A name is no hidden description,
It's meaningless, needs no decryption.
And a fictional name
Names a thing just the same:
It's not just an empty inscription.

(limerick by Sam Rickless)
Amendment made after reading Reference and Existence:
replace last line with
'Except when it doesn't: conniption!'

Philosophy 285: Seminar on Special Topics

Where: Philosophy seminar room (H&SS 7077)
When: Wednesdays 1-3:50, Spring 2015


Sam Rickless
office: (858) 822 4910
Office hours: MF 11:00-12:00, in H&SS 8009

Jonathan Cohen
'joncohen' followed by the at sign, followed by 'aardvark.ucsd.edu'
office: (858) 534 6812
Office hours: Tuesdays 10-11:30, in H&SS 8072 (and by appointment; please feel free to call/email)


This seminar will focus on two recently published and long-awaited books by Saul Kripke: Reference and Existence and Philosophical Troubles. The seminar will be an opportunity for us all to think through these newly released works, which are sure to become extremely influential and widely-discussed.

The first of the two books, Reference and Existence, consists of Kripke's 1973 Locke Lectures, offered as a sequel to Naming and Necessity. Here Kripke elaborates on the field-shaping views of that earlier work, and extends them to a number of issues left open there. Among other things, he takes up questions about the semantics of fictional names ('Hamlet') and kind terms ('sneetch'), negative existential statements ('there is no Pegasus'), and the ontology of fiction.

Philosophical Troubles: Collected Papers (volume 1) is, as its name (needless to say, in fact at least partially a description) suggests, a more miscellaneous collection Kripke's papers on a wide range of topics. It includes some well-known and much-discussed classics (e.g., "Speaker's Reference and Semantic Reference," "A Puzzle About Belief," "Outline of a Theory of Truth"), as well as newly published papers on (e.g.,) the surprise examination paradox, Frege's theory of sense and reference, the first person way of thinking, quantifiers, presuppositions, and many other things.

If the new books exert even 1% of the influence that Naming and Necessity did, they will be field-defining must-reads for philosophers in virtually every subfield.

Students may count this course as satisfying the department's core course requirement in either philosophy of language or metaphysics (but not both), and may count it toward the department's distribution requirements in either (but not both) of philosophy of mind and language or metaphysics and epistemology.


We've ordered both books from the UCSD bookstore; they are also widely available elsewhere (probably for less). There will also be supplementary readings that we will make available electronically.


The seminar requirements are of three main kinds: presentations, short weekly papers, and longer seminar papers.

Presentation: All attendees (including auditors) will be required to lead a seminar discussion (or maybe more than one, depending on our numbers). A presentation should be a critical discussion rather than a summary or book report (the presenter can assume that other participants have done the reading, and the other participants will make it the case that that assumption is correct), and should contain a thesis and arguments for that thesis. It can concern any topic connected with the week's reading that is of interest to the presenter. You must discuss your presentation with one of us sometime before the session in which you present, just to make sure we're on the same page. Seminar presentations may be given using handouts or slides, but they may not be read aloud from a pre-written paper. Also, students are not permitted to present on material about which they have previously written papers for other courses (at UCSD or elsewhere).


Students taking the course for credit will be asked to write four short weekly papers and a final seminar paper for the course.

Short weekly papers: The short weekly papers can be written on any issue in the week's reading that you find interesting and worthy of reflection. You can raise an objection, extend an argument, consider a related case, etc. These papers should be a maximum of two pages long; as such, the intent is not that they should be earth-shattering, publishable, completely footnoted, connected with wider literature, anticipating and responding to objections, and so on. Instead, they are intended to ensure that you are thinking actively about the material you are reading, and responding to it philosophically. You'll need to hand in four of these during the quarter to receive credit for the seminar, but it's entirely up to you in which of the weeks (/on which of the readings) to write.

Longer seminar papers: Students will additionally be required to write a traditional (circa 15 page) term paper at the end of the quarter on some issue raised during the quarter. We'll ask for short prospectuses on final papers by the 7th week of the quarter. Eek -- that's very soon; so you'll need to start thinking about your choice of topic as soon as possible.


We will determine your grade based on the following breakdown:
15% seminar presentations and participation (very much including weeks in which you are not leading the course)
20% short papers
65% final paper

Tentative Schedule

Note that we will jump right into discussion in the first meeting on 1 April, so participants should read Naming and Necessity before the first meeting.

1 AprilNaming and Necessity Naming and Necessity, lectures I-II Jonathan
8 AprilNaming and Necessity, cont.
sign up for presentations
Naming and Necessity, lectures II-III Sam
15 AprilReference and Existence Reference and Existence, lectures I-II Kalthleen
22 April Reference and Existence Reference and Existence, lectures III-IV Jonathan K.
29 AprilReference and Existence Reference and Existence, lectures V-VI Travis
6 MayPhilosophical Troubles "Russell's Notion of Scope"; Russell, "On Denoting"; Strawson, "On Referring" Brian
13 MayPhilosophical Troubles "The First Person"; Frege, "The Thought"; Perry, "Frege on Demonstratives"; Kaplan, "Demonstratives" J. P.
20 MayPhilosophical Troubles "A Puzzle About Belief" Matt
27 MayPhilosophical Troubles "Outline of a theory of truth" Sebastian
3 JunePhilosophical Troubles two papers selected according to student interests ?