This post is the previous post warmed over 
In an epicycle of self-promotion, I am profiled by the UAlbany College of Arts and Sciences because my open access logic textbook was adopted at Cambridge. Also, according to Google Scholar, forall x is my ninth most cited publication.

When I couldn't sort out a time to have a picture taken for the story on the website, I got permission from Matt Slater to send them this photo which he took at the Metaphysics&Philosophy of Science conference last year.




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It takes a village to write a book 
My open access logic book, forall x, is going to be used this Fall for the first year logic course at Cambridge. I was contacted by a librarian there, who said that the course leader had edited a version especially for their course. So, she wanted to know, how should the book be listed and how should I be credited?

My reply, below the fold.
Read More...

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Kvetching about Holt in the Stone 
Jim Holt, writing in the New York Times' philosophy blog The Stone, asks whether philosophy can be literature and answers yes. I do not have any issue with his verdict, but I resist two steps in his way of getting there.

First, Holt identifies his focus as 'analytic philosophy', by which he means "the kind that is practiced these days by the vast majority of professors in philosophy departments throughout the English-speaking world." He gives the usual hemming and hawing about Moore and Russell as the fathers of analytic philosophy, but there's an equivocation here. There is lots of philosophy today which is not engaged in linguistic or conceptual analysis, and so does not continue in the footsteps of Moore or Russell. As I have said before, I do not self-identify as an analytic philosopher. So analytic philosophy as a movement does not capture "the vast majority of professors in philosophy departments".

The alternative is a flaccid sense of "analytic philosophy" in which it just means the kind of work done by anglophone academic philosophers. Here the historical aside is a distraction. Moreover, it would be more direct and clear to just call this academic philosophy: work written by professional philosophers which is primarily intended for other philosophers, work which appears in journals that are mostly available only in university libraries or in books that are purchased mostly by university libraries. The interesting question that Holt poses is whether professors' inside baseball can rise to the level of literature.

Second, Holt offers Kripke as the star evidence for the defense:*
Take the case of Saul Kripke - widely (though not unanimously) considered the one true genius in the profession today. ... [Kripke's] "Naming and Necessity," is so lucidly, inventively and even playfully argued that even a newcomer to analytic philosophy will find it hard to put down.


I have heard this claim before. A former colleague of mine identified Naming and Necessity as the best-written bit of philosophy he had ever read, and he thought it was gripping. Encouraged by such raves, I have tried to read it several times. On each occasion, I have stalled out. Because. Tedious.

To be clear, Naming and Necessity is minimally readable. It is the sort of rambling hodge podge that I can trudge through as a matter of professional commitment. My research sometimes requires engaging Kripke, and so I can work through it. But I cannot sit down and read the book with even a pretense of enjoyment.

To review: If you mean "anglophone professional philosophy", just say so. If you think Saul Kripke is an enchanting prose stylist, you are wrong.


* My two complaints come apart, since Kripke is an analytic philosopher in both the strong sense and in the flaccid sense.

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What scientists know 
I put a draft of my paper, What scientists know is not a function of what scientists know, on my website and on the PhilSci archive a couple of weeks ago. I'll be presenting it at the PSA in November.

ABSTRACT: There are two senses of 'what scientists know': An individual sense in which scientists report their own opinions, and a collective sense in which one reports the state of the discipline. The latter is what is of interest for the purpose of policy and planning. Yet an expert, although she can report the former directly (her opinion on some question), can only report her considered opinion of the latter (the community opinion on the question). Formal judgement aggregation functions offer more rigorous frameworks for assessing the community opinion. They take the individual judgements of experts as inputs and yield a collective judgement as an output. This paper argues that scientific opinion is not effectively captured by a function of this kind. In order to yield consistent results, the function must take into account the inferential relationships between different judgements. Yet the inferential relationships are themselves matters to be judged by experts involving risks which must be weighed, and the significance of the risk depends on value judgements.

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What I'm reading now 
In What to believe now [Amazon/GoodReads], David Coady sets out to do applied epistemology. Most of the book is about expertise and democracy,* which is fine. With the caveat that I haven't read it all, I'll lament that fact that most of the book seems to be Coady summarizing and critiquing Alvin Goldman's work on these topics. Missing, for example, is any discussion of Harry Collins' work on expertise.

Wikipedia is discussed for three pages in the conclusion, and I'll focus on that because he quotes me. Coady writes:
Most contributors to Wikipedia, unlike most rumor-mongers, see themselves as engaged in a single collective enterprise. This enterprise is governed by rules, and Wikipedia has a hierarchy that seeks to enforce those rules. So, when P.D. Magnus characterizes the claims made in Wikipedia as "more like 'claims made in New York' than 'claims made in the New York Times" he is mistaken. ... Wikipedia is a reasonably reliable source for a reasonably wide range of subjects because of the contingent fact that it has a reasonably good culture at the moment.

Perhaps the rhetorical flourish in the passage he cites overstates my point, because claims in Wikipedia fall under one institutional umbrella in a way that claims made in New York do not. But my point is that there is sufficient variation in the quality and reliability of Wikipedia articles that it is wrong to treat them all together. Even though it is 'reasonably reliable' across a 'reasonably wide range', it is better to pay attention to the kind of article that you are consulting. Wikipedia is large enough that it is better to think of it as multiple overlapping communities, rather than as a single monolithic culture.

* EDIT: As Coady points out in the comments, there are also chapters on rumours, conspiracy theories, and blogging.

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