Friday, April 30, 2004

Hyleninja (Steen's blog) has moved

to better and brighter territory (namely, TypePad). If all y'all OrangeBloggers could pony up about 50 cents a month each, we could re-locate to better environs. But, maybe, like we talked about before, we could hit up the department for the dough. Either way, we should do it. I've been spoiled, and blogger smell what icky. Check it out...

Paraconsistent Logic

I know this is a difficult topic for many, but I only have one small thought on the matter. One of the classical logic arguments for why contradictions are said not to be true is because contradictions entail everything, and not everything is true -- or so goes the thought. Though I won't pursue it here, on every paraconsistent semantics that I've read (Priest, The Brazilian Paraconsistent Logicians, Rescher, Brandom, etc.) it is quite easy to show that a contradiction entailing an arbitrary X need not preserve truth, so such an entailment is not a valid entailment. Thus, we ought not be worried in admitting true contradictions, at least on this point.

Even on a classical account of validity, it's not at all clear that the argument from classical logic has any force, if we think of validity as truth preservation. So I don't think this argument works. I acknowledge that other, more subtle arguments, to the effect that some crucial notion or other, for example, truth, validity, or rationality, requires consistency. On this point, I believe (very tentatively) that we need to be open to other kinds of consistency. Though I won't pursue this line of thought any further, I see no reason for closing one's mind to the possibility of dialetheism.

This post is meant only as a passing remark concerning my interest in dialetheism as it pertains to a logic of vagueness. But such interests, are, more generally, forcing me to re-think my position(s) concerning classical logic.

Is anyone familiar with Rescher & Brandom's argument that this world, in all probability, is a paraconsistent world, amongst other possible worlds? I've heard a couple people mention this in passing. Does anyone know the argument?

I defended my master's thesis yesterday. I passed! The whole experience was quite interesting. I kept anticipating that they would start asking trick questions and try and trip me up so that they could fail me. But, they didn't. And in fact, the committee even got a bit chatty at one point. The best thing about a defense, though, is when your advisor takes you out for a beer afterwards!

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Brief (replacement) Note:
The comments program has been changed from Squawkbox to Enetation to Haloscan and then Backblog. Sorry about the loss of comments. [note for Orangers--forget everything I said about comments, you don't have to do anything special now]
Sorry about the technical problems. With Enetation, you could post comments on Netscape, but not Explorer. Haloscan didn't work half the time I checked the webpage. Squawkbox, which started out free, froze us unless we paid some cash. I hope Backblog holds up. I wish the rest of you Orangers liked all this more, then we could switch to MT or Typepad which looks a lot cooler and holds up better, with better features (such as integrated comments etc.). Alas!

Just a reminder. This month is "Autism Awareness Month". Ironicly. Not suprisingly, it's almost too late to mention this.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

God, the Problem of Evil, and Lagadonianism

[note-some of this is culled from old posts from my own blog]
There’s been some interesting activity around the phil blogosphere recently about folk’s favorite solutions to the problem of evil. Brian Weatherson’s is here, which he was keyed off to write by Jonathan Ichikawa’s proposed solutionhere.
My favorite solution to the problem of evil is Ken Gemes’ (which you can find here, courtesy of Brian Leiter), backed up by some of my own, highly speculative considerations about how God thinks/speaks:

"[C]onsider the world we know and inhabit. It is a possible world, hence one that God has thought of. Furthermore, our world pretty clearly, pace Descartes, contains evil. Now God being perfect would not create a world containing evil. Ergo God did not create this world, he merely thought of it. Our world then is a merely possible world, one God thought of but chose not to create. Presumably it was his knowledge of the evil in this world which led him to decide that it was beneath creation. The actual world is some other world that contains none of the evil of this world or any other possible world." (Gemes)

So, there is no actual evil that is problematic and in need of justification, since our world isn’t actual. The actual world, if there is one, must not have any. Now, I said that this was my favorite solution, which doesn’t necessarily coincide with what I think is the best, or the more likely true position (I think Brian’s, which is based on other sources, comes closer to being right). It’s downright wacky. How do we deal with the wackiness? By bringing in some more.

