Some words about evidence and method 
I wrote in a recent post that I like the kind of book review which "offers a critical view of the issue and situates the book in recent discussions" and which also "treats the book as a bit of philosophy worthy of criticism."

So that's what I was aiming for with my review of Peter Achinstein's new book, published today at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

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The title is a deliberate pun 
I just posted a draft of a second paper on Mill's account natural kinds. In some ways, it picks up where the first one left off.

The first part of the paper is historical, looking at Mill on taxonomy and some of his nineteenth century critics. The second part applies lessons from history to better understand HPCs.

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Slater on planets and mallards 
Matt Slater has written a review of my book for Notre Dame Philosophy Reviews. It's dated 28june, but it went up on their website today.
In his book, P. D. Magnus avoids the mismatch between scientifically significant categories and natural kinds by articulating an account of natural kinds that starts with the categories that figure in scientific enquiry. It's a difficult task to offer an account of a highly contested philosophical concept that is at once utterly novel and deserves to be taken seriously, but I think Magnus has done this. Is his account successful? Ultimately, I am not persuaded -- and I suspect others will balk too -- but I have certainly profited by grappling with his approach.

The review says nice things about my book, but it is also the kind of review I like to read. It isn't just about the book and what the author says in it. Rather, it offers a critical view of the issue and situates the book in recent discussions. It also treats the book as a bit of philosophy worthy of criticism. This contrasts with the veneer of rhetorical objectivity which bad reviews have.

In short: This review talks about what's in my book, informed explicitly by Matt's viewpoint. Matt's not convinced, but he's a stubborn guy.

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Of pixels and pictures 
Last month, I presented a short version of my paper on musical works as historical individuals at our department's annual video conference with philosophers in Russia. My colleague Jason D'Cruz presented a paper about Goodman's distinction between autographic and allographic works, applying the distinction to digital photographs. We got to talking afterwards and, realizing we had common interests, began to collaborate.

The result, so far, is a paper about digital pictures. It's far enough along that today I posted a draft on my website.

Are digital pictures allographic?

Abstract: The short answer to our title question is yes, but of course there are complications along the way.


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Chthonic prose 
I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

According to this silly widget, my academic prose most resembles the writing of HP Lovecraft. It was he, not I, who wrote:
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

I tested the widget's algorithm for robustness. It thought I was Lovecraftian more often than not, but it sometimes said Edgar Allen Poe instead. My blog posts about the internet it unfailingly compared to Cory Doctorow, and my posts about planets to Arthur C. Clark.

So the widget is a bit wobbly. It identifies the paragraph above (which is from the beginning of Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu) as being from Lovecraft. If asked to say something about the first three paragraphs of The Call of Cthulhu altogether, however, the widget indicates that it is in the style of Arthur C Clark.

This can be taken as harmless fun, but perhaps it suggests the deep and disturbing fact that my prose is precisely as much like Lovecraft's as Lovecraft's own prose. It is as if my literary output is just the continuation of his corpus.


...or perhaps...


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