Friday, March 21, 2008

Migrating ...

I have decided to migrate Long Words Bother Me to Wordpress.

It is now available with a shiny new look at a shiny new address,

Please update your bookmarks!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Manchester Photos

Updated: Apologies, the links I had up here before required Facebook membership. The new ones should be generally accessible!

A few photos from the very enjoyable Manchester Philosophy of Maths conference are now available. I also found a few more photos from Geneva on my camera, which I've added to the end of my Geneva album.

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.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kripkenstein's Mules

I've been thinking recently about the possible fruitfulness of comparing cleverly-disguised-mule-worries (CDMW) in epistemology with Kripkensteinian-meaning-underdetermination-worries (KMUW).

I think it is helpful, in understanding CDMW, to think about two kinds of questions:

(1) Why does S believe those animals are zebras rather than lions?
(2) Why does S believe those animals are zebras rather than cleverly disguised mules?

'Because they are zebras' looks like a good answer to questions like (1) and a bad answer to questions like (2).

For a contextualist explanationist about knowledge like myself, this suggests that in contexts where the question 'Is S's belief explained by the fact believed?' amounts to something like (1), 'S knows they are zebras' looks good, and in contexts where that question amounts to something like (2), 'S knows they are zebras' looks bad.

What I find suggestive, in trying to understand KMUW, is an analogy with the questions:

(1') Why does S use 'plus' for addition rather than subtraction?
(2') Why does S 'plus' for addition rather than quaddition?

'Because of the dubbing, or otherwise word-defining, activities of S's linguistic predecessors' looks like a good answer to questions like (1') and a bad answer to questions like (2').

More on this topic will follow ...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


It's now settled that I will be spending September to December as a Visiting Associate Professor in the excellent Philosophy department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Daniel will be there too as a Visiting Professor.

It's very exciting to look forward to hanging out with an fantastic bunch of philosophers, including my erstwhile Canberra colleague, Andy Egan.

More From Geneva

Mark Jago has a blog post, with pictures, on the recent Eidos conference in Geneva.

Friday, February 22, 2008

New Web Pages, V-day Podcast

Following a small web crisis in the department, I have made myself a new set of web pages using Google Pages. This was fun; while the editor itself is very basic (but also therefore very easy), and doesn't allow you to do much, a workaround when you want to get other kinds of content or formatting into your page is to make another page and then cut and paste (from the page not the html) into the Google Page Editor. This seems to have worked for everything I've needed so far.

In other news, the Nottingham University Podcasts folks recently made a Valentine's day podcast on my work in the Philosophy of Flirting.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


For the last few days I've been attending the Eidos Because Conference. And for the few days before that I was attending the Eidos pro*doc Graduate Workshop. All in I've given 6.75 hours of talks during the last six days and participated in 19 further sessions. This has been a real marathon. Some photos are available which illustrate some of the effects.

Highlights have included Kit Fine arguing that vagueness is a kind of collective phenomenon like unevenness, then using this idea to motivate a logic where things of the form ~[(Pv~P)&(Qv~Q)] are true but everything of the form (Pv~P) is true; and David Liggins laying into the idea that standard (maximalist, necessitarian) truthmaker theory can be motivated by thinking that truth requires metaphysical explanation.