The major problem, of course, is dealing with incredulous stares and people pounding their Moorean fists. How to reply? The answer is that God speaks and thinks in Lagadonian, and, while ‘speaking’ the actual world in Lagadonian, he merely thought of our world in Lagadonian. But what, pray tell, is Lagadonianism? Well, I’m glad you asked.

A 'Lagadonian' language (the phrase is inspired by a passage from Gulliver's Travels...I'm not sure who introduced it in a phil.language context ) is a (or 'the') language where every object is a name of itself (and, similarly, every event is it's own name/description, every property is a name for itself, every state of affairs is its own description, and so on). Just as we can represent the state of a affairs of 'the apple is red' by 'le pomme est rouge', 'la manzana es rojo', by morse code, by whatever code the passage 'the apple is red' is stored as in a Word document, etc., etc., so is, or possibly can be, the state of affairs of the apple being red represented in the apple's being red.
Now, assuming God exists, we'd like to suppose that he would think in the most perfect language possible. There's a prima facie case, if a Lagadonian language is possible, that God would think in Lagadonian. This is because, to think in any other language would be to use representations that are not identical with what is represented, and all kinds of problems, as we know, arise because of this. God can just cut out the middle man by thinking with the things he thinks of, whereas us puny mortals think of the things we do with something else.

Since God would think with the things he thinks of, rather than with something else, since our (merely possible) world is an un-actualized one, which, if actualized, would have solid physical things, then the Lagadonian words for them, which God has thought of, are the solid physical things we see around us. (Hebrews, 11:3, which Gemes mentions: "[t]hrough faith we understand the worlds were framed by the word of God") Too bad these words aren't actual.
Of course, there are so many moves to be made against this, that it would be hard to motivate. But, that's just what you'd expect, what with all the evil and us being non-actual and all.

I just finished reading Graham Priest's Beyond The Limits of Thought. I won't say much, but he discusses topics ranging from: Zeno, Anselm, Williamson, Heidegger, Derrida, etc. And he does so clearly and cleverly.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Here's a candidate for 'most unlikely sentence in a newspaper's theater review section':

"Analytic philosophy is many things, but hilarious is not one of them."

So begins a (sorta) review (in Sunday's Arts and Leisure section of the NYTimes) of a new Tom Stoppard play called "Jumpers". It gets a good review, and if anyone's going to write a decent play about this topic, it's Stoddard, I suppose.

The play revolves around Moore, Russell and Wittgenstein (I think), and covers topics ranging from Russell's theory of descriptions to arguments about the existence of God.

If anyone's seen it, I'd love to hear a more thorough description and review.

Saturday, April 24, 2004


This has nothing to do with philosophy, but it seems useful. I recently logged in to blogger, and after you sign in there is a special advert for you to sign up for google-mail, or gmail. I signed up and it's pretty sweet, the sweetest feature being 1GB of storage. Also, there's some pretty snazzy features. I recommend you sign up. And, yes, this is also a way to get all you un-signed-up Orangers to register at blogger for Orange Philosophy.

Friday, April 23, 2004


Would these lecture notes of Achille Varzi's short course in modal logic be useful for our summer study?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Lockean Essentialism?

John Locke is often seen as the father of anti-essentialism [edited for stupid typo]. Essentially, the view is that nothing has properties necessarily in themselves or contingently in themselves. When you think of me as a human, being rational is essential, but when you think of me as an animal it isn't. When you think of me as a husband, being married is essential. When you think of me as a human being, it isn't. Locke's way of putting this is that my properties are only essential to my being me insofar as you're thinking of me under a particular sortal term.

Locke's reasoning on this is fallacious, as Kripke famously showed (without really saying much more than Leibniz had already said in the preface to his New Essays on Human Understanding).

I had a conversation this morning that made me wonder if Locke was really the anti-essentialist [edited for stupid typo] he's usually portrayed as. It seems to me that the general point Locke was making isn't so far removed from something Aristotle and Aquinas make in their unmoved mover arguments. The unmoved mover argument gets commonly misunderstood as a mere causal argument. If A is caused by B, then we ask what caused B. Then we turn to C, which in turn was caused by D. Hume rightly objects to this argument for an unmoved mover by pointing out that each bit is explained if there's an infinite series of such moved movers. If that's all the argument is, then there's no reason to conclude that there's an unmoved mover unless you can show a problem with an infinite past, which mathematics can make sense of since Leibniz and Newton.

