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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Summer Break

After a pool party tonight I am off to the Northern hemisphere, where I will be attending (among other things) The Eastern Meeting and The Arizona Ontology Conference. In Baltimore I will be saying something about quantifiers, and Jason Stanley will comment, and in AZ we will be saying something about counterpossibles, and Gillian Russell will comment. Don't know where he got it from but Joe seems to think it will rain in AZ. Anyway, we will be back mid to late January with or without a tan.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Kvanvig's Citation-Based Ranking of Philosophy Departments

Kvanvig's citation-based rankings of philosophy departments have been updated. The list now includes PGR-unranked departments. However, it still doesn't include departments with a terminal MA program but no Ph.D. program.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Inside a Zombie's Brow

Song by V. Alan White, inspired by the work of David Chalmers (via Leiter).


From Knowledge and Experience:

Why ARE'T There More Women in Philosophy?

Bringing Philosophy into the 21st Century

From Certain Doubts: Kvanvig's citation-based rankings of philosophy departments.

UPDATE: Kvanvig's improved rankings of departments (including PGR-unranked departments) can be found here.

Like Princeton, Yale has now begun an online lecture series. In this series entire courses are put online. For more information click here. For more info on the first online open course in philosophy (by Shelly Kagan), click here (thanks to Adam Taylor for the pointer).


Northeastern University, Boston, USA 18-20 January 2008

Speakers: Jody Berland (York University); James Paul Gee (Arizona State University); Karim Gherab Martin (Harvard University); David Matheson (Carleton University); Ronald Sandler (Northeastern University); Elizabeth Stark (Free Culture Group, Harvard University); and McKenzie Wark (New School for Social Research, New York).

Free registrations for graduate students willing to assist at the conference and people from developing countries. Further details here.

Full details of the conference can be found here. Deadline for proposal submission: December 31, 2007.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Philosophers' Carnival # 59

... is here.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Zombie Anthem

A music video for the Jonathan Coulton song "re: Your Brains".

(Thanks Aidan)

Philosophy of Mathematics


Philosophy of Mathematics: 5 Questions, Ed. Vincent F. Hendricks & Hannes Leitgeb, New York, London: Automatic Press / VIP, 2007

Philosophy of Mathematics: 5 Questions collects together answers on 5 provocative questions by many of the leading contemporary figures in Philosophy and Mathematics - two of the most fundamental and widely applicable intellectual skills. The collection contains ample amount of interesting considerations, far beyond what one finds reflected in standard texts and together they show that one can have surprising, sometimes tortured, but often highly productive relationships between Philosophy and Mathematics. In my opinion, this book affords a lot of pleasure to the reader.

-Leo Esakia

Jeremy Avigad
Steve Awodey
John L. Bell
Johan van Benthem
Douglas Bridges
Charles S. Chihara
Mark Colyvan
E. Brian Davies
Michael Detlefsen
Solomon Feferman
Bob Hale
Geoffrey Hellman
Jaakko Hintikka
Thomas Jech
H. Jerome Keisler
Ulrich Kohlenbach
Penelope Maddy
Paolo Mancosu
Charles Parsons
Michael D. Resnik
Stewart Shapiro
Wilfried Sieg
William Tait
Albert Visser
Alan Weir
Philip Welch
Crispin Wright
Edward N. Zalta

Friday, December 07, 2007

Kant Attack Ad


Don't know if I prefer Nietzsche to Kant but it's quite funny. Thanks to Barry Smith for the link.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Philosophers' Carnival # 58


ANU Offers to Schellenberg and Southwood

ANU has permanent offers out to Susanna Schellenberg and Nic Southwood. Joe has the details.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sydney Ontological Commitment Conference

Just returned from a fun conference in Sydney on ontological commitment, which was organized by Luca Moretti. There were many excellent talks. Uriah Kriegel opened the conference by drawing a distinction between the two questions central to the conference: the first-order question: what should we be ontologically committed to? And the second-order question: what is it to be ontologically committed to something? Uriah's talk addressed the first-order question. It dealt with the issue of whether there are merely intentional objects, that is, entities that serve as the objects of mental states in the absence of a real object. And, as you might have expected, Uriah's response was a loud and clear 'no'. Uriah is a defender of (phenomenal) adverbialism. According to this position, if one is thinking of a unicorn, one is thinking unicornly. Uriah dealt with a number of new and old objections to this sort of position. One famous objection comes from Frank Jackson, and it runs as follows: suppose you perceive a red cube and a blue circle. In Adverbialese, we can then say, for example, that you perceive redly cubely bluly circly. But how then are we to distinguish the envisaged scenario from the scenario in which you perceive a red circle and a blue cube. You would still perceive redly cubely bluly circly. It may be replied that perhaps we can say that you perceive red-cubely and blue-circly rather than red-circly and blue-cubely. But the standard reply to this move is that one then cannot account for inferences of the following kind:

You perceive red-cubely and blue-circly
So, you perceive a cube.

