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Will somebody please enlarge on the difference between Linguistics and Philosophy of Language? Many thanks, Jordanne.

The general distinction between the two fields is, I think, the same as the relationship between many subjects and the philosophy of those subjects (e.g. science and the philosophy of science), which is that while the subject itself is directly concerned with collating empirical findings and seeking an explanatory framework for those findings, the philosophy of the topic takes a step back and asks about the wider theoretical framework and the support for positing one kind of explanatory framework over another. It asks questions about the nature of the theoretical entities employed and the way in which empirical data is supposed to support or undermine a given account. In the case of linguistics and philosophy of language, I think this difference in outlook can be seen most clearly in the parts of each discipline which have the most distance from one another. So it's unlikely that many courses on philosophy of language will cover the kind of material on phonetics, intonation, corpus studies,...

Upon whom is the burden of proof when interpreting a given phrase: those who would interpret it literally, or those who would interpret it non-literally (e.g., metaphorically, etc.)? I have heard people say that our default interpretation should always be literal, and that we should only deviate from this understanding if we poitively have reason to believe that it was not intended literally. Does this presuppose that things are more often meant literally than non-literally? Or is it based on the thought that non-literal uses of phrases (e.g. metaphoric ones) are always developments of their literal uses, and that the literal sense is therefore somehow ‘primary’ in an interpretational as well as a chronological sense? Presumably the answer as to which should be the default position will also depend on the context of the phrase – for example, is it found in a poem, or in a pamphlet of technical instructions (in the former non-literal uses may be more prevalent than literal ones; and you’d be surprised how...

Your question relates to a central issue in philosophy of language concerning the bearers of linguistic meaning: are they objects you can describe formally, like sentences, or much more context-bound entities, like utterances? According to one school of thought, advocated by philosophers like Frege, Carnap, early Wittgenstein and Davidson, meaning should attach to formal linguistic objects, so there is a literal meaning to be recovered for sentences independently of what someone intends to mean or succeeds in conveying when they utter that sentence (for instance, the formalist will claim that 'It is raining' means simply that it is raining even if, on some occasion of utterance, the speaker of the sentence conveys an alternative proposition, like she doesn't want to go outside). On the other hand, many philosophers, like later Wittgenstein, Austin and Searle, have argued that meaning attaches at the primary level to speech acts, so that we really need to know about a context of utterance prior to...

Are Quine's arguments against the distinction between analytic and synthetic in "Two dogmas of empiricism" really convincing? I have read Grice and Strawson's "In defence of a dogma" and agree that there is consent enough about the situations where the distinction is applied to and about the results of those applications so that we can't say the distinction doesn't really exist. Am I wrong about it? What readings else should I do? André C.

The fact that the debate about the status of the analytic/synthetic divide is still raging shows that many people share your opinion that Quine's objections aren't really convincing, and given the fact that Quine brings a lot of baggage to the problem with him (in terms of his overall behaviourist framework) it can seem easy to resist his sceptical conclusions about analyticity. On the other hand, though, the Quinean view still has many strident defenders in the contemporary domain (Jerry Fodor being perhaps the most famous, as well as probably the most strident) and the notion of analyticity itself can look pretty problematic on closer inspection. So, like all the core issues in philosophy, both sides of the argument have their strengths and weakness and both sides have their defenders and opponents; it would thus be hard for someone to say that you are actually wrong to think the distinction does hold. For further reading, see Georges Rey's article on the analytic/synthetic divide in the Stanford...