Hectic days make light blogging 
When I have teach logic to one or two hundred students, the class is in one the university's lecture centers. All the LCs have digital projectors, so I can put up tables and charts as needed. Mostly I work through examples which I adapt on the fly, however, so I use the board.

The old lecture centers, which I have used in the past, have actual chalkboards. Admittedly, the fluorescent strip lights over the chalkboards do not all work. Some have graffiti recording the date many years ago when they broke down: no mere dead bulb, but bent and twisted fixtures.

This semester, I'm in a lecture center with new whiteboards and strip lights. The functioning lights make it feel less like a post-apocalyptic movie from the 70s, but I hate the whiteboards. To be precise, I hate whiteboard markers. There is no way to tell by looking at one whether it will write well enough to be seen at the back of the room. It is not enough to test it as I leave the office, either, because a marker that is just fine now may go all ghostly after a few lines of scribbling.

Yesterday, both of the markers I brought went wispy. So I sent my TA back to department to fetch more and muddled along until he got back. He handed me two black markers. One was a whiteboard marker, which got me through the rest of the hour. The other was a permanent marker that had been in the drawer of office supplies. He was in a hurry and grabbed the markers that he could find, and luckily I noticed - but that could have gone horribly wrong. My examples are not so witty that I want them to be tattooed on the board for the weeks it woudl take for someone to come in with marker solvent.

So I have a strong preference for the old lecture centers, with their dysfunctional lights and their chalkboards. There is a wonderful practicality about chalk. I can grab a few pieces on my way to lecture and be sure that they'll write for the whole class period. And each piece of chalk fails gracefully - rather than continuing to make spectral marks long after it's effectively dead, a nub of chalk will produce readable white lines until it is too short to hold.

Some people complain about chalk dust, which admittedly gets all over the place. I get it on my hands over the course of lecture, and from my hands it finds its way to my shirt and pants - but it washes off easily. Although whiteboard markers don't always end up on my hands and clothes, when they do it's a bad scene.

And whiteboard markers use up ink and solvent, leaving behind their plastic carcasses. So chalk is more eco-friendly. Even the boards are green.*

This all makes me feel like a curmudgeon. Should I have waited until tenure before getting so crotchety?

* This is a joke, but I suspect that chalk is less resource intensive. If you actually know about this, say something in the comments.

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What I say about theories 
I just posted a new draft of my paper arguing for theory concept pluralism.

It is as good an occasion as any to comment on this blog post by Ron Giere, which I meant to comment on back in March. Giere says that the big motivation for the semantic view of theories was to better reflects how theories work in actual scientific practice. As he puts it, the aim was "getting the philosophy of science closer to the science."

I agree with the aim, but disagree with the way of getting there.

The semantic view of theories works better than the statement view at the work for which it was developed. If I were only allowed one theory concept to take with me to my metaphorical desert island, I might take the semantic theory concept. But metropolitan philosophy of science need not prepare for survival on a desert island.

If we don't accept theory concept monism, then we can accept that the semantic view is an important way to think about theories without saying that it is the way to think about theory. Actual scientific practice is complex and multifarious. The semantic conception serves in its domains and for its purposes, but staying close to the science means applying different theory concepts in other domains and for other purposes.

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Swamp menace threatens omnipotent god 
I have always thought that the Swampman thought experiment is analytic philosophy at its worst. I recently came up with a variant of it that might steal the title.

Explaining the idea requires that I explain the original Swampman and whinge a bit about how terrible it is. So, details below the fold.

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Historical echoes, part 6 
This is the final part of William Leue's history of the UAlbany Philosophy Department. For context, see part I, part II, part III, part IV, and part V.

The final chapter includes the foreshadowed revolution, and the pseudonymous poetry becomes moreso.

This installment is from Phib v 1 (1972-1973), n 26, pp 106-111.

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Historical echoes, part 5 
This is the penultimate part of William Leue's history of the UAlbany Philosophy Department. For context, see part I, part II, part III, and part IV.

This chapter is mostly about Bill Reese, who was still around as a professor emeritus when I came to Albany in 2004. He had the large office next to the department seminar room, which I inherited into a couple of years later.

This installment is from Phib v 1 (1972-1973), n 22, pp 86-88.

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