Meaning, Possibility and Paradox

Subject PHIL20030 (2013)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2013.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2013.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 3 (2x 1 hour lectures each week and 1x 1 hour tutorial in weeks 2-12)
Total Time Commitment:

an average of 8.5 hours each week.





Recommended Background Knowledge:

Either 12.5 points of philosophy at any level, 12.5 points of linguistics at any level or UNIB10002.

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Not offered in 2013
Non Allowed Subjects:

Students who have completed 161-212 or 672-354 (Logic for Philosophers or Logic and Philosophy: Non Classical Logics) are not permitted to enrol in this subject.

Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:

Subject Overview:

In this subject, we will study possible worlds semantics and the uses to which it is put in accounts of meaning, truth, possibility and necessity, the notion of a law, conditionality and dependence, and we will critically evaluate the assumptions behind this general approach to meaning. In the second part of the course, we will examine more closely the assumption that every claim we make of the world is either true or false and not both, by a close examination of two paradoxes in reasoning, the sorites paradox concerning vague concepts, and the liar paradox threatening the coherence of the notions of truth and of meaning. This is an introduction to theories of meaning, of possibility and paradox, central issues in language and logic, metaphysics and epistemology. The core idea is that the meaning of an expression does not just depend on how things are, but also on how things could be and how things must be. Two concepts can be distinguished if the something could satisfy one without satisfying the other, even if they happen to coincide in every actual case.

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Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • Understand the broad sweep of theories of meaning, and their connection to logic
  • Gain skills in classical and non-classical formal logics and their applications in issues of meaning and metaphysics
  • Critically reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of particular formal approaches to modelling meaning

Tutorial exercises 50% throughout semester. 2 hr written examination (not open book) 50% (held during the end of semester examination period).

Hurdle Requirements: This subject has a minimum hurdle requirement of 75% tutorial attendance. Regular participation in tutorials is required. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. After 5 working days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

Graham Priest: An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic (Cambridge University Press). and online to be made available at the start of semester.

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete this subject will have:

  • Critical, creative thinking.
  • Persuasive and balanced assessment.
  • Facility with different techniques and styles of reasoning.
  • Analysis and clarification of unclear concepts.
  • Simplicity and precision in written and oral presentations.
  • Rigorous reasoning about fundamental issues.
  • Appreciation of the strengths and limitations of different types of representation.
  • Skill in using formal and mathematical tools to clarify and resolve non-numerical questions.
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History and Philosophy of Science Major
Philosophy Major
Science credit subjects* for pre-2008 BSc, BASc and combined degree science courses
Related Breadth Track(s): Language, Mind &&& Logic
Logic, meaning and computation

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