Philosophical Logic

Course description

This lecture course will introduce several key concepts in the philosophy of language and logic. It will cover the syllabus materials on Philosophical Logic (Section B of the paper in Logic). Feel free to contact me at if you have any suggestions, questions, or comments about this course.

General reading

An interesting and readable introductory textbook is: Sybil Wolfram (1989), Philosophical Logic: An Introduction, Oxford: Routledge.

Online resources

Outlines and handouts will be made available on:

Where and when

Wednesday 2-3pm. Lecture Block Room 4

Lecture 1: Necessity, Analyticity, and the A Priori

What explains the necessity of some truths? This lecture discusses the notion of a necessary truth, and related notions of analytic statements and a priori knowledge. (slides)

Suggested Reading
  • A. J. Ayer (1946), Language, Truth and Logic (2nd ed.), London: Gollancz, ch. 4.

Lecture 2: Reference, Description, and Rigid Designation

Can empirical truths be necessary? This lecture introduces Kripke’s notion of a ‘rigid designator’, and considers the possibility of necessary but a posteriori truths. (slides)

For the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Joseph LaPorte wrote a good and detailed discussion of rigid designators. As is usual with the SEP, the entry contains clear introductions of the main ideas, followed by increasingly advanced material. I don’t expect you to be able to follow all of it (yet), but I can recommend reading at least the introduction (§1) and section (§3):


Which of these are coherent options? Can you give examples?

  • Analytic: Necessary: A posteriori
  • Analytic: Necessary: A priori
  • Analytic: Contingent: A posteriori
  • Analytic: Contingent: A priori
  • Synthetic: Necessary: A posteriori
  • Synthetic: Necessary: A priori
  • Synthetic: Contingent: A posteriori
  • Synthetic: Contingent: A priori
Suggested Reading
  • Saul A. Kripke (1971), ‘Identity and Necessity,’ in M.K. Munitz (ed.), Identity and Individuation. New York: New York University Press. 135-164. PDF

Lecture 3: What Could ‘Meaning’ Mean?

Where does meaning come from? This lecture discusses the relation between the meaning of a communicative utterance and the thoughts of its utterer. (slides)

Suggested Reading
  • H. P. Grice (1957), ‘Meaning,’ The Philosophical Review (66:3), pp. 377-388.
  • H. P. Grice (1957), ‘Logic and Conversation’ in Peter Cole and Jerry L. Morgan (eds.) Syntax and Semantics, Vol. 3, Speech Acts, New York: Academic Press 1975 (Also in Grice’s Studies in the Ways of Words)
  • John Searle (19..), ‘What is a speech act?’ in Max Black (ed.), Philosophy in America, London: Allen and Unwin, 1965, pp. 221—239.

Lecture 4: Natural Language

Can there be linguistic meaning without thought? This lecture considers whether linguistic, communicative meaning can emerge independent of thought. (slides)

Suggested Reading

Lecture 5: Formal Translations

Can you formalise everyday conversations? This lecture discusses the similarities and differences between natural and formal languages. (slides)

Suggested Reading

Mark Sainsbury (2001), ‘The Project of Formalization,’ (ch. 6) in Logical Forms: An Introduction to Philosophical Logic, Oxford: Blackwell, 339-391.

Lecture 6: Conditionals

What is the relation between truth-functional operators and their everyday counterparts? This lecture discusses attempts to offer a formal definition of ordinary ‘if…, then…’ locutions.


Suggested Reading

Lecture 7: Deeper into ‘the’

How do descriptions work? This lecture introduces philosophical discussion about definite descriptions.

Suggested Reading
  • Bertrand Russell (1905), ‘On Denoting’ Mind (14), 479-93.

Lecture 8: Quantification and Existence

Can assertions using definite descriptions refer while being false? This lecture considers the significance of referential and substitutional readings of the quantifiers.

Suggested Reading