Philosophy: Language and Reality

Ref: C2341813

Does language represent the world, or is it the other way round - that we can only live in world our words allow us to see ? Do words have a fixed meaning, or is Humpty Dumpty right - that words mean 'just what we want them to mean' ? This course explores questions like these with the help of philosophers including Wittgenstein. Previous knowledge of philosophy is not expected. Course content : 1. introduction : How do we know the meaning of words ? Does silence have a meaning ? 2. Can language represent the world ? 'item-centred' views and the 'picture theory' of language; relativist views of language and Humpty Dumpty 3. Structuralism or Do we speak the language or does the language speak us ? 4. Wittgenstein : "The meaning of a word is its use." 5. Speech act theory or "How to do things with words" 6. Can language be a window to metaphysical realities (for example according to Heidegger)

Course aim

to introduce students to philosophical conceptions of language and to give them the opportunity to reflect on their own understanding of language

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Give a clear account of your own understanding of how we know the meaning of words
  • Show how features in the approaches covered relate to your own experience and use of language
  • Explain what is distinctive about at least two approaches to language covered on the course
  • Provide a more detailed account of language, meaning and communication according to at least own of the approaches covered
  • Explain to what extent your own understanding of language, meaning and communication has changed as a result of the course

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information

Download full course information sheet

Philosophy: Language and Reality

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This course has been cancelled.


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  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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