Thursday, December 14, 2006

A few reflections

I just finished up fall semester. The classes I've taken this term have meshed well together, in a somewhat odd way, so I think I'll talk about that a bit. This post will be a little scattered. It is also more for my benefit than anyone else's.

First, proof theory. My teacher for it, Jeremy Avigad at CMU, was quite good. He was very clear and motivating. We talked a lot about some of the philosophical background of this stuff. I feel like it improved my logic chops some. I'm curious to see some more applications of cut elimination. We covered the necessary foundational stuff that I feel like I can engage with some of the literature now. In particular, I want to go back and evaluate some of Dummett's writings (again and for the first time). I think there are some strands that might have been lingering that I'll be able to pick up on. Another project that I think I'll start on the side is research into inferences, broadly. For reasons I'm not completely clear on, I've become fascinated by rules of inference and inferences. I've started working on compiling some information about them. I'm not sure if that will develop into much, but it will probably occupy future posts.

Second, the M&E seminar. This was less exciting. I'm glad for having done the readings since some of them were things I've meant to read for a while. It confirmed my suspicion that Gettier cases just don't excite me and that I like Quine. At the very least, it is instructive to figure out how Quine went wrong.

Third, Kant. We made it through the schematism in the first Critique. I feel like I've gotten a solid background in the material. I got a bit of a grip on the overall dialectic. I can certainly see why it occupies such a large role in the history of philosophy. This connects up with some of my other interests through the role that judgments play in the arguments of the critique through the deduction. I read through Kant and the Capacity to Judge, and I'm pretty well convinced that the semantic picture is important for understanding the structure. Just as an aside, doing well on the first paper I wrote for that is probably the thing I'm proudest of this term.

Finally, the seminar on philosophical naturalism. We covered a large number of topics in this class. The thing I wrote my paper on was supervenience and physicalism. Once I get some comments back about my paper I'll probably throw up a few posts on that subject. This class was extremely satisfying for me since it was different enough from what I'm used to to throw me out of my philosophical comfort zone but not different enough to require huge amounts of work to follow. This led to it being extremely philosophically insightful. I think I got a lot of perspective out of it. Brandom went through a large number of arguments, and I've been tempted to write about them. Many of them were new things, and I feel a bit uneasy about writing about those things. I got some ideas about things to follow up on, namely some philosophy of language/metaphysics stuff about sortals, some more intersections between formal logic stuff and less formal philosophical stuff, and some things about Sellars. There was also a decent amount of outside literature I had to go through for my final paper, although a fair amount didn't make it in. To plug two things that probably don't get read enough: Etchemendy's Concept of Logical Consequence and Field's Science without Numbers are both fantastic reads with a lot of depth.

What is the common thread between my classes? One is the role that inference plays in them. It is center stage in proof theory, and it made small guest appearances in Brandom's class and Kant (through judgments). I was also able to connect all of my classes back to my philosophy of language interest for the most part, except M&E which mostly was good background reading. I've also gotten more interested in philosophical logic this term. This is in large part due to Brandom and Avigad, although neither taught about that specifically. I was able to have some long discussions about related issues with them though. Also, I think my writing improved.

This is all hopelessly vague. I will try to post some about these topics over break. In short, Pitt is grand, I need to read me some Dummett and Prawitz, and semesters last too long.


Aidan said...

"I need to read me some Dummett and Prawitz, and semesters last too long."


Aidan said...

Btw, you might be interested in Ole'sOle's masters thesis, if you're getting sucked into these issues.

Shawn said...

From the abstract, that looks like just the sort of thing I'd want to read. Grazzi.