Academic year
Department of Philosophy
Universitat de Barcelona
Master courses
Module 4. Language and Mind
2011-10-04 - 2011-12-16
Tue. & Fri. 12-13:30
Room 410, Fac. Filosofia, UB



 The aim of this course is to reflect on and discuss the nature of reference, the relation that makes language be about pieces of the world. We will pay special attention to the discussion of the evidence that constitutes the input of the theory of reference for natural languages.


The course is organized in five blocks:


(a) Approaches to reference.

(b) The debate between descriptivism and anti-descriptivism in the theory of reference.

(c) Reference and kind terms

(d) Empirical data and the theory of reference, I: reference and cultural differences.

(e) Empirical data and the theory of reference, II: mental experiments and data about use.


A detailed syllabus will be distributed the first day of classes.




Lectures with time devoted to discussion.



Three exercises (short essays on topics suggested by the instructor) will be due during the course (time for completion: 1 week). The two best grades will amount, jointly, to 40% of the final grade. A final paper, on a topic approved with the instructor, will amount to 60% of the final grade. Information about deadlines will be distributed the first day of classes.




Chiu, L-H. 1972. ‘A cross-cultural comparison of cognitive styles in Chinese and American children.’ International Journal of Psychology, 7: 235-242.


Devitt, Michael. 1981. Designation. New York. Columbia University Press.


Devitt, Michael. 2010. ‘Experimental Semantics.’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.


Devitt, Michael (manuscript, used with permission). ‘Usage vs Intuitions.’


Donnellan, Keith. 1970. ‘Proper Names and Identifying Descriptions’. Synthese, 21: 335-358.


García-Ramírez, Eduardo & Shatz, Marilyn. 2011. ‘On Problems with Descriptivism: Psychological Assumptions and Empirical Evidence.’

Mind & Language, 26: 53-77


Ichikawa, Jonathan; Maitra, Ishani and Weatherson, Brian. 2010. ‘In Defense of a Kripkean Dogma.’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.


Jackson, Frank. 1998. ‘’Reference and Description Revisited.’ Excerpt in D. Byrne & M. Kölbel (eds.). 2010. Arguing About Language. Routledge.


Kripke, Saul. 1970/1980. Naming and Necessity. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press. (selections)


Kroon, Fred. 1987. ‘Causal Descriptivism’.Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 65: 1-18.


Lam, Barry. 2010. ‘Are Cantonese speakers really descriptivists? Revisiting cross-cultural semantics.’ Cognition, 115: 320-329.


Machery, Edouard; Mallon, Ron; Nichols, Shaun and Stich, Stephen. 2004. ‘Semantics, cross-cultural style.’ Cognition, 92: B1-B12.


Machery, Edouard; Olivola, Christopher Y. and De Blanc, Molly. 2009. ‘Linguistic and metalinguisitic intuitions in the philosophy of language.’ Analysis, 69: 689-694.


Marti, Genoveva. 2009. ‘Against semantic multi-culturalism.’ Analysis, 69: 42- 48.


Marti, Genoveva (in press): ‘Empirical Data and the Theory of Reference.’


Nisbett, R. E.; Peng, K.; Choi, I. and Norenzayan A. 2001. ‘Culture and systems of thought: holistic vs. analytic cognition.’ Psychological Review 108: 291-310.


Putnam, Hilary. ‘Meaning and Reference.’ S. Schwartz (ed.): Naming, Necessity and Natural Kinds.


Soames, Scott. 2005. Reference and Description. Princeton U.P. (Selections)


Searle, John. 1958. 'Proper Names', Mind 67: 166-173.


Strawson, P.F. 1950. ‘On Referring.’ Mind, 59: 320-344.