What is this thing called Philosophy of Language? (Paperback) book cover

What is this thing called Philosophy of Language?

By Gary Kemp

© 2013 – Routledge

194 pages

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Paperback: 9780415517843
pub: 2013-02-28
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pub: 2013-02-28
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Philosophy of language explores some of the fundamental yet most technical problems in philosophy, such as meaning and reference, semantics, and propositional attitudes. Some of its greatest exponents, including Gottlob Frege, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell are amongst the major figures in the history of philosophy.

In this clear and carefully structured introduction to the subject Gary Kemp explains the following key topics:

  • the basic nature of philosophy of language and its historical development
  • early arguments concerning the role of meaning, including cognitive meaning vs expressivism, context and compositionality
  • Frege’s arguments concerning sense and reference; non-existent objects
  • Russell and the theory of definite descriptions
  • modern theories including Kripke and Putnam; arguments concerning necessity, analyticity and natural kind terms
  • indexicality, context and modality. What are indexicals?
  • Davidson’s theory of language and the ‘principle of charity’
  • propositional attitudes
  • Quine’s naturalism and its consequences for philosophy of language.

Chapter summaries, annotated further reading and a glossary make this an indispensable introduction to those teaching philosophy of language and will be particularly useful for students coming to the subject for the first time.


'To my mind this is the best introductory textbook for undergraduates looking to get a feel for the subject, without getting bogged down in advanced technical details. Gary Kemp covers all the traditional topics in the field and presents them in an accessible, engaging, and always rigorous style. Appended to each chapter are useful historical notes, a summary, a few questions, and some bibliographical recommendations for further research - a complete set of study aids that ought to be welcomed by students and teachers alike.' - Stefano Predelli, University of Nottingham, UK

'An easy, step by step journey through the classic themes of twentieth-century philosophy of language.' - François Recanati, Institut Jean Nicod, France

'Kemp has written a genuine introduction to the philosophy of language with beginning students in mind. Focusing on the issue of the meaning of natural language, he begins with a naive and, for students, very natural view of linguistic meaning. He then motivates and explains the distinctions, problems, solutions and development of the philosophy of language with the patience and understanding of a master teacher.' - Michael Losonsky, Colorado State University, USA

Table of Contents

Preface Introduction 1. Naive Semantics 2. Fregean Semantics 3. Russellian Semantics 4. Kripke and Putnam on Naming, Necessity and Essence 5. Possible Worlds Semantics, Context and Indexicality 6. Pragmatics 7. The Propositional Attitudes 8. Davidson’s Philosophy of Language 9. Quine’s Philosophy of Language 10. Wittgenstein’s Alternative. Glossary Bibliography Index

About the Author

Gary Kemp is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, UK.

About the Series

What is this thing called?

The Routledge Philosophy What is this thing called? series of concise textbooks have been designed for use by students coming to a core area of the discipline for the first time. Each volume explores the relevant central questions with clear explanation of complex ideas and engaging contemporary examples. Features to aid study include text boxes, chapter summaries, study questions, further reading and glossaries.

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