Reason and Meaning

Module Leader:
Ruben Noorloos
2019-2020 Nyár
Elmélyülés 1

This module provides an introduction to the study of reasoning and meaning. It deals with such questions as, What is an argument? How do we study arguments? and What is the meaning of a text? These are core questions not just for philosophy, but for logic and linguistics, and in addition their study provides central skills for any area of study that involves arguments and texts (so, basically, any area of study at all).

The module begins by considering the fundamental features of an argument, such as its logical form, and its validity and soundness. Then we move into the formal study of reasoning as such, with an introduction to propositional and predicate logic. Among other things, students learn how to construct truth tables for logical statements, and they learn how to translate sentences of natural language into logical notation. The second half of the module gives an introduction to semantics, the branch of linguistics and logic that deals with the formal study of linguistic meaning. Underlying the entire module is the question to what extent reasoning and meaning can be given a (completely) formal or computational treatment. This manifests in two questions in the second half of the course: first, are computers capable of reasoning and meaning things the way humans are capable of it? And second, is a formal theory of meaning even possible in the first place?