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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 2Online Scheduled


PHIL100 Philosophy: the Big Questions or PHIL102 Theories of Human Nature or PHIL104 Introduction to Ethics or PHIL107 Philosophy of World Religions or PHCC102 Being Human or PHCC104 Ethics and the Good Life

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Over the last century, problems concerning the connections between and among thinking, concepts, language, meaning, truth and reality have loomed large in philosophical concerns and debates. This unit focuses on a variety of issues and schools of thought in the philosophy of language, and considers the importance of the "linguistic turn" for a range of traditional philosophical questions. In exploring important debates and theories in this field, students are required to develop reasoned positions of their own. In this way, the unit aims both to facilitate students' understanding of key debates and theories in the philosophy of language, as well as to enhance their skills in critical analysis.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Identify and accurately explain some of the central problems and important theories in the philosophy of languageGC1
LO2Critically analyse selected debates in the philosophy of language, and develop coherent and consistent positions in relation to themGC7, GC8
LO3Demonstrate appropriate skills in philosophical research, and clear use of English expressionGC7, GC8, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12


Topics will include:

  • key concepts in philosophical syntax, semantics and pragmatics;
  • debates concerning the relationship between language, meaning, truth and reality involving positions such as realism, relativism and functionalism; 
  • the relations between words, concepts, judgements, thought and language; 
  • problems in semantics such as identity statements, ascriptions of belief, modal contexts, truth ascriptions, criteria for meaningful sentences;
  • major theories in semantics such as referentialism, intention-based, causalism, behaviourist, meaning as function of use, inferentialism;
  • problems in pragmatics such as types of linguistic action, meaning context and interpretation, speaker meaning and conventional meaning;

Other topics in the philosophy of language, such as the following, may also be included:

  • the nature of religious language; 
  • metaphor and analogical predication; 
  • meaning, truth, truth conditions and truth makers; 
  • textual hermeneutics; 
  • deconstruction.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The 150 hours includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. The unit has been designed as a blend of project learning along with direct instruction within a collaborative context. The direct instruction ensures that students develop a grounding in understanding basic problems, concepts and arguments in the philosophy of language (LO1). The project learning enables the students to apply those concepts and theories critically and reflectively to problems in the field, and this feeds into the achievement of the other aim of the unit concerning the development of philosophical skills of analysis, interpretation and argumentation (LO2-3). The collaborative context of the unit is focused especially on the weekly tutorial, during which the emphasis is on small group discussion of the weekly readings. Students engage in class discussions, provide written critiques of significant theories, and present their reasoned position on matters at issue, after being introduced to them through readings and lectures.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit has been designed to examine students’ understanding of the philosophical issues and theories under consideration, as well as their ability to critically analyse those issues and theories. It does so through a series of three graduated assessment tasks. The first two tasks prepare students for the third and principal task of writing an extended research essay. The two structured written tasks require students to demonstrate an understanding of the key concepts and theories, and increasingly to examine their capacity to engage critically with some key texts in the field. The research essay examines students’ capacity to research an area of the unit in further detail, and to develop and defend a coherent position of their own in a formally structured argumentative essay. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Structured written task 1

Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts and analyse key texts in the philosophy of mind



Structured written task 2

Requires students to critically analyse some key texts in the philosophy of mind


LO1, LO2

Research Essay

Requires students to further research and analyse an important issue in philosophy of mind and argue for a coherent position in relation to it. 


LO1, LO2, LO3

Representative texts and references

Austin, J.L. (1975). How To Do Things With Words. 2nd edition. London: Oxford University Press. 

Brandom, R. (2001). Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. 

Davidson, D. (2001). Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Dummett, M. (1996). The Seas of Language. Oxford: Clarendon. 

Finn, F. (2005). Meaning, Use and Truth: Introducing the Philosophy of Language. Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate.

Gadamer, H. (2014) Philosophical Hermeneutics. 30th anniversary ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.  

Lee, B. (ed). (2011). Philosophy of Language. London: Continuum.

Lepore, E. and Smith, B. (eds). (2008). The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Soames, S. (2012). Philosophy of Language. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

Wittgenstein, L. (2009). Philosophical Investigations. (P. Hacker and J. Schulte, trans). 4th ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. 

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