That's not what Aristotle and Aquinas meant, however. Their notion of a cause makes what Hume thought of as a cause seem quite anemic. They were really talking about a dependence relation that involves notions of contingency and a more robust notion of explanation. A is contingent in the sense of requiring something else entirely for its very existence. So is B. It's true that B explains A in some sense, but B isn't an explanation for A unless B is itself explained. No contingent thing that didn't have to exist has its explanation in itself, and since everything we encounter in daily life in space-time is a contingent thing, then all our prime examples of things will turn out to be contingent things. What Hume failed to see is that once you're thinking in these terms, it's quite clear that providing an explanation for all the contingent things in terms of each other still doesn't count as providing an explanation for why there are any contingent things at all. That's why Aristotle and Aquinas saw there still to be a need for something beyond intermediate causes. It's not a necessary explanation unless it's got a necessary cause, without which it wouldn't exist. (None of this requires sufficient explanations, as Leibniz and Kant's versions of the argument required.)

Now what does this have to do with Locke? It seems to me that Locke is thinking along the lines of the people Hume criticizes here. He wants to say that nothing in itself is necessary or had to have the properties it has, as Aristotle and Aquinas were saying about every contingent thing. Only when thinking of it under a sortal do you get the distinction between necessary and contingent, because the things are necessary or contingent given that property you're thinking of as definitional. When ignoring that, you get different properties. This is all very similar to the notion of an intermediate cause like that of Aquinas or Aristotle, in which something is what it is only because of things outside of it. It's a different issue, but it raises similar questions. The difference seems to be that those guys allow some essential properties of contingent things, and Locke denies any at all except under a sortal.

Now why do I think this should lead us to question Locke's anti-essentialism? There's one sort of being, which the unmoved mover argument is supposed to lead us to (and Locke does give his own particularly bad version of the cosmological argument in Book IV that makes all the mistakes Hume complains about that Aquinas and Leibniz were more careful about) who does seem to have properties essentially. If Locke admits that God has properties essentially, including existence, which I think is required for his own argument in Book IV, then aren't there some properties that are had essentially and not just according to a sortal?

Maybe Locke can get out of this, but it seems to me that he'd have to work hard to explain God's necessity if nothing can have properties essentially or accidentally except when thought of under a sortal.

Derrida's honorary degree from Cambridge, and it's critics

There's an interesting link here (which I got from the Wikipedia entry on 'pseudophilosophy') which presents the famous protestory letter (one of the signatorys is Quine) against Cambridge's decision to honor Derrida with an honorary degree, plus the Wikipedia author's commentary. Should make for interesting reading. John Philips, the author of the post, teaches a critical theory class, where "The course will focus, week by week, on certain key topics, e.g., intention, sign, vision, authority, history, ideology, alterity and haunting." I'd like to skip the first seven topics and skip right on to the 'haunting,' although perhaps the bit on alterity could help me with my sartorial shortcomings. A question, is Wikipedia a great and noble egalitarian institution, or a non-peer reviewed haven for self-promoting hacks? I think the answer might be somewhere in the middle, but, sorta rightish on my scale.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Comparing Event-Identity Principles

I’ve been looking at some of the non-counterpart-theoretic accounts of event-identity and individuation, and it seems that almost all of them result in events having all their intrinsic features essentially, and some seem to entail that at least the immediate extrinsic features are essential to them as well (e.g., the event’s immediate causes and immediate effects). I see some of these results as happy ones.
Let’s take a look at a few (non-duplication) principles of event identity.

[preface all of the following, except my own, with ‘where x and y and z are events’]
Donald Davidson:
(x)(y)(x=y if and only if ((z) (z caused x iff z caused y) and (z) (x caused z iff y caused z))

WVO Quine:
(x)(y)(x and y have the same position in space-time -> x=y )

Jaegwon Kim [a Bennettian reading of him]:
(x)(y)(z)(substance-property/relation-time triple z constitutes x & z constitutes y -> x=y)

Jonathan Bennett:
(x)(y)(z) (property-zone pair z which constitutes x is the property-zone pair which constitues y -> x=y)

