Meaning, Possibility and Paradox

Subject PHIL20030 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

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

This subject is not offered in 2014.

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

an average of 8.5 hours each week; total time 102 hours





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:
Non Allowed Subjects:


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:

The idea that the meaning of a sentence depends on the meanings of its parts is fundamental to the way we understand logic, language and the mind. In this subject, we look at the different ways that this idea has been applied in logic 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 so important to much of 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.

Learning Outcomes:

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% (due throughout semester), a 2-hour 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)

Subject readings will be available online.

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
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): Logic, meaning and computation

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