Because I can 
I completed my dissertation after digital technology had overtaken document preparation, but before it overtook the submission and archiving of dissertations. I prepared it in LaTeX, processed it as a PDF, printed it on cotton paper, and submitted it in duplicate to the Office of Graduate Studies and Research. OGSR sent both copies to the library, and one copy was forwarded to University Microfilms, Inc. UMI photographed the pages so as to make a copy on microfilm, scanned the microfilm, and made the scans available as a PDF. It is a grainy, uneven scan. It is not searchable. UMI charges money for it, unless you request it from the UCSD network.

It is the 21st century, and we can do better. I have made the original PDF available via Lulu. The fonts are fonts, and they render as vectors. The contents are fully searchable. It is available free, even if you do not live in La Jolla. I opted for Lulu because it provides a kind of backup, and also because they will print hardcopies on demand for anyone who might care. The thought of someone using up an inkjet cartridge to print it is too much to bear.

I should say, in all honesty, that it probably isn't worth your time to look. I am really only doing this because I can.

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Wikipedia paper: The movie 
To sum up last weekend: The Computing and Philosophy conference had suitable proportions of computing, philosophy, food, wine, and camaraderie. Kudos to the organizers for running a tight ship.

I promoted forall x at every reasonable opportunity. I put out fliers and a sample copy in the book exhibit; someone thought enough of it to walk off with the sample copy at the end of the conference, which is a kind of compliment. I had several conversations about it, some with people who are actively trying to pick a logic textbook.

The presentation of my Wikipedia paper went well. In addition to the discussion immediately after the talk, I had some excellent chats later in the weekend. You can watch the video of my talk online, if you are so inclined. (It's in Windows Media format, and I take up about the first third of the stream.) Watching it makes me cringe at how often I interpose 'um' between otherwise interesting words.

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New versions 
I've filled the lacuna in Epistemology and Wikipedia. The conference starts tomorrow, and I present Friday.

I've also posted the updated version of Tom Reid meets Tom Bayes, which continues its quixotic quest to collect rejection notices from the finest philosophy journals.

Eliminating Induction, ditto.

As always, feedback on the papers is welcome. Anything from 'Hmm' to 'Terrible fallacy on page eight' can either be sent by e-mail or commented here in the blog.

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The Wikipedia paper 
I have a draft of Epistemology and Wikipedia on-line. The paper has existed as detailed notes for quite some time, but I finally hammered it out as paragraphs. It is still waiting on some data, so there is a lacuna in the present draft. I will be presenting it at the Computing and Philosophy Conference next week, and hopefully the lacuna can be filled by then.

The paper concludes with the claim that Wikipedia "frustrates the methods by which we judge the claims of traditional information sources like encyclopedias. This does not mean that Wikipedia is worthless or that we ought not use it at all. Yet it does mean that we should be wary of it and that we should try to develop methods which are suitable to it."

In an earlier draft, I surveyed some cautious ways in which we might use the Wikipedia:

1. Wikipedia entries often contain links to related pages around the web. I know people who exploit this feature and visit the Wikipedia when looking for relevant links. It lets them get at a page quickly, without trying to coax the relevant URL from a search engine. This is fine, but it does not involve actually trusting a claim made in Wikipedia itself.

2. I use Wikipedia to keep track of comic book plots, since I no longer actively read comic books but have friends that do. For topics that have a dedicated fan base, the Wikipedia articles are well tended.

3. It is tempting to say that we can rely on Wikipedia when looking up trivia: Although the Wikipedia might mislead us, the cost of being misled about trivia would be low. This seems wrong to me.

Suppose I consult Wikipedia on some matter that does not seem important, and I come to believe whatever Wikipedia has to say. At a later date, when the topic is more important, I remember what I read without remembering where I read it. There is debate among epistemologists about whether detaching a belief in this way is ever responsible, but it is certainly something that happens. It is a danger of consulting Wikipedia. I wish I could quantify this danger, but I do not know enough about the psychology of belief to say anything more precise.

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I'm just here for the natural kinds 
In his TV show Good Eats and in his books, Alton Brown explains the physics and chemistry behind various recipes: what flour does at a molecular level, how butter makes biscuits fluffy, and so on. In the introduction to his book I'm Just Here For MORE FOOD, he writes: "To my mind, the greatest analytical tool in the world is classification." Philosophers everywhere applaud. Brown continues:
For instance, I used to make a really lousy cheesecake until I realized that cheesecake is not a cake, it is a custard pie. Now I treat cheesecake like a custard pie and everything is fine...
...I have come to the conclusion that the best way (for me) to classify baked goods is by mixing method. Not only does this system make sense, it has made me a better baker. [p. 7]
Despite the caveat "for me", Brown is making a substantive claim about the natural kind structure of baked goods.

One may object that custard and biscuit, although collections of real things, are not candidates to be natural kinds. I can think of two reasons that one might say this:

First, they are artificial and (one might say) not natural. This seems wrongheaded to me. There are various chemical elements that had to be synthesized. Nevertheless, Rutherfordium is as much a natural kind as Lithium. In chemistry, every element is a natural kind-- whether it is synthetic or not.

Second, physics does not distinguish custards from biscuits as such. Of course they differ in viscosity and compressibility, but (one might say) science does not acknowledge custard and biscuit as kinds. This too is wrongheaded. We cannot suppose that, because a kind is not acknowledged by one science, that it is ipso facto unscientific. Physics makes no distinction between cats and dogs, but biology does. Neither physics nor biology distinguish custards and biscuits, but another science might. One may object that home economics is not a science, but this would beg the question. Cooking, as Alton Brown practices it, is an applied science.

This last point is important. I have come to think that calling something a 'natural kind' is at best elliptical. A natural kind is only a 'natural kind' for some science or other. A science is individuated by its domain of enquiry, the questions it asks, and so on. So cat is a natural kind for biology and not for physics. Biscuit is not a natural kind for either biology or physics, but it may be a natural kind for cooking. (If physics has a claim to being more fundamental than other sciences, it is because its natural kinds are also natural kinds for many other sciences.)

So far, I have just argued that biscuit could be a natural kind. Is it? In marginal note, Brown acknowledges that his taxonomy is not standard:
I realize the accepted method of classification-- the one used in more cookbooks-- is nomenclature-based: pancakes, biscuits, rolls, and so on. I don't think this is any more a "system" than sorting books by color. Names just don't mean that much.
I'd put his point this way: The usual taxonomy is haphazard and unscientific. It doesn't get the natural kinds right. In order to decide whether Brown has got the right taxonomy or not, I would have to consider how it sorts specific recipes, consider alternatives, and bake more.

Cristyn and I made griddle scones this morning, which count as biscuit method in Brown's scheme. One data point. More research is required. (Mmm... research...) I simply want to point out that, if Brown's taxonomy is the right one, then it has identified the natural kind structure of baked goods relative to the questions and aims of cooking.

Ask about the transmission and change of baking practice, however, and the histories of various recipes become important. So anthropologists, with their questions and aims, divide baked goods into different natural kinds. Physicists, biologists, nutritionists, economists, and all the rest, each with different questions and aims, would put the griddle cakes that we made this morning into different kinds. None of the shows that biscuit method baked good is not a legitimate natural kind.

Why does it matter whether cooking has natural kinds? To quote Brown: "Classifying things leads to enlightenment, and enlightenment to deeper meaning."

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