Here is my offering, which I will contrast with the above:
Mark Steen (gulp—hesitate putting my principle and name up next to those of the mighty dead and living)
[note that x and y here are supposed to be events, whereas I’m intending the z to be any individual/particular whatsoever, either events, substances, properties (construed as individuals if you wish), etc.]
(x)(y)(z)[(x = y) <->(z < x <-> z < y)]

We could summarize them by different slogans:
Davidson: no two events can have the same exact causes and effects in the causal network.
Quine: no two events can have the same space-time position.
Kim: no two events can be constituted by the same substance-property/relation-time triple.
Bennett: no two events can be constituted by the same property-zone pair.
Steen: no two events can have all and only the same event-parts or individuals as parts/constituents.

I leave it up to the readers to point out which of these principles is best (and, if any are workable). [note that I believe my principle entails Quine’s, though not vice-versa, and so is ‘stronger’. I do believe that my principle is superior to Davidson’s in that it does not make certain extrinsic relations essential, and, unlike Bennett’s and Kim’s, is neutral on the nature of events. Bennett and Kim’s account of event-identity depends on events either being tropes or triples, respectively, whereas my principle of event identity can I think work regardless of the analysis of what events are. Perhaps, though, I’m being too optimistic about how much work the part-relation can do here. Any feedback appreciated]

Friday, April 16, 2004

The very definition of

I tend to think of dumb things to write about when I have a huge stack of grading to do, and here's one (actually I think about them all the time, but I write about them when I have stuff to put off doing). Arianna Huffington was on NPR today. One thing she said caught my attention. It's a common enough saying, but it struck me today how odd it is. She was describing President Bush's response to the dead and very slowly rising economy after 9-11 by cutting taxes. She said that this response is the very definition of insanity. Leaving aside the tendentious nature of the proposition she was trying to express with this sentence, let's consider how the sentence is supposed to express that proposition to begin with. After all, how can his action be the very definition of anything? My first thought was simply that she must not be thinking about what a definition is. It's not an action. An action can illustrate a definition as a clear case, but it's not itself a definition.

My second thought was to remember something I once read by Kuhn. To make a short story long, one of his earlier papers (I think) had a fascinating discussion of exemplars as the constituents of definitions. This is right in the line of Locke and Hume also, though he said it far more clearly and worked it into a complex theory about the rationality of scientific theory change. I wonder if the linguistic practice Huffington was engaged in assumes something like this about definitions. The original Lockean/Humean idea, if I'm remembering it correctly, was that we come to learn the meanings of words through seeing exemplars of them and then eventually tying together what's common to all those exemplars as the definition of the term. Kuhn went on and discussed definitions in science in terms of this, with exemplars serving as part of the epistemic framework of a scientific theory, one of the things that need to change one bit as a time, with some rational support for each change, if a theory changes is to change with rational basis (something he later rejected, if I'm remembering the sequence right). None of this really helped. If what Huffington was doing was assuming we have no concept of insanity apart from its examples and allowing one obvious case of insanity to stand as the definition, since that's all a definition really is, then every person who utters this sort of statement has to be assuming something like that, and there's no way that's true.

So it must be just a bad stand-in for "that's a really good example of insanity", with some elements of being an intensifier (much in the way 'literally' can stand as an intensifier in statements like 'When he gets down into the red zone, he literally explodes!') Both cases, I think, involve people not thinking very much about how they're using language and invite philosophers to laugh at the people saying such things, even if philosophers of language and linguists have perfectly good explanations of how these locutions are supposed to function in the language. It's still silly to hear someone say it. That's something that bothers me. It's so fun to make fun of stupid ways people say things, and yet descriptive linguistics will tell us to analyze it without any such normative judgments. Doesn't that take the fun out of it?

Consider an utterance of the following sentence:

(1) Ann’s computer, which she bought in 2001, crashes frequently.

Now consider situation (S):

(S) Ann bought her computer in 2000, (not in 2001), but the computer in question does crash frequently.

In one of his numerous articles (“The Myth of Conventional Implicature”) Kent Bach, affirms that, even in situation S, many people would be inclined to say that (1) is true (and I confess that I feel a certain pull in this direction myself).

