Academic year
2021/2022 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
FT0082 (AF:360038 AR:188694)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Bachelor's Degree Programme
Educational sector code
4th Term
Course year
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The course is included among the core educational activities of the Bachelor Degree Programme in Philosophy and belongs to the subject area of Theoretical Philosophy. Just like the other courses in this area, it pays attention to the fundamental turning points in the Western philosophical tradition and to their developments in the contemporary debate. It focuses on philosophical-linguistic topics and problems that were significant in every epoch of thought and have become central after the so-called linguistic turn of contemporary philosophy.
The objectives of the course are the following: acquisition of knowledge concernig linguistic and communicative phenomena; acquisition of knowledge concerning the main topics of philosophico-linguistic investigation both in the past and presently; acquisition of knowledge about the history of the theories developed to explain linguistic facts and especially the fundamental semantic properties; mastery of the philosophico-linguistic vocabulary and its historical evolution; improvement of the ability to understand classical works of the ancient, modern and contemporary philosophical traditions by framing them in their historical and theoretical context; development of the ability to interpret contemporary debates on philosophical-linguistic issues by connecting them to their historical roots.
Thus, the course contributes to the achievement of the educational aims of the bachelor degree programme and of the subject area both in terms of knowledge acquisition and in terms of development of skills and competences. As regards philosophical-linguistic knowledge, the course contributes in particular to the knowledge of some fundamental outcomes of the contemporary reflection in relation to the legacy of the modern tradition, with a special focus on the current understanding of the relation between thought and language and the theoretical and conceptual changes that determined the shift from the early modern reflection on language (17th–18th centuries) to the contemporary reflection (19th-21st century). As regards skills and competences, the course makes it possible to improve one’s ability to understand and interpret philosophical texts, one’s familiarity with scholarly literature, one’s semantic and historico-semantic competence, and one’s mastery of complex argumentative structures.
The course focuses on the modern and contemporary philosophy of language. Lectures and individual study will provide students with the following knowledge, skills, and competences:
1) Knowledge and comprehension:
- Understanding and mastering the technical terms traditionally used by philosophers of language and linguists.
- Knowing the basic concepts worked out by contemporary philosophico-linguistic theories.
- Notions on the history of linguistic ideas in the modern and contemporary ages: knowing the main discussion topics, the main theoretical positions, the major “turns” that marked the evolution of the linguistic thought in the step from the modern to the contemporary world.
- In-depth knowledge of some selected classics of modern and contemporary linguistic thought.
2) Ability to apply knowledge and comprehension:
- Ability to use the philosophical-linguistic vocabulary in the appropriate way to correctly describe linguistic facts and presenting theories.
- Ability to read the classics of the philosophy of language by oneself, preserving both a critical attitude and sensitivity to the historical context.
- Ability to detect similarities and differences between authors and texts that belong to different ages; ability to identify the elements of both continuity and break with tradition along the history of linguistic thought.
3) Judgment ability:
- Ability to argue in favor or against a certain theoretical hypothesis on the basis of a wide historical repertoire of examples and counterexamples.
- Ability to evaluate, for each of the studied classics, the pros and cons of the different interpretations that have been advanced by scholars.
- Ability to distinguish between the claims made by the authors and the arguments used to support those claims; ability to provide a correct reconstruction of such arguments.
The course requires previous attendance at the course of Philosophy of Language I.
You may take the exam only after passing the exam of Philosophy of Language I.
The course's program concerns the relation of mind, thought and language between modern and contemporary philosophy. In particular, the focus is on the following topics:
- Language, perception and cognition in Cartesian and post-Cartesian philosophy;
- The modern revival of the theory of mental language;
- The cognitive function of language in Leibnizian and post-Leibnizian philosophy;
- Language and mind's development: cases of child isolation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries;
- The origins of the idea of linguistic relativity;
- Thought and language in the linguistic turn: against representations;
- Thought and language in the cognitive turn: grammar and internal representations;
- Between universalism and relativity: recent debates on the diversity of languages.
G. DE CORDEMOY, Discorso fisico della parola, Roma: editori Riuniti, 2006, pp. 140-199
G.W. LEIBNIZ, Meditazioni sulla conoscenza, la verità e le idee, 1684 (text provided by the lecturer).
C. WOLFF, Soluzione di alcune difficoltà riguardanti la mente umana, 1707 (text provided by the lecturer).
W. VON HUMBOLDT, La diversità delle lingue, Roma-Bari: Laterza, 2000, pp. 35-68
B.L. WHORF, Linguaggio, pensiero e realtà, Torino: Boringhieri, 1970, pp. 41-49, 99-126
G. FREGE, Il pensiero. Una ricerca logica, in FREGE, Ricerche logiche, Guerini, Milano 1988, pp. 43-74.
S. PINKER, The Language Instinct, Penguin (parts to be specified).
S.C. LEVINSON, Language and Mind: Let’s Get the Issues Straight!, in D. Gentner and S. Goldin-Meadow (eds.), Language in Mind: Advances in the Study of Language and Thought, MIT Press 2003, pp. 25-46.

