Meaning, Possibility and Paradox

Subject PHIL20030 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 27-Jul-2015 to 25-Oct-2015
Assessment Period End 20-Nov-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 07-Aug-2015
Census Date 31-Aug-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 25-Sep-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 1 x 2-hour seminar and workshop each week and 1.5 hours of video lectures for preparation for each semester
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
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: None
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:


Prof Greg Restall


Professor Greg Restall

Subject Overview:

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.

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 indivually, and in groups, to clarify problmes, apply reasoning techniques to different issues, and to critically evaluate the results.

Four tutorial exercises with short answer questions, 50% (due throughout semester), a 2 hour written examination (not open book), 50% (in examination period).

Hurdle Requirement: students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. After five 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
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History and Philosophy of Science
Philosophy Major

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