Based on this, Bach wants to say that an utterance of (1) does not express one proposition, namely, a conjunctive one (i.e. ‘Ann’s computer crashes frequently & Ann bought her computer in 2000’. Or more generally: ‘main clause & non-restrictive relative clause), but rather two propositions, which are ordered in terms of relevance/salience/speaker’s commitment to it. So, instead of linear conjunction, we would have something akin to a “layering” of propositions.

I don’t really know exactly what to make of it. This phenomenon (if it is indeed a phenomenon), is intriguing, although I’m not sure of its legitimacy. In particular, I’m not too sure about the robustness of the intuitions about the truth of (1) with respect to S.

Can the role of the relative clause be accommodated as a case of a referential use of a predicate? Hmmm. I don’t think so, because it is not used to pick a discourse referent, since the latter has already been identified as “Ann’s computer”.

In other respects, the relative ordering is defeasible, of course, for instance, since the relevance of the relative clause can be enhanced (say, by mentioning something ludicrous or incredible, or by being unusually lengthy), and of course there are going to be lots of interactions in term of focusing, topicalization and information structure in general.

What do you say about this, idle Orangers? Has Bach presented us with an authentic phenomenon?

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The Invasion by Faculty Grows

We also welcome faculty members Ben Bradley and Andre Gallois to Team Orange, who we hope will blog as well. I've also invited the nefarious Norwegian, Steffen Borge, who, while preferring to reside amongst the Rutgerians, is still an official SU grad student, and so eligible to rant here against anti-Griceans.

Isaiah Berlin Taken to Task

The Guardian has an interesting and somewhat vitriolic piece against Berlin here. I don't know enough about Berlin to know if the critiques are sound, but I thought others might be interested in checking it out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Beiser told me that he's open to suggestions for his seminar next spring. Anyone who has ideas about classes they'd like to take that he's qualified to teach should e-mail him. He said he'd be willing to do something different (a.k.a. not Kant or Hegel).

Gallois at Rochester

Orangers might be interested in checking out this Rochester post on Gallois' talk there on whether 'a=a' is a priori (among other things) (he gave the same talk here of course last year). Orangers might also be interested in not being referred to as 'Orangers'.
UPDATE: Error on my part. Andre's talk was about whether '[]a=a' is true. As is obvious, I wasn't there.

Opinion from The Gnu

One of the most mysterious members of our blog team, ie, 'Team Orange', or 'Naranja Terribile,' is a certain supple Wildebeest, otherwise known as 'The Gnu.' While one of the lower mammals, he does have some interesting opinions about foreign and domestic policies on his own blog here.

Monday, April 12, 2004

We've been Invaded!

Although this is primarily a grad student blog, we have enlisted a couple of faculty members. Welcome to Ishani Maitra and Eric Hiddleston! We hope they drop in and blog. You can find descriptions of these professors via the departmental link up there on the left.

If You're Interested...

I have a (very) rough draft of a paper critiquing Ted Sider's 4D theory of persistence here (and after that a somewhat amusing analysis of Van Gulick's Higher-Order Theory of consciousness...although this latter is more of a 'weekly')

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Please add favorite philosophy quotes out of context:

I'll start:
"The sun is just as big as it looks."

"But nose and tongue are only smelt or tasted by another nose or tongue."

"But where is the smell, then? Are there smelly brains?"
-I think this was Reid, but it could be Smythies

"And so this would be as foolish as putting motor oil into the boy, or beating the machine."

We're Dinosaurs

For Orangers--Check out the University of Rochester's new blog look here. Also, please take a look at Brian Weatherson's suggestions here. I think it would be a good idea to switch to TypePad, but it would cost some money. One cheap option is only $9 a month, so, if we signed up to that it would be around .60 each a month for all of us who are signed up. I thought about just signing us up, but since participation has been pretty low I'll wait. Please, fellow Orangers, check out the Typepad site, think about how much you'd be likely to contribute to blogging in the future, and let me know whether you can spare the cost of 1/3 of a cup of starbucks coffee (a tall) a month. Also keep in mind that the added features of typepad might contribute to your blogging even more. Please add comments below, or other options that you have in mind. Also, I really hope to see posts by
* Edison Barrios
* David Bzdak
* Dimitria Gatzia
* Nathan Hanna
* David Horacek
* Eric Hiddleston
* Kevin Kukla
* Europa Malynicz
* Mike McFall
* Philip Pegan
* Jeremy Pierce
* Tess Sandra
* Jessica Wollam
pretty soon, since you haven't done so yet. You lurkers!

