Phil 247/24.729

Demonstratives, Definites and Reference/Topics in the Philosophy of Language

Spring 2002


Michael Glanzberg and Susanna Siegel

Emerson 310 until Spring Break, MIT E-39-335 starting on April 2nd.

Tuesday 2pm-5pm


Though discussions of reference go back quite far into the history of philosophy, the current debate tends to begin with Saul Kripke's discovery that ordinary proper names are rigid designators, and David Kaplan's argument that demonstratives are  directly referential.  Since, much attention has been paid to the nature of the links that referring expressions have to the things they refer to. Are these links causal? The discussion of these questions tended to take for granted that the expressions at issue were referring expressions. In the case of demonstratives, this assumption did not seem new, as it was reminiscent of Russell's claim in The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1918) that demonstratives are the only logically proper names.

During the period in which causal theories of reference sprouted and debates about their virtues ensued, an older, seemingly more fundamental debate faded into the background. This debate concerned what it is for an expression to play a referring role. Is reference a relation that attaches fundamentally to expressions? Or is it sufficient for an expression to play a referring role that a speaker use it in a certain way? Do referential expressions make a distinctive kind of contribution to the propositions expressed by sentences or utterances in which they occur? If so, what sorts of facts make it the case that the expression makes that contribution? Are these facts about the mental states of speakers have in using it--such as Russellian acquaintance, or something similar? 

Recent work on demonstrative phrases, such as "this pencil" and "that floppy doll" brings these questions back into focus. The standard view among philosophers has been that demonstrative phrases, like 'bare' demonstratives "this" and "that, are paradigms of referring expressions. Jeffrey King and others have recently argued that this is mistaken: demonstrative phrases, they say, function as quantified expressions rather than referring ones, where these categories--referring expressions on the one hand, and quantified expressions on the other--are taken to be exclusive. These arguments, as well as discussions of the referential/attributive distinction in uses of definite descriptions and indexicals, presuppositions of demonstratives, and related topics, are natural starting points from which to consider what (if any) are the distinctive features of reference. This will be the topic of our seminar.

Schedule of Topics and Readings (somewhat tentative)

All readings are or will be on reserve in Robbins library at Harvard and a file at MIT.

Some of the recommended texts are background reading that will not be explicitly discussed.

Feb  5 - Introduction

P. F. Strawson "Identifying Reference and Truth-Values" in Logico-Linguistic Papers, 1971, Methuen

Recommended: P. F. Strawson, "On Referring" in Logico-Linguistic Papers

Feb 12 Referential/Attributive

K. Donnellan "Reference and Definite Descriptions" in S. Davis, ed., Pragmatics: A Reader, OUP 1991.

M. Reimer, "Donnellan's Distinction/Kripke's Test" in Analysis 58.2, April1998

K. Bach, ch. 6, Thought and Reference, "The Referential/Attributive Distinction" OUP 1987

Recommended: S. Kripke, "Speaker Reference and Semantic Reference" in S. Davis, Pragmatics


Feb. 19 No seminar meeting

Feb 26 Demonstratives

D. Kaplan, "Dthat" and "Thoughts on Demonstratives", both P. Yourgrau, ed., Demonstratives, OUP1990

Recommended:  "Demonstratives" in Themes from Kaplan, ed. H. Wettstein, J. Almog and J. Perry, OUP, 1989

Mar 5 Complex Demos-Two referential views

D. Braun "Structured Character and Complex Demonstratives", Philosophical Studies74, 1994

M. Richard "Articulated terms", Philosophical Perspectives, 7, 1993

Mar 12 Complex Demos-A quantificational view

J. King Complex Demonstratives: A Quantificational View, MIT Press, 2000, Chapters 1 and 2

Mar 19 'That'-phrases and bare demonstratives: a single semantic category?

J. King Complex Demonstratives, Chapter. 5

E. Borg, "Complex Demonstratives" Philosophical Studies 97, 2000

Spring Break

Apr 2 Complex Demonstratives-A mixed view

E. Lepore & K. Ludwig, "On the Semantics and Pragmatics of Complex

Demonstratives", Mind

Apr 9 Presupposition 1: Descriptions and uniqueness

Z. Gendler-Szabo, "Descriptions and Uniqueness", Philosophical Studies

Recommended: B. Abbott: "Definiteness and Indefiniteness", to appear in L. Horn and G. Ward, eds., Handbook of Pragmatics, OUP

Apr 16 Presupposition 2: Discourse referents   (Vacation day at MIT)

L .Kartunnen, "Discourse Referents" in J. D. McCawley (ed), Notes From the

Linguistic Underground, Syntax and Semantics 7, Academic Press, New York, 1976

Recommended: I. Heim, The Semantics of Definite and Indefinite Noun Phrases, Garland, 1988

Apr 23 Demonstrative presuppositions

C. Roberts, "Demonstratives as Definites", to appear in K. van Deemter and R. Kibble, eds., Information Sharing, CSLI Press

Apr 30 [Slack]

May 7 [Slack]

Course Requirements:

One term paper

One presentation on a topic to be decided in consultation with one or both of the