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Meaning, Possibility and Paradox (PHIL20030)

Undergraduate level 2Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2017
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 2
Subject codePHIL20030
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Meaning is central to many issues in philosophy. The idea that the meaning of complex representation depends on the meanings of its parts is fundamental to the way we understand the mind, language, and logic. In this subject, we look at the different ways that this idea has been understood and applied throughout the 20th Century and into the present day.

In the first part of the subject, our focus is on the concepts of necessity and possibility, and the way that ‘possible worlds semantics’ has been used in theories of meaning. We will focus on the logic of necessity and possibility (modal logic), times (temporal logic), conditionality and dependence (counterfactuals), and the notions of analyticity and a priority, which are central to much philosophy.

In the second part of the subject, we will examine closely the assumption that every statement we make is either true or false but not both. We will examine the paradoxes of truth (like the so-called ‘liar paradox’) and vagueness (the ‘sorites paradox’), and we will investigate different ways attempts at resolving these paradoxes by going beyond our traditional views of truth (using ‘many valued logics’) or by defending the traditional perspective.

The subject serves as an introduction to ways that logic is applied in the study of language, epistemology and metaphysics, so it is useful to those who already know some philosophy and would like to see how logic relates to those issues. It is also useful to those who already know some logic and would like to learn new logical techniques and see how these techniques can be applied.

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • develop and demonstrate an understanding of the core features of modal logic, including systems of proofs and models, and the distinctive formal features of different systems of modal logic and non-classical logics;
  • demonstrate an ability to clearly state and prove results in and about modal and non-classical logics;
  • critically evaluate ways that modal and non-classical logics are applied to issues in the philosophy of language, metaphysics and epistemology;
  • critically reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of different formal approaches to modelling meaning;
  • work individually, and in groups, to clarify problems, apply reasoning techniques to different issues, and to critically evaluate the results.

Last updated: 16 August 2017