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Some people say that the logic of of President Bush's decision making is pretty fuzzy. If only.

Material Conditionals and the IRS

I ran across the following strange set of instructions on IRS Schedule EIC. They had a column for each child. Line 3 says:

If the child was born before 1985 --

a. Was the child under age 24 at the end of 2003 and a student?
Yes (Go to line 4.) No (Continue)

b. Was the child permanently and totally disabled during any part of 2003?
Yes (Continue) No (The child is not a qualifying child.)

It seems to me that the proper answers for both and a and b for our children are no, taking the questions in isolation from the antecedent above. Yet they don't intend us to answer that way. They intend us to skip those questions. If we take it as a material conditional, we get this result. Any material conditional with a false antecedent will be true. So should I check Yes for both questions? If I do, they'll look above and see that our kids were born in 2001 and 2002 and investigate me for tax fraud. They don't want me checking Yes. They also don't want me checking No. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to continue past 3b. They want me to skip it, as if they think the conditional has no truth value.

This is good evidence that ordinary conditionals in English don't always function logically the way material conditionals do (though sometimes they do -- e.g. 'if that story is true, then the Pope's Italian' where the speaker clearly believes the story is false). Most philosophers who work on conditionals already believe this, so this isn't anything new. I just thought it was an interesting place to see evidence for this.

Events and Modal Fragility

The Beatles are a good band, Aristotle was pretty smart, and events are modally fragile. One of the preceding I've sought to defend in a recent paper that was cut up a bit by some pretty smart folk. What is some good literature out there on this topic? I've got Bennet's Events and Their Names, and I believe Lewis talks about this in 'Causation as Influence.' I believe Lewis talks about this elsewhere as well but a (not too deep) perusal of his papers hasn't led to any obvious ones to read on this. (one of the reasons I ask here is the lack of success looking for this on the PI. You either get swamped with your search results, or if you try to narrow your search, get almost nothing).

Friday, April 09, 2004


I went cruising a little bit to find the best pix of Orangefolk on the web. I'm sure I'm missing some, and we've lost access to some of the SnapFish pictures of other conferences.

Here you can find pictures of the Metaphysical Mayhem VII, August 2002. (courtesy of David Chalmers)

Here you can find pictures of the SWIM (Syracuse Workshop in Metaphysics), where some of us are, appropriately, swimming. August 2003. (courtesy of Ted, ahem, Theodore Sider)

And, at this page on Ted Sider's site, you can find some more pictures of Syracuse folk, both past and present.

Please let us know in the comments below if there are any other good sites I'm missing...

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Leiter, Van Dyke, Carter et al

In case you haven't been following some of the Intelligent Design debate in the blogosphere, and the sheer awfulness of the kind of arguments the ID'ers employ, and the wonderful acrimony in regards to this whole scene, check out Leiter here. There's a lot of great links there, especially to a particularly wonderful evisceration over at the Panda's Thumb. I'd like to think that these debates are just good fun, since the ID'ers (at least the ones I've seen) don't stand a chance, but, unfortunately, a bill recently passed in Minnesota allowing passages in textbooks that question the veracity of Darwinism and put forth Creationism as an equally valid 'scientific' theory.

We've Started a Trend

We started our blog on March 25th. Rochester started their blog about six days later (although there are hints they tried to do so earlier). Now, Brown has a grad student blog, which you can find here. We'll give a proper shout-out in a few days after they have some more posts. This is an interesting development. As far as I know, we're the first grad student group that has started a group blog, and I have a feeling that before you know it that we all will. But, 'though we may be first, I have to admit it, those Rochester guys are kicking our ass content-wise. Get cracking, Orangers! Hell, I'm doing my dissertation, I've got excuses, what about you? Hopefully, we'll have more folk signed up out of the thirty of us than the seven or so so far.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Lucretius Anticipates Galileo

I found a passage in Lucretius that anticipates Galileo's famous thought experiment about falling objects of different weight falling at the same speed:

And if by chance someone thinks that heavier atoms, in virtue of their more rapid motion straight through the void, could fall from above on the lighter atoms, and that in this way the blows which generate the productive motions could be produced, he has strayed very far from the true account. For everything which falls through water or light air must fall at a speed proportional to their weights, simply because the bulk of the water and the fine nature of the air can hardly delay each other equally, but yield more quickly to the heavier bodies being overwhelmed by them. But by contrast, at no time and in no place can the empty void resist any thing, but it must, as its nature demands, go on yielding to it. Therefore, everything must move at equal speed through the inactive void, though they are not given by equal weights. (On the Nature of Things 225, in Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson, ed., Hellenistic Philosophy: Introductory Readings, p.64.

