Philosophy - Language and Reality

Ref: C2344377

Does language represent the world, or is it the other way round - that we can only live in a 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 : How do we know the meaning of words ? relativist views of language and Humpty Dumpty; Does silence have a meaning ? Can language represent the world ? 'item-centred' views and the 'picture theory' of language; sense and reference. Structuralism or Do we speak the language or does the language speak us ? Wittgenstein : "The meaning of a word is its use."; family resemblances; the limits of language. Speech act theory or "How to do things with words". Can language be a window to metaphysical realities (for example according to Heidegger).

Course aim

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

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • You will need your own personal email address so that you’re able to login to the WEA’s digital learning platform: WEA Canvas. You will need to be able to understand how to follow URL links to pages on the internet. If you want to understand more about Canvas please visit:
  • You will need to be able to follow links to join our WEA live video learning platform: WEA Zoom. If you’d like to understand more about our video learning platform, Zoom please visit: and
  • 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’s digital learning platform, Canvas will be used to provide resources or to support lessons, enable assessment, provide learner feedback and for other activities for individuals away from the course. If you want to understand more about our digital learning platform please visit:
  • 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
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support 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

What else do I need to know?

  • What you need: You will need an internet connection, speakers, a microphone and a webcam so that you can use our video learning platform, Zoom. If you’d like to understand more Zoom please visit:
  • You will also need access to the internet outside of your sessions. You could do this using a smart phone, tablet, laptop or a desktop computer (at home or through a library etc.).

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • You will have access to course resources and links to wider learning through the WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas:

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • Suggested further reading : - overview of the Philosophy of Language, some of it quite technical, with a comprehensive reading list

Download full course information sheet

Philosophy - Language and Reality


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • 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 2020
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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