Let slip the dogs of logic

My open access logic textbook, forall x, has been forked into numerous custom editions. This means that problem sets which I wrote years ago have been picked up and adapted.

The formal exercises are not especially distinctive, but the exercises translating from English into formal logic are about specific topics. Some of these were arbitrary inventions, like the sentences about Eli and Francesca who might or might not be bringing guacamole to a potluck. Guacamole was salient to me when I was writing the book, but I think I chose Eli and Francesca just because they started with E and F.

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On the end of webcomics

I’ve been reading web comics for almost 25 years. For most of that time, one of my daily reads has been Howard Tayler’s Schlock Mercenary. Many years ago, when everybody’s homepage had a page of links, I described it this way: “Schlock Mercenary is a space opera named for an amorphous blob who wanders the galaxy and shoots things. Jocularity abounds. It seems reminiscent of the Star Frontiers games I used to play, so it merits a nostalgia bonus.”

Tayler is an anomaly in several ways. He updated on a regular schedule for more than two decades, whereas most independent creators miss updates or go on hiatus at least sometimes. And he actually finished his grand narrative, rather than leaving it unfinished. Recently, the story came to a close with the eponymous hero’s dark matter apotheosis.1

The title of this post also points to the fact that webcomics really aren’t a thing anymore. I’ve had a half-written post about this in my drafts for over a year.

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As the mountebank bans immigration

I read an interview recently with a Buddhist priest who was (in 2007) living in New York City. I was taken with this bit:

I think the best appeal of New York is that you can experience many kinds of cultures and meet with many kinds of people from all over the world.

I’m totally Japanese and came from Japan so I stick to being a “100% pure Japanese” here in New York. I believe that is a real New Yorker. New Yorker and “Wannabe American” are totally different. I want to be a New Yorker.

I haven’t lived in NYC, but this general idea appeals to me deeply— not just as a conception of New York, but as a conception of America. Any national pride I feel is for that America, the country that allows people from all over to meet, to contribute, to make something new and wonderful without demanding that they check their differences on the way in.

The future as it looked from the past

I have a book called Values and the Future on my shelf which I take down and read short passages from occasionally. In one article, Theodore J. Gordon offers “Forecasts of certain technological developments and their potential social consequences” from his vantage point in 1969. The prospect of wide-band communication systems suggests these possible consequences for education:1

Ready and cheap availability of excellent curricula… might make education a respected and common pastime.

Canned lectures by eminent professors may make TV teaching superior to that in resident institutions.

University degrees will be extended to viewers who complete their courses solely on TV. Residency requirements may disappear.

I have nothing to say, but still I blog

Back in the halcyon days of three weeks ago, I made this glib but sincere post to social media—

I wish fewer of my friends would make posts advancing some conspiracy theory about the election that they dreamed up over breakfast.

In the meantime, the world has gotten very strange. Election speculation is gone, replaced to a large extent by commiseration, solidarity, and plain kvetching. Yet there have been definite in-roads among my friends toward posting broad conclusions about covid-19.1

I have opinions about elections and diseases, but these are times of great uncertainty. It’s a sign that I’m getting old, I guess, but I have less of a taste for the rhetorical mode of laying down facts under conditions of ignorance than I used to do.

A bear says, "I don't know much but I do know this: I will speculate wildly about any subject for the sake of conversation."
comic by Reza Farazmand

Multiple choice allows for objective grading

The Introductory Philosophy Quiz has been on my website pretty much since the beginning, and it was a transcription of a quiz that Ryan and I had on the office wall. The following question occurred to me while I was proctoring an exam today, and I couldn’t resist adding it.

Select the best answer.

  • A. B is the best answer.
  • B. A is the best answer.
  • C. There is an instability between A and B; although it is not entirely satisfactory, the best answer is to select one of them randomly or arbitrarily.