PHIL 550 - Topics in Philosophy of Language
Section: 001 Underdetermination
Term: WN 2012
Subject: Philosophy (PHIL)
Department: LSA Philosophy
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

David Lewis writes that

"The reason it's vague where the outback begins is not that there's this thing, the outback, with imprecise borders; rather there are many things, with different borders, and nobody has been fool enough to try to enforce a choice of one of them as the official referent of the word 'outback'."
On this sort of view, vagueness is a sort of underdetermination of semantic content. One might similarly see underdetermination in theories, credence, context, conditionals, causation, persistence, de re attitudes, and so on. Indeed, it's hard to do much philosophy without running into possible cases of underdetermination. As a result it's important to have a good working knowledge of the treatments of possible underdetermination that are available to us, and it's important to be able to assess their costs and benefits in particular applications.

This seminar will introduce students to a wide range of possible cases of underdetermination and to many of the extant relevant treatments. It will thus be especially useful to graduate students who want to master philosophical tools with which they are unfamiliar, and to graduate students who are interested in exploring areas of overlap between subfields. The seminar will also give us the opportunity to consider some interesting higher-level questions:

  1. Should we seek a relatively unified treatment of all cases of possible underdetermination?
  2. If not, how should we decide what treatment to apply to a given case?
  3. Can tools developed to handle possible underdetermination in one case illuminate other cases of possible underdetermination?

Course Requirements:

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Class Format:


PHIL 550 - Topics in Philosophy of Language
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
7Graduate Standing
Th 2:30PM - 5:00PM
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