Michael McCourt

Starting in fall 2024, I'm visiting assistant professor in the honors program at The George Washington University. I also teach philosophy at Franklin & Marshall College, where I'm Binkley Community Building Fellow. 

I earned my PhD from Maryland in 2021, writing a dissertation advised by Alexander Williams with committee members Peter Carruthers, Yi Ting Huang, Ellen Lau, Paul Pietroski, and Georges Rey. For the academic years from 2013-2015, I was a graduate fellow in the National Science Foundation's IGERT program. Before Maryland I earned an MA in philosophy at Northern Illinois University; and before that I earned BAs in English and philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

I study word meaning. In my doctoral dissertation and related research, I ask what the notion of modularity has to do with the distinction between semantics (what a word means) and pragmatics (how a word is used). With co-authors in the linguistics department at the University of Maryland, I've experimentally investigated the processing of anaphoric expressions using behavioral measures (reading times and visual world eye-tracking). I'm currently working on projects related to the following topics: (i) slurring expressions and their meanings; (ii) polysemy; (iii) modularity and linguistic meaning; and (iv) ancient Greek philosophy of language.

I'm a member of the editorial committee at dialectica, where I focus on review of papers on language and cognitive science. Dialectica, an open access journal, is the official organ of the European Society for Analytic Philosophy


Research interests

Philosophy of language; philosophy of linguistics; cognitive science; philosophy of logic; ancient Greek philosophy

Teaching interests

Formal logic; general philosophy of science; epistemology; history of analytic philosophy


McCourt, M. 2021.  Semantics and pragmatics in a modular mind.  Doctoral Thesis.

Green, J.J., McCourt, M., Lau, E., & Williams, A. (2020). Processing adjunct control: Evidence on the use of structural information and prediction in reference resolution. Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics, 5(1):112. doi: 10.5334/gjgl.1133 pdf 

McCourt, M., Green, J.J., Lau, E., and Williams, A. (2015). Processing implicit control: evidence from reading times. Frontiers in Psychology 6:1629. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01629. pdf 

Papers under review

Slurs, truth conditions, and semantic internalism (co-authored with Christopher A. Vogel)

Papers in progress

Chimeras versus pointers: an opinionated overview of recent debates about polysemy

Modularity and the naturalization of semantics

'Said in many ways' is said in many ways: Aristotle on polysemy versus homonymy

Courses instructed at the George Washington University

Origins and evolution of modern thought: value (HONR 1016) Spring 2024

Origins and evolution of modern thought: truth (HONR 1015) Fall 2024

Courses instructed at Franklin & Marshall College

Introduction to philosophy (PHI100) Fall 2023; Spring 2024; Fall 2024

History of ancient philosophy (PHI210) Fall 2023

What's in a word? (PHI271) Fall 2024

Courses instructed at the University of Mary Washington

Introductory logic (PHIL151B) Fall 2023

Ancient Greek philosophy (PHIL201) Fall 2023

Medieval philosophy (PHIL301) Fall 2023

Modern philosophy (PHIL202) Spring 2024

Philosophy of Language (PHIL307) Spring 2024

Courses instructed at UMD-College Park

Introduction to philosophy (PHIL100) Fall 2021; Fall 2022; Summer 2024 (online)

Introduction to symbolic logic (PHIL170) Summer 2016 (online); Fall 2018; Spring 2019; Spring 2021 (online); Winter 2022 (online); Spring 2022; Winter 2023 (online); Spring 2023

Ancient philosophy (PHIL310) Fall 2019

Philosophy of Plato (PHIL412) Fall 2020

Philosophy of Aristotle (PHIL414) Spring 2022 

Theory of knowledge (PHIL362) Fall 2021

Know thyself: wisdom through cognitive science (PHIL202) Winter 2023 (online); Summer 2023 (online); Winter 2024 (online)

Philosophy and neuroscience (PHIL309A) Winter 2017 (online) 

Philosophy of language (PHIL360/LING350) Fall 2016

Curses, swears, and slurs: the emotive dimension of language (PHIL318C) Summer 2018 (online)

Things we do with words: statements, lies, innuendo (PHIL418F) Fall 2020