Philosophy of Language  book cover
3rd Edition

Philosophy of Language

ISBN 9780415718974
Published January 24, 2018 by Routledge
466 Pages

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Book Description

Philosophy of Language provides a comprehensive, meticulous survey of twentieth-century and contemporary philosophical theories of meaning. Interweaving the historical development of the subject with a thematic overview of the different approaches to meaning, the book provides students with the tools necessary to understand contemporary analytic philosophy. Beginning with a systematic look at Frege’s foundational theories on sense and reference, Alexander Miller goes on to offer a clear exposition of the development of subsequent arguments in the philosophy of language. Communicating a sense of active philosophical debate, the author confronts the views of the early theorists, taking in Frege, Russell, and logical positivism and going on to discuss the scepticism of Quine, Kripke, and Wittgenstein. The work of philosophers such as Davidson, Dummett, Searle, Fodor, McGinn, Wright, Grice, and Tarski is also examined in depth.

The third edition has been fully revised for enhanced clarity and includes:

· a short introduction for students, outlining the importance of the philosophy of language and the aims of the book;
· two substantial new sections on Philip Pettit’s "ethocentric" account of rule-following and on Hannah Ginsborg’s "partial reductionism" about rule-following and meaning;
· the addition of chapter summaries and study questions throughout, designed to promote greater understanding and engagement;
· updated guides to further reading at the end of every chapter.

This well-established and sophisticated introduction to the philosophy of language is an unrivalled guide to one of the liveliest and most challenging areas of philosophy and is suitable for use on undergraduate degrees and in postgraduate study.

Table of Contents

Preface to the first edition

Preface to second edition

Preface to the third edition

Acknowledgements, first edition

Acknowledgements, second edition

Acknowledgements, third edition


1 Frege: Semantic value and reference

1.1 Frege’s logical language

1.2 Syntax

1.3 Semantics and truth

1.4 Sentences and proper names

1.5 Function and object

1.6 Predicates, connectives and quantifiers

1.7 A semantic theory for a simple language

Chapter summary

Study questions

Further Reading

2 Frege and Russell: Sense and definite descriptions

2.1 The introduction of sense

2.2 The nature of sense

2.3 The objectivity of sense: Frege’s critique of Locke

2.4 Four problems with Frege’s notion of sense

2.5 Kripke on naming and necessity

2.6 A theory of sense?

2.7 Force and tone

2.8 Russell on names and descriptions

2.9 Scope distinctions 

2.10 Russell’s attack on sense

2.11 Russell on communication

2.12 Strawson and Donnellan on referring and definite descriptions

2.13 Kripke’s causal-historical theory of reference

2.14 Appendix: Frege’s theses on sense and semantic value

Chapter summary

Study questions

Further reading

3 Sense and verificationism: Logical positivism

3.1 From the Tractatus to the verification principle

3.2 The formulation of the verification principle

3.3 Foster on the nature of the verification principle

3.4 The a priori and the linguistic theory of necessity

3.5 Carnap on internal and external questions

3.6 Logical positivism and ethical language

3.7 Moderate holism

Chapter summary

Study questions

Further reading

4 Scepticism about sense (I): Quine on analyticity and translation

4.1 Quine’s attack on the analytic-synthetic distinction: Introduction 

4.2 The argument of "Two Dogmas" (part I)

4.3 Criticism of "Two Dogmas" (part I)

4.4 The argument of "Two Dogmas" (part II)

4.5 Criticism of "Two Dogmas" (part II)

4.6 Quine on the indeterminacy of translation: Introduction

4.7 The argument from below

4.8 Evans and Hookway on the argument from below

4.9 The argument from above

4.10 Conclusion

Chapter summary

Study questions

Further Reading

5 Scepticism about sense (II):Kripke’s Wittgenstein and the skeptical paradox

5.1 The sceptical paradox

5.2 The sceptical solution and the argument against solitary language

5.3 Boghossian’s argument against the sceptical solution

5.4 Wright’s objections to the sceptical solution

5.5 Zalabardo’s objection to the sceptical solution

5.6 The normativity of meaning?

5.7 "Factualist" interpretations of Kripke’s Wittgenstein

Chapter summary

Study questions

Further reading

6 Saving sense: Responses to the sceptical paradox

6.1 Linguistic meaning and mental content

6.2 Sophisticated dispositionalism

6.3 Lewis-style reductionism and ultra-sophisticated dispositionalism

6.4 Fodor's "asymmetric dependency" account of meaning

6.5 McGinn on normativity and the ability conception of understanding

6.6 Wright’s judgement-dependent conception of meaning

6.7 Pettit’s "ethocentric" account

6.8 Wittgenstein’s dissolution of the sceptical paradox?

6.9 Ginsborg’s "partial reductionism"

Chapter summary

Study questions

Further Reading

7 Sense, intention and speech acts: Grice’s programme

7.1 Homeric struggles: Two approaches to sense

7.2 Grice on speaker’s-meaning and sentence-meaning

7.3 Searle’s modifications: Illocutionary and perlocutionary intentions

7.4 Objections to Gricean analyses

7.5 Response to Blackburn

7.6 Strawson on referring revisited

Chapter summary

Study questions

Further Reading


8 Sense and Truth: Tarski and Davidson

8.1 Davidson and Frege

8.2 Davidson’s adequacy conditions for theories of meaning

8.3 Intensional and extensional theories of meaning

8.4 Extensional adequacy and Tarski’s Convention (T)

8.5 Tarskian truth-theories

8.6 Truth and translation: Two problems for Davidson

8.7 Radical interpretation and the principle of charity

8.8 Holism and T-theorems

8.9 Conclusion: Theories of meaning and natural language

Chapter summary

Study questions

Further Reading

9 Sense, world and metaphysics

9.1 Realism

9.2 Non-cognitivism and the Frege-Geach problem

9.3 Realism and verification-transcendent truth

9.4 Acquisition, manifestation and rule-following: the arguments against verification-transcendent truth

9.5 Twin-Earth, meaning, mind, and world

9.6 Grades of objectivity: Wright on anti-realism

9.7 Two threats of quietism

Chapter summary

Study questions

Further reading



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Alexander Miller is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He is author of Contemporary Metaethics: An Introduction (Polity Press, second edition, 2013), co-editor of Rule-Following and Meaning (Acumen, 2002) and co-editor of A Companion to the Philosophy of Language (second edition, Wiley-Blackwell, 2017).


"This book has been on my reading list for philosophy of language since the first edition; I’m delighted to see this new edition, with additions, such as study questions, and updated suggestions for further reading that will enhance its value for students."

Michael Beaney, Humboldt University, Germany, and King’s College London, UK

"The third edition of Philosophy of Language provides an exceptionally lucid and accessible overview of both the history of the subject and contemporary debates. Miller covers the topics that are likely to appear on any undergraduate syllabus but he does so with a refreshing twist, emphasising the meta-semantic question, 'what constitutes meaning?’. Miller delves into fundamental questions concerning the connections between language, mind and reality, and conveys the centrality of the study of language to philosophy. The book will be an invaluable resource for introducing undergraduates to the subject." 

Anandi Hattiangadi, Stockholm University, Sweden