cod. 1005314

Academic year 2012/13
1° year of course - Second semester
Academic discipline
Filosofia e teoria dei linguaggi (M-FIL/05)
Istituzioni di filosofia
Type of training activity
30 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
course unit

Integrated course unit module: PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE

Learning objectives

Students will acquire a good command of an interesting problem, looming large in contemporary philosophy of language and metaphysics. They will learn how to examine and assess philosophical arguments.

The course will mainly be run as an ongoing seminar, in which students are expected to present and discuss some work among those selected by the instructor. This ought to improve on their ability to state their own views and defend them with good arguments. Learning abilities and a general capacity to analyse fairly complex written texts will also be enhanced.

This is clearly related to all the so-called Dublin descriptors.


The course is meant to address students with some elementary knowledge of contemporary philosophy of language and, in particular, of the literature on direct reference. Normally, such knowledge can be acquired in a three years undergraduate course in philosophy.

Course unit content

The topic of this course is translation. It is no easy matter to say what translation is. It is not even clear that the notion is amenable to any rigorous treatment, in the sense that necessary and sufficient conditions can be stated for a sentence in some language to amount to a translation of another sentence into a different language. Even though the notion of translation is obscure, it looms large in the philosophy of language. G.Frege, A.Tarski, W.Quine, D.Davidson, A.Church, M.Dummett, T.Burge, D.Kaplan, and S.Kripke, have drawn important consequences pertaining to formal semantics from what they intuitively take translation to be. The course will focus on some intuitive principles that govern translation of proper names.

Full programme

This course is one half of the integrated course “Mind and Language”, coordinated by professor Andrea Bianchi. The vote got in this course contributes 50% of the final vote of the integrated course.


Reference will be made to the following works, among others:

- Church Alonzo, 1950, “On Carnap’s Analysis of Statements of Assertion and Belief”, Analysis
- Frege Gottlob, 1956, “The Thought”, Mind edition,
- Kaplan, David, 1990, “Words”, The Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume LXIV,
- Kripke Saul, 1979, “A Puzzle about Belief”, in A.Margalit (ed.), Meaning and Use, 239-83, Dordrecht, D.Reidel,
- Quine Willard, 1960, Word and Object, MIT Press,

During the course, which will mainly be run as an ongoing seminar, other works might become relevant.

Teaching methods

The instructor will give lectures only at the earliest stages of the course. Later on, the course will mainly take the form of an ongoing seminar. Students will be asked to read, and present to the class, short articles selected by the instructor.

In the end part of the course, students will choose a topic for a short essay, of the length of approximately ten pages. Choice of the topic must be approved of by the instructor. The essay will consist in giving arguments for a clearly stated claim.

Assessment methods and criteria

At the end of the course, students must write an essay, approximately of ten typewritten pages, probing a particular issue related to the general problem of the nature of artefacts. In the essay, students will defend some claim of their own choice, possibly with convincing arguments but, in any case, with the greatest clarity. There is no oral exam.

Other information

Students of the Universities of Modena and Ferrara will be able to attend the course online, using the software provided by their university. They will be able to take active part in the discussion in real time.