A note on Alice and Paul 
Jender points to "The Royal Society's lost women scientists", an interesting article in today's Guardian by historian Richard Holmes. He mentions, among other people, "Alice Bodington, the fearless Darwinian author of Studies in Evolution."

My curiosity piqued, I searched the web to see if Bodington's Studies was available on-line. The first page of links was mostly to Holmes' article and mirrors of it. A bit further on, there was a mention of Bodington in Philosophy as a science: a synopsis of writings of Dr. Paul Carus. Carus is an american philosopher whose fame is preserved mostly because the Carus Lectures are named for him. The volume that includes abstracts of his entire corpus is available via Google Books; the essay that addresses Bodington is summarized thusly:
In answer to Mrs. Alice Bodington, an agnostic. The nature of our religious ideal is as much predetermined as man's reason...

I'll explicitly mention the irony of dressing down Mrs. Bodington for violating man's reason; I'm heavy handed like that.

To be fair, a different search term eventually turned up excerpts from Bodington's Studies.

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A prickly example [or] Cholla at ya' later 
I began working on several papers when I arrived in Pittsburgh. They have spiraled out of control and - gathering mass like the proverbial snowball - are on their way to being a book manuscript. The draft now totals up to about 50K words.

Even in a book, there are nice bits that do not fit in. One of these is about T.E. Wilkerson, an essentialist who insists that biological species are characterized entirely by intrinsic and essential properties. When he first advocated this position (in the 1980s) John Dupré replied with standard examples of how the biological world does not line up as neatly as the periodic table. Rather than adjusting his metaphysics to better fit the science, Wilkerson bites the bullet and spins out a wacky view according to which only genetic individuals constitute proper kinds.

Wilkerson does not actually seem to look at biology, and instead takes all of his examples from Dupré. For example, "Americans easily distinguish between prickly pears and chollas, but the distinction corresponds to no taxonomic division."* It is nice to note, although I don't see a sensible place to do so in the book, that biologists have changed the taxonomy to acknowledge just this distinction.

* 'Species, essences and the names of natural kinds', The Philosophical Quarterly, January 1993, p. 4

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Metaphysics grad conference 
The UAlbany philosophy grad students have announced the theme and date for this year's grad philosophy conference. This is their 4th annual conference.

These conferences are pretty much entirely student organized, and they have worked well. The students (both ours and the ones who come to give papers) seem to get a lot out of it. I have attended most of the papers in past years and plan to do so again. It's a good way to spend a day.

The keynote this year will be Ted Sider (NYU). The CFP is below the fold.

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Montreal, ho! 
I leave tomorrow for the PSA in Montreal. In between deep thought and bottomless beer, I'll be giving a paper. So I posted a draft.

It's a brief discussion of Eric Barnes' Paradox of Predictivism, focusing especially on arguments that (a) successful prediction is some reason to trust experts and (b) anti-realists have a hard time making sense of this.

Update Nov8: Oops. I forgot to put the actual PDF on the server. It's actually available now.

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Incubating ideas 
Part of life at the Center is the weekly reading group, where a fellow offers a work-in-progress paper for discussion. I have found this to be rewarding, both when my paper was discussed and when we have discussed others. This week, nobody who was yet to present had anything to offer. So John Norton suggested that we discuss our creative methods - how we get ideas for papers.

His motivation, it turns out, was two-fold. First, he wanted to think about how organized life at the Center might better support the creative life of visiting fellows. It can be tempting to think that the best thing to do is hide in the office and work, but there are diminishing returns on such a method. Second, he wanted to think about how one might help graduate students in the early days of dissertation writing.

In preparing for the meeting, I wrote up some of my thoughts. Here they are, slightly revised in light of discussion.

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