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An Essay by Hans Kamp

Hans Kamp has generously provided his paper, ‘The Time Of My Life,’ for us to make available on the blog.  Give it a read and tell us what you think!

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 49: Hans Kamp discusses discourse representation theory

This month, we talk dynamic semantics with Hans Kamp, Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Natural Language Processing in Stuttgart. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Hans KampThe goal of formal semantics is to explain how the meaning of a whole sentence is derived from the words that make it up and the way they’re put together. Give me some definitions of individual words, tell me the order in which they were combined, and by means of a mechanical algorithm, my theory will predict what the resulting sentence means.

Traditionally, philosophers have thought of sentence meaning as a self-contained thing. If I say, ‘The plane has arrived,’ then you can think of what I’m doing as painting a hypothetical picture in which a plane arrives, inviting you to hold the world up next to it in your imagination, then saying, ‘See? This is the way the world is.’

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Posted in Podcast.


Further Reading on Aquinas

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about Aquinas’ philosophy, Jennifer Frey recommends the following two books:

Herbert McCabe, On Aquinas
Etienne Gilson, Wisdom and Love in Saint Thomas Aquinas

Posted in Further Reading.


Aquinas’ Method of Philosophy

In our latest episode, Frey sketches out Aquinas’ “exemplary method of philosophy,” the ‘quaestio format.’ With this format, Aquinas models a core pedagogical technique of the universities of his time—quaestiones disputatae (lit: questions debated). For this technique, students would take up sides of an issue, articulated as a question, and offer arguments for each side. The master (think professor) would then evaluate the arguments and adjudicate. That Aquinas structures many of his texts around this technique (especially his magnum opus, the Summa Theologica) indicates that he is concerned with students reading his texts acquiring not only the content of the view Aquinas himself supports, but also the proper method for thinking through an issue and arriving at a view—one which engages with contrary arguments and show the superiority of one’s own view to such arguments. As Frey points out the in episode, this pedagogical value of Aquinas’ writing is not restricted to his own students; philosophers today can gain much from a close study of Aquinas’ method.

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Posted in Supplements.


Episode 48: Jennifer Frey discusses the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas

This month we’re joined by Jennifer Frey, Harper Schmidt Fellow and Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago.  Click here to listen to our conversation.

Jennifer FreyIn this episode, we begin with an overview of Thomas Aquinas, one of the most prolific philosophers ever. (It is sometimes said that he wrote, on average, about 10,000 words per day.) Frey points out that whereas today it is common to think of philosophy as a set of specialized subdisciplines, Aquinas’ approach was to pursue philosophy as a unified discipline, under the assumption that one can’t have a fully developed ethics (for example) without thinking through the difficult issues in metaphysics.

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Posted in Podcast.


Knowing that One Knows

In Episode 47, Baltag and Matt briefly discuss what they call the ‘KK principle,’ or the ‘principle of positive introspection.’ The basic formulation of this principle is:

(KK): If I know that p, then I know that I know that p. (Where ‘p’ is some proposition.)

For example, if I know that 2+2=4, then I know that I know that 2+2=4. A close cousin of the ‘KK principle’ is what we’ll call the ‘K-not-K principle,’ or the principle of negative introspection. The basic formulation of this principle is:

(K-not-K): If I don’t know that p, then I know that I don’t know that p.

For example, if I don’t know who the prime minister of England was in 1965, then I know that I don’t know who the prime minister of England was in 1965. (Harold Wilson, for those who are curious.)

Baltag and Matt quickly proceed to show the implausibility of these principles for our ordinary notion(s) of knowledge. For example, if K-not-K were a principle of the ordinary notion of knowledge concerning the participants in Socratic dialogues, the whole procedure would be unnecessary. That is, Socrates’ interlocutors would already know that they did not know what justice was (for example)—there would be no need to show them this by means of Socratic dialogue. Continued…

Posted in Supplements.


Episode 47: Alexandru Baltag discusses the logic of knowledge

In our latest episode, we talk some epistemology with Alexandru Baltag, Associate Professor of Logic at the Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation in Amsterdam.  Click here to listen to our conversation.

Alexandru BaltagKnowledge may seem straightforward at first.  But try to give an exact definition of what it is, and you’ll soon find that it’s more difficult than you would have thought.  Maybe it’s just belief.  No, wait–if I believe something false, that probably can’t count as knowledge.  Maybe it’s true belief.  But I may believe something for the wrong reason, or for no reason at all.  So maybe it’s true belief that’s supported by good evidence.  Oh, my; it seems there are famous counterexamples to that definition as well.

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Posted in Podcast.


No True Scotsman Fallacy

In the Veltman episode on normality (46), Matt mentions the “No True Scotsman Fallacy,” in its relationship to statements of normality. I’d like to sketch out what the fallacy is just a bit more fully, and further highlight how it brings out the problem of how we falsify normality claims.

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Posted in Supplements.


Episode 46: Frank Veltman discusses normality

This month, we talk with Frank Veltman, Professor of Logic and Philosophy at the Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation in Amsterdam.  Click here to listen to our conversation.

Frank VeltmanMost of our everyday reasoning involves the notion of things normally being one way rather than another.  But sometimes, this gets us into trouble.  Statements of prejudice and bigotry, for instance, usually make recourse to the idea of normality.  Imagine I’m xenophobe, and I say, ‘Greek people are normally lazy.’  Now, clearly that’s an offensive thing to say because it shows that I’m buying into a harmful stereotype.  But to make matters worse, on top of being offensive, it’s difficult to try to refute.  Why?  Because whenever someone tries to give me a counterexample–a Greek person who isn’t lazy–I can just reply that that counterexample doesn’t matter, because I was only saying that they’re normally lazy.  Not that you couldn’t find me the odd Greek person here or there who wasn’t.

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Posted in Podcast.


Bayes’ Theorem

In the first part of this post, we talked about the motivations behind the epistemic interpretation of probability. Now, let’s take a look at one of the core mathematical theorems employed by those who subscribe to such an interpretation: Bayes’ Theorem (which is mentioned by Fitleson in Ep. 31).

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Posted in Supplements.