Draft Course Outline for the New Course. Comments welcome!

THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO
DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
Undergraduate Course Outline 2014-15

Philosophy 1260 B: Talking Philosophy

Winter Term 2015
Class Days and Hours: MWF 1:30-2:20
Classroom: TBA
Instructor: Robert J. Stainton
Office: StH 3126
Office Hours: TBA
Phone: 519-661-2111 ext. 82757
Email: rstainto@uwo.ca
Web Site: http://publish.uwo.ca/~rstainto/

DESCRIPTION
A very first introduction to philosophical issues about language and communication, centred around questions of broad interest. Likely topics include: widespread myths about language; language learning; animal speech and communication; the relationship between language and thought/perception; language, sex and gender; hate speech; correct speech; language promotion and preservation; free speech; metaphor and other figures of speech.

Sample questions: Can “lower animals” such as dolphins and chimps speak? Do they already have languages of their own? Can they learn human tongues? Is knowledge of language innate in humans? How do words shape perceptions of the world? (E.g., is one’s perception of snow altered by the number of snow-related words in a person’s language?) More generally, how are language and culture connected? Is “proper English” in decline nowadays? For instance, is proper English grammar threatened by technologies like Twitter, or is the way we read being deformed by web-site hopping? When is it permissible to limit free speech: when it is hateful and offensive, e.g., or only when it presents an immediate danger? What, if anything, should be done to preserve endangered languages, or to promote the use of minority languages?

REQUIRED TEXTS
None. The course will draw heavily on web-based media.

OBJECTIVES
– Introduction to philosophical ideas and argumentation.
– Development of core transferable skills, including: close reading of texts; oral argument; and careful, clear writing.
– Familiarity with crucial views, concepts and arguments about language.

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