The conclusion, it is alleged, doesn't follow for much same reason that we cannot infer that Alice ran quickly from 'Alice ran close-to-quickly'. Uriah offered his opponent the following sort of reply. Consider:

There is a strawberry
There is a straw and there is a berry
Therefore, there is a berry.

The inference is obviously fallacious. But just because the move from premise 1 to premise 2 is mistaken, this does not mean that all inferences from the first premise to the conclusion is fallacious. The reason the inference from the premise to the conclusion holds (without the second premise) is that all strawberries are berries. Likewise, Uriah said, the reason the inference from 'you preceive red-cubely and blue-circly' to 'you perceive a cube' is valid is that all red-cubely perceptions are perceptions of a cube. My own objection to Uriah's general adverbialist position was that it seems that it cannot account for wide aspects of meaning. Consider:

Twin Oscar is thinking of water

If interpreted against the background of Putnam's Twin Earth story the sentence sounds false. However, in Uriah's framework the sentence is to be rendered as 'Twin Oscar is thinking-waterly'. This, of course, is true. Uriah responded by denying the possibility of de re attitudes in general.

Jonathan Schaffer followed Uriah with a talk about truth-maker commitments (as shown on the pretty slide in the picture). Schaffer's position was somewhat anti-Quinean. He first argued that the important question is not what exists. This is not important because Quine was right when he said that everything exists. If you take a look at a true fragment of the language, you can simply read off the ontological commitments directly. This is quite uninteresting, however, as it does not tell us which entities are fundamental. The important question, according to Schaffer, is that of which entities are fundamental. Schaffer argued that we can, in principle, allow any kind of entity whatsoever to be deposited into our ontology: properties, propositions, numbers, etc. etc. But few of these will be fundamental. One virtue of this framework is that if we endorse it, then we do not need to engage in Quinean paraphrasing. 'There are numbers', for example, commits us to numbers at the Quinean level but it does not automatically commit us to numbers at the level of fundamentals. So, there is a sense in which it is innocent to say that there are numbers. It would be much less innocent to claim that numbers are among the fundamental entities of the universe.

There were many many other fantastic talks. Luca, who also organized the conference, argued that something like Horwich's minimalism about truth should be extended to properties, facts, and so on. Amie Thomassson argued, among other things, that we ought to reject substantive criteria for entities to 'really' exist and Quine's criterion of ontological commitment, as the latter provides only a sufficient, not necessary, condition for ontological commitment. My own talk was primarily concerned with the question of whether we can make sense of extensional and intensional criteria of ontological commitment. Michaelis Michael argued that ontological commitments are a species of commitments in general and that implicit commitments play an important role in assessing each other and our theories. Kristie Miller delivered a very interesting talk on the metaphysics of holes. Finally, Mark Colyvan argued that inconsistent theories pose a problem for the Quinean conception of ontological commitment. If accepting the best theories currently available requires us to believe they are true, then we are required to believe in impossible ojects. For most theories are inconsistent. Mark suggested that we should give up classical logic but that we shouldn't give up the hope that our best theories can be revised to avoid consistency. I argued that we need not give up classical logic, as long as we take rational belief to be closed under paraconsistent consequence rather than classical consequence. Either way Mark's conclusion that we are committed to inconsistent objects is rather surprising (to say the least).

All in all a very intense and intellectually rich conference. Thanks to Luca Moretti for organizing it and to Susanna Schellenberg for sending the photos.

Data on Journals in Philosophy

Jon Kvanvig has been collecting some data on journals in philosophy which include rejection rates and scholarly impact. It's well worth checking out.

The Reasoner 1 (8)

The latest issue of The Reasoner is now freely available for download in pdf

The Reasoner ( is a monthly digest highlighting exciting
new research on reasoning and interesting new arguments. It is
interdisciplinary, covering research in, e.g., philosophy, logic, AI, statistics, cognitive science, law, psychology, mathematics and the sciences.

The Reasoner welcomes submissions:
- Submitted articles (100-1000 words)
- Submitted items of news
- Letters
- Conference announcements
- Job announcements
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Mainsteam and Formal Epistemology Now in Paperback

Vincent F. Hendricks' Mainstream and Formal Epistemology, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006-7 is now out in paperback.