Monday, November 20, 2006

More Photos

I've just posted some more photos from the grad conference.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Priest On The Logic Of Relativism

Today at the Arché grad conference Graham Priest entertained us with a fun talk on the logic of relativism.

Amoung other things, Graham considered the following problem that (some) relativists seem to face. Suppose you are the kind of relativist who thinks that as a relativist you should not make absolute claims (A), but only claims about what holds according to some perspective (SA - where S stands for 'syat', a Sanskrit term of art which apparently is used by Jains to mean something like 'from some perspective'). This gives rise to a regress: one should not assert SA absolutely but only the qualified SSA; not SSA but SSSA; and so on. It turns out nothing is assertible.

Graham proposed a system in which A and SA (and hence SSA, SSSA etc.) are all logically equivalent, and suggested that this would solve the problem, since whenever one asserts A one is thereby asserting (something equivalent to) SA, SSA and so on.

But I wondered how this proposed solution would work. The thought motivating the problem was not that the relativist should say SA as well as A, but that the relativist should say SA instead of A: that she was wrong to assert the unqualified A. If A and SA, SSA etc. turn out to be equivalent, the wrongness of asserting the unqualified A has not (for all that's been said so far) been removed. So for all that's been said so far, none of SA, SSA etc. are assertible because they are all equivalent to the unacceptable unqualified A.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Grad Conference Photos

Here are some of my photos from the Arché grad conference. More will follow ...


Look out for more coverage of next weekend's Basic Knowledge workshop over at Plurality of Words. "Extensive blogging" of the event is "promised"! (Can't get out of it now, Andreas!)

Stanley on Shared Content

Neglecting Hegel on the a priori yet again, Jason Stanley gave an exciting talk about contextual sensitivity and shared content yesterday.

The (alleged) problem of shared content for those who believe in rampant contextual sensitivity is that is that to the extent that the proposition expressed varies with context, it is harder to explain why people find it so easy to communicate (i.e. grasp what propositions others are expressing) .

Richard Heck has suggested that grasping the exact proposition expressed is not important - you just have to grasp one that is similar enough.

Jason proposed instead that one should respond by saying that it is not so hard as you might think to grasp the exact same proposition that one's interlocutor expresses. Adpoting a Russellian view of propositions enabled him to argue (if I got him right) that my grasping the exact proposition you express requires only a kind of de re understanding. It only requires that I know, de re of the things you were talking about and properties you ascribed, that you said that those things have those properties. Since the Russellian proposition expresed is just a construct out of those things and properties, not a Fregean sense, mode of presentation doesn't matter: it doesn't matter what descriptions of these objects and properties I have available, nor whether I can distinguish them from close relatives, as long as I end up with the appropriate piece of de re knowledge about them.

One question this raised in my mind is whether this move really addresses the spirit (as opposed to the letter) of the shared content problem. If we go Russellian about propositions, then arguably grasping the proposition expressed is not all that's important for communication. Modes of presentation ought to matter too.

Addendum: Thanks to Jason for correcting my spelling of 'Russellian'. I should have mentioned that the term 'problem of shared content' is due to Herman Cappelen.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Arche Trip

I'm back at Arché for a couple of weeks, where I'll be attending the Arché graduate conference and organizing the Basic Knowledge Workshop. I will be posting some event reports here as I go along.

Tonight I'm off to see Jason Stanley open the grad conference. The title is TBA, so it remains to be seen whether he will address the important yet neglected topic of Hegel on the a priori, as requested by Paula and me.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nolan Flirts With Fame

The Aussie press has now picked up Daniel's response to my paper The Philosophy of Flirting - see the fourth item down on this page of The Australian.

The reporter offers some sage advice inspired by the work of Nolan: "If you want to flirt, send text messages, not testicles."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

PGR and Other News

The long-awaited Philosophical Gourmet Report is now up. I note with interest that the ANU is ranked 15th in the world, along with my alma mater Cambridge. Nottingham comes in at joint 51st in the world.

In other news, I'm very pleased to have been offered Associate Fellowship of two research centres in the last week: the Centre for Metaphysics and Mind in Leeds and my old haunt Arché in St Andrews. Both are places where there's lots of good philosophy going on, so this is really exciting (and it raises my number of institutional affiliations to four for the rest of this academic year)!