He's wrong on a number of details here, but it's amazing how close to the truth he is, even on some things Galileo didn't even get right. Irem described it as two wrongs making a right. Lucretius lived something like 1650 years before Galileo.

I think this is relevant to the discussion we were having initiated by Jordan. Philosophers who say they don't need to bother reading the philosophers of history and just focus on contemporary stuff are opening themselves to missing something that's already been said on their topic, as Galileo did. Ignoring philosophy in other traditions has the same problem, and I don't know much about African or Asian philosophy, and I don't really know where to begin. I've been looking for a good textbook looking at those traditions from an analytic perspective, but I don't know if anything like that exists. There should be such books, though (and this is a normative 'should').

Look what Hempel's cat dragged in...an albino crow.




Here's a shout-out to the fine philosophy grad students at Rochester, who now have a blog up and running here [plus, there's a perm link up there on the left]. Drop by sometime and tell them why they've got it all wrong.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

It seems to me that the stages in Ted Sider's Stage View of perdurence have all of their qualities trivially necessarily. In Four-Dimensionalism p. 201, in a footnote he says that the stage-counterpart relation is identity. If trans-world identity is out of question, then stages cannot have counterparts other than themselves. A fortiori, they cannot have counterparts in a possible world other than the one they are in. So, they must have all of their properties essentially. This seems bothersome to me, but I cannot figure out exactly why.


I've never taught my own Phi 191 (Ethics) course nor have I taught during the summer. I'm doing both this summer. I was hoping that anyone who has taught their own 191 course could allow me to look over their syllabus. Of course, any advice would be appreciated! I don't teach till second summer session, so I have time to think a lot about the syllabus and how I want to teach it. I TA'd for Sam's 191 course (in Fall 2000) and we used Rachels' text (if I remember correctly?), which I also used in college. So I was thinking about using Rachels, but would like something different. Even better, if anyone has found a way to incorporate deontic logic into the course that would be really neat! Seriously, though, any syllabi or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Each semester I teach Phi 107, I track the mean and median of papers and exams, and only allow 10% to determine their final grade, leaving the other 90% for exams and papers. But each semester I have problems determining how I will assign all or part of that 10%. If you teach TTR, you know we only have 28 sessions, so I'm often asked: "How many absences can I have before you won't give me the 10%?" I realize that coming to class is necessary (but not sufficient) for the full 10%. This is a slippery 10% and the scale is a little too vague for my taste. So does anyone have any suggestions on this matter?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Armchairs to Ploughshares in England

A report I’ve recently checked out from the Aristotelian Society claims that the effect of a resurgence of Wittgenstein scholarship in England has been having a pronounced effect on philosophy across the pond. Apparently, Wittgenstein’s pronouncements on the value of philosophy and the value of good honest work have been having an effect. Harold Noonan has recently decided to become an auto mechanic. The Guardian, in a recent interview, asked prof. Noonan, "Why did you give up your 80K a year job (US$) to fix carburetors?" Noonan replied, "I’ve gotten out of the fly bottle. What, don’t you want to fly?" John Divers, formerly involved with the neo-Scottish renaissance, who worked on metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh, now digs peat out of a bog on the mainland south of the Isle of Skye. When asked why he gave up tenure and life in the ivory tower, replied, "philawsaphy esh a disease, eh? Awve been inoculated what proper by the sagahcious Austrian. Now, bugger off!" Apparently, this new trend has even had an effect over here in the United States. Michael Stocker, formerly of Syracuse University, has started a new career in plumbing. Why would such a prestigious scholar start a career in plumbing at this late a stage in his life? When asked, prof. Stocker replies, "The pipes are you. The pipes are me. They’re backed up."

