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Unit Overview


This unit is an introduction to the philosophy of language. Language is a fundamental feature of all our lives, and yet in many ways it remains quite mysterious. It focuses on two of the most interesting mysteries about language—what is linguistic meaning, and how do linguistic expressions come to possess it? In considering these questions the unit also considers questions about how meaning depends on context and the relation between the intended meaning of our utterances and their actual meaning. Students also contemplate the importance of the concept of truth in thinking about meaning.

The unit aims to (1) provide students with the intellectual skills and knowledge to theorise about the nature of linguistic meaning in a deep and systematic way; (2) give students the tools necessary to engage with much contemporary philosophy (philosophy of language was seen as fundamental to analytic philosophy for much of the twentieth century and continues to have profound implications for most sub-disciplines); and (3) build on, and complement, two specific units offered by the School of Social Sciences and the School of Humanities (without these units being prerequisites)—LING3005 Semantics: Meaning in Language and PHIL2002 Logic: How to Defeat Your Foes with Reasoning.

6 points
Not available in 2024UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 option in the Philosophy major sequence
  • Level 3 elective

Students are able to (1) demonstrate their familiarity with philosophical problems concerning the semantics of names, natural kind terms and sentences; (2) evaluate theories about the nature of linguistic meaning and the relation between literal meaning and speaker meaning; (3) distinguish semantics from pragmatics and evaluate theories about the dependence of meaning on context; (4) demonstrate a familiarity with the connections between truth and meaning; (5) independently interpret complex philosophical texts; (6) demonstrate an understanding of complex philosophical arguments and positions; (7) evaluate complex philosophical positions and arguments; (8) weigh the virtues and vices of competing philosophical doctrines; (9) construct persuasive arguments concerning difficult philosophical issues; (10) demonstrate advanced written communication and research skills; and (11) reflect on the nature and purpose of philosophy and philosophical argumentation.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) essays; (2) participation; and (3) examination. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Andrew Milne
Unit rules
any Level 2 Philosophy unit
or PPHE2211
PHIL2212 Meaning, Truth and Language
Contact hours
lectures: 2 hours per week
tutorials: 1 hour per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.