forall x v1.4

The new edition of forall x will be posted soon. Anybody who has used the book before will find the changes so small as to make almost no difference, but I wanted to discuss what I did beyond correcting typos. First, I’ve changed the formatting a bit. Second, I’ve changed the notation for substitution instances in proofs (again). Third, I’ve changed the license to be even more permissive.

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Quotidian superpowers

Today’s game: favorite practical superpower.

The rules: name a superpower that you would love to have and that make your life (or someone’s life) immensely easier, but which would be boring to read about or watch on TV.

This is a Facebook prompt from Carl Sachs.1 I gave several answers, most inspired by minor abilities of old GURPS characters.

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A big year, forall x

It’s been over a decade since I released the first edition of the open access logic textbook forall x. It’s been a few years since my last update, because it’s been a few years since I last taught logic.

A number of people have made their own editions of forall x over the years, but 2017 was a breakout year: Continue reading “A big year, forall x”

Cautious realism and middle range ontology

I was invited to participate in a book symposium about Anjan Chakravartty’s recent book Scientific Ontology. It is supposed to be a short, critical piece, so striking the right tone was difficult. I agree with Chakravartty on rather a lot, but there is little point in flagging where we concur. Also, because I focus on the issues that are of interest to me, there is the danger that it comes off as “so much about him, let’s talk about me”.

I’ve written it, though, and my final draft is up.

Fallacies: Narcissan, pleonastic, and unnatural deceleration

Since February 1999, I’ve had a web page about fallacies. Rather than regurgitating all of the usual ones that one can find elaborated in critical thinking textbooks, I collect fallacies which an author names for just one occasion. These one-offs don’t appear on the usual lists. Authors usually do this to condemn some specific target, one who has committed not some generic error in reasoning but the specific if newly-named fallacy of such-and-so.

Prompted by John Holbo at Crooked Timber, I’ve added three new specimens. One is coined tongue-in-cheek by Holbo himself to mock a book review by David Bentley Hart, and the other two are coined by Hart in his would-be hatchet job on Daniel Dennett’s book From Bacteria to Bach and Back.

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Open internet, again and always

Net neutrality is under attack again, and my first defense of it is what I wrote back in July.

As a user of the internet, I want to be able to access the content which I decide matters. I want it to come at the same speed other content would come at, rather than having it be faster or slower based on whether someone who owns that content has decided to pay more for access to me. If they get control over accessability and relative speed, then I’m not a consumer anymore but instead I’m the product that the service provider sells to their customers. That’s why net neutrality matters.

I’ve read some contrarian arguments that net neutrality isn’t such a big deal, because platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter  can still nudge traffic and content around according to their own private algorithms. Political agitations and manipulations via social media have shown the power of that. However, that only shows that net neutrality is not sufficient for a healthy internet.

It remains obvious to me that net neutrality is necessary for a healthy internet. Summoning more monsters won’t solve the monster problem.

Release the doggerels

Over at Crooked Timber, Harry Brighouse exhorts readers to write philosophical clerihews.

I was unfamiliar with the form, but it’s not complicated. A clerihew is a four-line poem about some person or other with an AABB rhyming pattern. The sort of thing Ogden Nash would have written if he’d been less pithy.1

I contributed a couple, and I shamelessly cut and paste them here.

The Scotsman Thomas Reid
had a commonsensical creed,
a fondness for calico cats,
and questionable taste in hats.

The mustachioed John Dewey
might have gone all kablam and kablooey
if he had not understood inquiry
in a way that avoided such injury.

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E-publishing boondoggle

Via Daily Nous, I learn that Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (PPQ) has begun offering an odd choice to authors. When a paper is accepted, the author can opt either to have their paper appear post haste in an on-line only issue or to wait years for their paper to appear in a print issue. Articles in the print issue will appear on-line at the time of publication.

The publisher insists that the on-line only issues and the print+on-line issues will be of the same prestige and significance. After all, a paper is  accepted for publication before being assigned to one or the other.

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Recruitment blast

As I wrote a while ago, my department is trying to drum up more graduate applications. One strategy is to send out encouraging e-mails. I’m endeavoring to write to all the philosophy departments in our corner of the country. I’m presently in the middle of that, so you might hear from me soon.

In the interests of maximizing reach, I’m posting the e-mail here too.

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