis­tics and Phi­los­o­phy) / ed. by Mar­galit. Dor­drecht: Springer, 1979, vol 3, pp. 239–283. DOI: 10.1007/978–1-4020–4104-4_20.
  6. Kulyk, O. Ana­lyt­ic Phi­los­o­phy and Phi­los­o­phy of Lan­guage. Instructor’s Man­u­al with Stu­dent Exer­cis­es. Dnipro: LIRA Publ., 2018. 108 pp.
  7. Mill, J.S. A Sys­tem of Log­ic, Rati­o­ci­na­tive and Induc­tive: Being a Con­nect­ed View of the Prin­ci­ples of Evi­dence and the Meth­ods of Sci­en­tif­ic Inves­ti­ga­tion. Long­mans, Green, and Com­pa­ny, 1884, vol. 1. 622 pp.
  8. Quine, W.V.O. Math­e­mat­i­cal Log­ic. Revised edi­tion. Cam­bridge: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1951. 364 pp.
  9. Quin­ton, A. Ana­lyt­ic Phi­los­o­phy, in: The Oxford Com­pan­ion to Phi­los­o­phy / ed. by T. Hon­derich. Oxford: Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1995, pp. 28–30.
  10. Rus­sell, B. On Denot­ing, Mind, 1905, vol. 56, no. 14, pp. 479–493.
  11. Rus­sell, B. Mr. Straw­son on Refer­ring, Mind, 1957, vol. 263, no. 66, pp. 385–389.
  12. Straw­son, P.F. On Refer­ring, Mind, 1950, vol. 59, no. 235, pp. 320–344.
  13. Tars­ki, A. 1944. The Seman­tic Con­cep­tion of Truth: and the Foun­da­tions of Seman­tics, Phi­los­o­phy and Phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal Research, 1944, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 341–376.
  14. von Fin­tel, K. Would you believe it? The King of France is Back! (Pre­sup­po­si­tions and Truth-val­ue Intu­itions.), Descrip­tions and Beyond: An Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Col­lec­tion of Essays on Def­i­nite and Indef­i­nite Descrip­tions and Oth­er Relat­ed Phe­nom­e­na / ed. by A. Bezuiden­hout, M. Reimer. Oxford: Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2004, pp. 269–296.

Comments are closed.