Lo! -gos & episteme! 
My paper, Miracles, Trust, and Ennui, has now appeared in Logos&Episteme.


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Whither logos & whence episteme? 
UPDATE: Hither & thither! I heard back the next day from the editors. It was just a technical glitch, and I happened to visit the site during a brief technical outage. So let me commend the editorial staff for being johnny-on-the-spot, and let me recommend to you (the reader) submitting a paper to Logos&Episteme.

I have a paper forthcoming in the open access epistemology journal Logos&Episteme.* The journal, although new, has an impressive editorial board and is off to a good start.

I checked the journal's website today to discover: This Account Has Been Suspended

The Google Cache for March 19 (two days earlier!) shows the page for the journal. So its disappearance seems to be a new thing. Hopefully it is just a technical glitch, but I worry that the journal has been swallowed by digital silence.

I've e-mailed the editor, but I also thought I'd try asking you. Do you know what's up with L&E? C'mon, internet, what's the haps? [I know! See the UPDATE.]

* I sent my paper to L&E because it's important to support open access publishing. Having commercial publishers skim off of university budgets is ultimately untenable, and open access publishing may be crucial to the survival of humanities publishing. If L&E has disappeared, I don't think it's a cautionary tale about open access - but instead a cautionary tale about new journals. It just happens (alas) that most open access journals are new, because the old journals still labour on with the old model.

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Topic neutrality is geek carte blanche 
When writing problem sets for Intro Logic, I try to use interesting topics. Since the logical form of 'All capybaras are flammable' is the same as the logical form of 'All men are mortal', the structure of the problem is the same in either case.* Students have to get the structure right, so it doesn't matter if they know anything about the topic or not.

If students have to define their own key, then abstruse predicates can lead them to make overly complex translations. Where I provide a symbolization key, however, students have to do as well as they can with the predicates defined in the key. For example: We might argue about whether 'x is a liar' can be adequately represented as 'there exists some y, such that x lies to y'. Nevertheless, it is clearly the best representation possible if we have to express it using just the relation 'x lies to y'.

Today's exam illustrates how this can come together in odd ways. Students were given a series of sentences. The universe of discourse was specified to be commanding officers from Star Trek. The predicates included 'x was played by Avery Brooks' and 'x was commander of Deep Space 9'; there was a defined constant referring to Sisko.

On reflection, I may have cheated on the metaphysics by setting up the problem this way. It is true in the story that Sisko was commander of Deep Space 9, but it is true in the actual world that Avery Brooks played the role of Sisko. So perhaps 'Sisko' is equivocally used for both the character and the role. Are those different things? I'm honestly not sure.

On a tangentially related note: Although she recognized that it didn't matter for the exam itself, one student wondered about how some problem sentences were effected by the fact that the original series pilot (in which Pike rather than Kirk was captain) was aired after the series (in which Kirk was captain).**

* I used 'All capybaras are flammable' on a final several years ago. A few students raised their hand to ask what a capybara was. I answered that (a) it shouldn't matter, since there was a predicate defined to mean 'x is a capybara' but (b) it's a giant South American rodent.
** The exam did not mention Captain Pike by name! It's nice when somebody gets the references.

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Seadevil you say 
I just put up a draft of Drakes, seadevils, and similarity fetishism. It's on R&R from a journal, and I just found out that it has been accepted for the conference Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science. Yay!

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How to say 'ahoy' in a correspondence 
In elementary school, there was a unit on letter writing. Personal letters, we were taught, should begin "Dear So and so," while business letters should begin "Dear So and so:" When there was no specific so and so, business letters were supposed to begin "Dear Sir:"

A BBC item highlights the obvious fact that this has all broken down. Some people in the article complain that 'dear' sounds too familiar, others that it is too formal. The fact that twenty-somethings don't just think of it as just right for starting a letter suggests that they didn't get the unit on correspondence that I got in third grade.

There are bigger problems, though. I very rarely write physical letters anymore, but the unit in third grade failed to cover e-mail. (How shortsighted!)

Since most e-mail is shorter than physical mail would be anyway, one get often get away with a casual "So and so," But how to close the missive?

Just "-P.D." is enough, but isn't obviously right when mailing undergrads. I am fine with them calling me P.D., but they may be uncomfortable with it. I have concluded that the better thing, for a short e-mail, is just not to begin with any address or end with any explicit sign off. Better just to write my sentence or two of content and let the program fill in my generic sig.

For letters of recommendation, the only physical correspondence that I really write anymore, it won't do to drop the niceties. But the "Dear sir" thing? It is sexist and so sounds entirely wrong on formal correspondence. Alas, I can't think of anything better. "To whom it may concern" sounds like a sales circular addressed to Resident.

And what are kids in third grade now being taught?

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