Keith Douglas' Web Page

About me Find out who I am and what I do.
My resumé A copy of my resumé and other documentation about my education and work experience for employers and the curious.
Reviews, theses, articles, presentations A collection of papers from my work, categorized and annotated.
Current research projects What I am currently working on, including some non-research material.
Interesting people People professionally "connected" to me in some way.
Interesting organizations Organizations I am "connected" to. (Some rather loosely.)
Intellectual/professional influences Influences on my work, including an organization chart. Here you can also buy many good books on philosophy and other subjects via amazon.com. I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, amazon.com associates programs, etc.
What is the philosophy of computing? A brief introduction to my primary professional interest.
My intellectual heroes A partial list of important people. Limited to the dead.
My educational philosophy As a sometime teacher I've developed one. Includes book resources.

Book Influences - Philosophy of Language

Title
Author
Purchase / Enjoy Cover
Comment
A Companion to the Philosophy of Language Hale and Wright (eds.)

The Blackwell Companions are like a pretty good absolutely huge philosophy encyclopedia you can fortunately buy in parts. This volume is 25 decent review-style papers on various topics within the subfield. I have one substantial criticism.

Like many such papers, I am dismayed to see that more in this volume did not make contact with the linguistics literature. For example, I seem to remember a classmate correctly reminding us when I was an undergraduate at McGill, it seems suspect to draw a metaphysically important distinction between mass and count nouns because which fall into which category is language-dependent. In other words, some sociolinguistics would have been useful.

Diversity of Meaning Cohen A lot of the points in this work seem banal and unexciting to me, but that might be because the book is fairly old.
Convention Lewis While the book has spinoffs in epistemology and political philosophy the primary goal of this slim volume is in philosophy of language: to give an account of analyticity. Since I am not convinced that such a notion is useful (though for nothing like Quinian reasons) I find it hard to evaluate the success of the work on its own terms. However, in terms of presenting novel approaches and what one might call intrinsic merit, Convention can indeed be evaluated. Here, provided you grant the (extremely) fuzzy notion of a "possible world", the rest falls reasonably into place.
Language and Mind (3e) Chomsky 6 papers of Chomsky's from the 60s; 1 from 2004. These respond to his critics, outline his theories of language acquisition and use and richly describe the intellectual tradition he is working within. I am sympathetic to the rationalist character of many of the hypotheses, but I am not sure that the idea that language (and related faculties) "grow" is anything more than a metaphor. After all, Chomsky's analogy is to processes like vision or limb growth, which also require input from the outside. I think what this might illustrate is that rationalism and empiricism is a false dicotomy. Also, a much more clever and careful investigation of nonhuman "languages" is still overdue.
Meaning and Reference Kazmi (ed.) Collection of papers; a Can. J. Phil. supplement.
Relative Truth García-Carpintero and Max Kölbel (eds.) 14 papers on relational notions of truth, none of which (at least at first glance) seem subjectivistic in the bad sense. All discussions are basically semantic in character with little attempt to go beyond into metaphysics and epistemology. Crispin Wright's contribution to the volume does indicate that this might be a problem, but does not adequately delve into the question. This might be because the papers are of necessity short. I would also raise a small warning about the copy editing: there seems to be a missing paper from Bogossian. Finally on the critical side, the papers are difficult (particularly for me who approaches these questions from metaphysics and has little philosophy of language background) and seem, while citing each other and many common works, to not exactly be all on the same theme. Nevertheless, this topic is fascinating and deserves the attention this volume gives it.

 

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