Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Philosophy and Goals

The seminar will be devoted to understanding what we’re up to when we ascribe contents to a person’s assertions and mental attitudes. We seek to make clear the rules of the game for the philosophy of language. We’ll survey classic discussions of the issue by Field, Lewis and Stalnaker. But much of the emphasis of the class will be on getting clear about the limitations of our theoretical tools. I’d like to focus on places where our theorizing runs into trouble, or breaks down altogether.



High level graduate students with sufficient training to participate in sophisticated in-class discussion. A Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy should be adequate preparation to do the course readings.


Course grades will be based on the completion of a final paper. See assignments for more information.

Field, Hartry. Truth and the Absence of Fact. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780199242894.

Lewis, David. Philosophical Papers. Vol. 1. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1983. ISBN: 9780195032048.

———. Papers in Philosophical Logic. Vol. 1. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780521587884.

Buy at MIT Press Stalnaker, Robert. Inquiry. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1987. ISBN: 9780262691130.

———. Context and Content. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780198237075.


1 Introduction
2 Modeling a representation system (I)
3 Modeling a representation system (II)
4 Lewis on radical interpretation
5 The language of thought
6 Grammar for a radical interpreter
7 Localism

Abilities and incoherent belief

Guest lecture: Adam Elga, Princeton University

9 Mathematical truth
10 Believing necessary truths: Mary
11 Representing degrees of belief
12 Hare on self-location
13 Student presentations

Course Info