Reputation evaluation gesticulation 
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings reputation evaluation for 2015 has been released. After the top 100, they just group schools in brackets of 25. UAlbany's ranking is in the 226-250 bracket.

This is more or less consistent with other rankings and with a rough sense of UAlbany compares to other institutions. But I'm sure it's calibrated to give roughly the same results as other rankings, because they don't want to end up with results that seem too implausible.

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A bang after all 
I posted last Friday about my paper which had been accepted by Synthese. I filled out the on-line permissions form, I looked over page proofs yesterday, and today I was going to send back some corrections. But this morning I got this e-mail:
Dear Dr. Magnus,

I would like to let you know that the manuscript has been inadvertently accepted and you were notified on the same.

Kindly ignore the acceptance letter as the editor wants to initiate the review process on your paper once again.

Thank you very much.

My department keeps a news feed which announces, among other things, faculty publications. I had sent along the news item of my acceptance but fortunately it hadn't been posted yet. So I was able to hold the presses on it.

There are jokes which could be made here and mad fits which I might throw. But errors inevitably happen in an office. I'm not too horrified about getting an acceptance letter when I wasn't supposed to. I am perplexed that their system can go so far as to send typeset page proofs without anyone noticing until a day later, though.

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Not with a bang 
I just posted a new version of my paper from last year's Paris workshop on causation and natural kinds: Taxonomy, ontology, and natural kinds. The organizers arranged for papers from the conference, along with a few others, to appear as a special issue of Synthese.

Long-time readers of FoE will recall that I was a supporter of the boycott of Synthese several years ago, in the wake of irresponsible behaviour by the journal editors. I had a couple of reasons for breaking the boycott to participate in the special issue. First, the editorial team at Synthese has changed. It now includes several people I know and respect. I would have preferred if they had explicitly distanced themselves from the malfeasance of the former editors, but what can you do? Second, I was involved in this workshop before there was even talk of publication. I want to support the organizers of the conference and stand with the other contributors. I would have preferred if the papers had ended up together in a publication which hadn't recently been a flashpoint for scandal, but what can you do?

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truth 1, falsity 0 
I just posted version 1.30 of forall x. As usual, the update corrects a number of typos. It also makes some changes. I taught logic this Fall for the first time in several years, and the time away from the book made me realize that some things weren't working as well as they should.

Truth tables

It is standard in philosophy to do truth tables with Ts and Fs, but this makes the shift from sentential logic to quantified logic awkward. The sentential connectives operate in pretty much the same way in a quantified formula as they do in a sentential formula, except that the operators are truth functions in SL and satisfaction functions in QL. I want students to understand the difference between truth and satisfaction, but I also want them to apply what they know about the truth-functional connectives. So I end up saying things like, "Both conjuncts are satisfied, so the conjunction is satisfied. This part's just like in a truth table. Both parts are true, sort of... true-ish... something that works a lot like truth."

In the previous edition of the book, I tried to smooth this over in the chapter on formal semantics by giving the function which defines 'truth in SL' in terms of 1 and 0 rather than in terms of T and F. The definition of 'satisfaction in QL' is also in terms of 1 and 0, and the clauses which define satisfaction for sentential connectives look exactly the same as they do in the definition of truth. So I can say instead, "Both conjuncts are 1, so the conjunction is 1."

The problem is that, by that point, students have acquired habits in terms of T and F from doing truth tables. So I decided to start with 1 and 0 earlier, doing truth tables entirely using 1s and 0s.

This is common in computer science and electronics, even though it's not common in philosophy. My motivation is philosophical, though. Doing truth tables in terms of 1 and 0 underscores the step of abstraction, that these are formal, mathematical values rather than metaphysical truth and falsity. And because they are formal values rather than rich concepts, they can be interpreted differently (as satisfied/not, rather than as true/false).

I think I made this change consistently everywhere, but there are probably still some lingering mention of T and F. New content means new typos.

Proofs in QL

The chapter on proofs is the barest part of the book. It would be the hardest part to learn from directly, if someone were just reading the book rather than taking a course.

In this update, I just made some changes to the presentation of the quantifier rules.

I changed the typographic mark for a substitution instance, and I think it's clearer now. (I won't try to produce it here on the blog.)

I rewrote the Existential Elimination rule so that the proxy constant cannot occur anywhere else in the proof. You have 'Exists x Px' and assume 'Pc' for some entirely new constant c. This is stronger than what's strictly required, but it underscores the conceptual point that c is only functioning as a placeholder name for whatever thing it is that's P. The subproof is the only place where c occurs, because the subproof is the moment in the argument when you say "Something is P. We don't know what, but let's call it c."

I am considering splitting the chapter on proofs into two chapters: One on proofs in SL and another on proofs in QL. This would allow me to add material to both discussions. It would also allow instructors who want to do proofs in SL immediately after doing truth tables to do so more easily. That's not a change I made in this revision, though, and I'm still mulling it over.


I archived earlier versions of the book at a SUNY digital repository. Recently, the library here at UAlbany has set up a local digital repository which should offer more features and more visibility. I think that the submission needs to be approved by a librarian, but version 1.30 will appear there soon enough. Until then, it's available directly from my website.

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Books about kinds 
I met Muhammad Ali Khalidi in Paris last Spring. I had regrettably only taken the most cursory of glances at his book, Natural categories and human kinds. The library here had just gotten a copy, so 'just' that it wasn't processed and available for checkout until after I got back.

So I checked it out and took a more careful look at it when I returned. Over the summer, I was invited to write a review for Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. This provided me a copy of my own and an occasion to think more about his view.

I was asked to write a longish essay review which both evaluated the book and connected it to broader issues that I think are important. I have am already on record as to what I think is important about natural kinds, so I use the review to distinguish MAK's view from mine and to argue briefly for my own way of doing things. It's a review and a critical notice all in one, at once other-directed and self-indulgent.

I sent my last draft off to the journal and posted it: Epistemic categories and causal kinds

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