Friday, March 14, 2008


UPDATE: I have slightly updated these slides following the presentation.

Unexpectedly, I find myself lined up to give a talk at this weekend's conference Metaphysics and Epistemology: Issues in the Philosophy of Mathematics in Manchester. (I'm filling in for someone who could not attend.)

Despite the initial panic induced by hearing myself agree to prepare a talk from scratch in about a week, I am very glad I've signed up for this, as it's encouraged me to put together some stuff from my book that I haven't presented in a stand-alone way before but actually makes quite a nice package. (I hope I'll still think that by Sunday ...)

The basic idea is to trace through some of the connections that empiricists of different stripes have postulated between meaningfulness and confirmation. I use Ayer and Quine as stalking-horses, and try to show that even if we grant them that there should be a tight connection between the two it would be preferable to take the units of both meaning and confirmation to include concept-sized chunks rather than just proposition-sized (Ayer) or theory-sized (Quine) chunks.

In case it's not immediately obvious what that has to do with the philosophy of mathematics (!), I'll be arguing that one of the benefits of taking a concept-oriented approach is that this sits with a lovelier epistemology of arithmetic than Ayer's or Quine's.

I've put the slides online in pdf format for interested parties. If you're going to be at the conference, don't read the slides as they contain spoilers. Everyone else, feel free to click through ... it's worth it for slides 25 and 26 alone.