Some texts will be made available by the lecturer.

Optional readings:

ARISTOTELE, De interpretatione [Sull’interpretazione, varie edizioni].
AGOSTINO, De magistro
CARTESIO, Segno e linguaggio. Scritti sulla linguistica e la semiologia, a cura di C Stancati, Roma: Editori Riuniti 2000.
ARNAULD e NICOLE, Grammatica e logica di Port-Royal, Roma: Ubaldini, 1969.
LEIBNIZ, L’armonia delle lingue, a cura di S. Gensini, Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1995.
LEIBNIZ, Nuovi saggi sull'intelletto umano, [varie edizioni], Libro II, capitolo 21 [sul tema della volontà debole] e Libro III [sul linguaggio]
LOCKE, Saggio sull’intelletto umano, [varie edizioni], Libro III: Sulle parole.
LA METTRIE, L’uomo macchina, in Id., Opere filosofiche, Roma-Bari: Laterza.
MAUPERTUIS, “Riflessioni filosofiche sull’origine delle lingue e il significato delle parole”, in Origine e funzione del linguaggio, a cura di L. Formigari, Bari: Laterza, 1971.
HERDER, Saggio sull’origine del linguaggio, Parma: Pratiche, 1996.
SAPIR e WHORF, Linguaggio e relatività, a cura di M. Carassai e E. Crucianelli, Castelvecchi 2017.
CHOMSKY, Il linguaggio e la mente, Torino: Boringhieri, 2010.
Learning is assessed by means of two tests:
1) a short paper on a topic that is relevant to the topics of the course, to be previously agreed with the teacher and to be submitted ;
2) an oral exam, consisting in the discussion of the paper and some questions about the referral texts.
Both the paper and the oral exam have the same weight on the final evaluation (50% - 50%). In addition to this, the teacher also takes into consideration the student's active involvement in the classes by means of questions and interventions.
The paper must be submitted at least one week before the exam in electronic format (Word document or pdf document) by sending an email to the teacher. The paper's length should not exceed 15.000 characters (including spaces) + bibliography.
Traditional lectures aiming at the historical and theoretical framing of the referral texts, at the clarification of concepts and the reconstruction and analysis of arguments.
Interventions and questions by students are strongly encouraged, as well as the discussion on topics and texts that are relevant to the course.
Use of power point presentations.
Attendance is not compulsory but highly recommended.
Accessibility, Disability and Inclusion:

Ca’ Foscari abides by Italian Law (Law 17/1999; Law 170/2010) regarding support services and accommodation available to students with disabilities. This includes students with mobility, visual, hearing and other disabilities (Law 17/1999), and specific learning impairments (Law 170/2010). If you have a disability or impairment that requires accommodations (i.e., alternate testing, readers, note takers or interpreters) please contact the Disability and Accessibility Offices in Student Services:
Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 28/03/2022