OK, after some difficulty in posting, this will be rather long. Since I'm free (this weekend from 107), I can turn my attention to more important things: philosophy and betting --- I mean college basketball!! Note that I haven't read all the other blogs, but will do so, and hope to comment, or post. There are three things I wish to address: (1) Newcomb's paradox (NP) (2) our modal logic reading group and (3) I saw Daniel Nolan at Starbucks a few hours ago!!!! I won't discuss (3), just thought I'd mention it. I'm sure I was the last to find out. NB: I'm no where near as felicituous with the English language as the rest of you, but I hope what follows is somewhat interesting. And by no means do I possess the quick-witted humour of themarksteen.


I'm aware that NP has several renditions, many different conclusions are drawn, and some consider NP not even a paradox. I wish to address the latter two. For those unfamiliar with the paradox, let me explain one rendition.

• Two closed boxes, B1 and B2, are on a table.
• B1 always contains $1,000.
• B2 contains either nothing or $1 million --- you do not know which.
• You have an irrevocable choice between two actions:

1. Take what is in both boxes.
2. Take only what is in B2.

A week before the test a superior Being made a prediction about what you will decide. You know that in the past the Being's predictions have been "almost certainly" correct. (You may think of the Being as God, as a superior intelligence from another planet, or a supercomputer capable of probing your brain and making highly accurate predictions.)

If the Being predicted you would choose both boxes, he has left B2 empty.
If the Being predicted you would choose only B2, he has put $1 million into B2.

What should you do?

There seem two ways to reason:

(1): if I take what is in both boxes, the being will almost certainly have predicted this and left B2 empty. On the other hand, if I take B2 alone, he will have put the $1,000,000 in it. So I shall take B2 alone.

(2): The $1,000,000 is already sitting in B2 or it is not, and which situation obtains is already fixed and determined. If the being has already put $1,000,000 in B2 and I choose both, then I get $1,001,000. If he has not, then I get $1,000. Either way I get $1,000 more than by taking B2 alone.

Now, some have claimed that this NP shows Determinism (DET --- no, not the same as my determination principle from my paper!) false! For the life of me I can't see this, though such philosophical blindness is not unusual for me. I don't think that it shows DET false. Rather NP, minimally, functions as a test for deterministic/indeterministic intuitions. Let me explain.

If S agrees with the reasoning of (1), then S has the intuition that their choice makes a difference. (1)-intuitions seem to closely track inderministic intuitions -- at least WRT to my students. This I find interesting by itself, but also as a way to motivate the plausibility of libertarianism and attendant issues in mental causation. (See --- I do like philosophy of mind!!)

While if S has the intuition that the reasoning involved in (2) is correct, then S has deterministic intuitions. So it's not clear that NP shows determinism false. If someone could show that this is wrong, I'd be more than delighted in being shown false --- a complex mental state.

Perhaps this idea turns on thinking that NP is not really a paradox? To be honest, I don't think that NP is a paradox, but I'm not sure it matters to my question concerning whether NP shows DET false. I realize this is going to be partly a function of what one means by a paradox. I take a paradox to be the following: An unaccetable conclusion derived by apparently acceptable reasoning from apparently acceptable premises (Sainsbury, Fine, Priest, etc.) It is from this definition of paradox that I find philosophical significance in such puzzles. If such reasoning is licensed in our logic, then such paradoxical conclusions threaten the very foundations of our logic -- our rationality??? Not surprisingly, we have other logics. May I even suggest that logic is a convention --- shh!!! Maybe I shouldn't have said that.

I've also read that some people believe that NP is reducible, in some way, to the prisoner's dilemma. Is that true, and, if so, how?

If anyone could help me get clear on these questions, I’d be very happy.


I was very happy that so many of you responded to my idea of having a modal group this summer. So hopefully it’s possible. I think that it would be best if we met and discusses what we want to do in a more formal environment, say, the Dietl Room?. I commented on a post about this awhile ago, but there were no responses. I was think that we should meet before the end of classes, perhaps in the next week or so???? Let me know!


Do you think that it would be better if we just posted instead of commenting? I seem to follow the discussion easier when there are no comments, just posts. This might be my laziness. Just a thought.

Thanks for putting this up Mark!!

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